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Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Please Help: Nicaraguan Maternal Health Project

In Family, Giving Back=Paying It Forward, Health, News, travel on November 6, 2017 at 10:31

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By Rosita Hassan

As many of you know, Nicaragua is a country very near and dear to my heart and women’s and maternal health is an issue that I have grown up with (thanks to my incredible midwife mother). While living in Nicaragua, I had the fortune to meet many courageous and resilient women of great strength and tenacity, who endured countless challenges in order to better their lives and the lives of their families.

Now back in the States, I became involved with a group of dedicated students and faculty from the University of Pittsburgh that have teamed up with Global Links and Rise Against Hunger to send support to pregnant women and new mothers in rural Nicaragua. You can donate here.

Pregnant women in rural Nicaragua face enormous challenges, and their resilience and endurance is a testament to the strength of women everywhere.

We are short of reaching our goal by $2,195. We need to hit this target by November 15th to provide essential nutritious packaged food to mothers in rural Nicaragua. 
We are kindly asking for YOUR support. ANY contribution helps!

Also, if you are a PITT STUDENT and want to contribute by volunteering your time, please let me know in the comments below.

Thanks in advance,

Rosita Hassan

Note by Laura Sgroi: “Everything I want for me I want for others”. As a pregnant woman, everything I wanted was good food and excellent healthcare (compliments and massages came next!). Everybody deserves the same. I feel for these women, thanks for helping them.

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An Epic Day in The Life of A Thirtysomething

In Family, Health, Lifestyle, travel on October 18, 2017 at 21:52

Got up at 4 a.m.

Stood in line at the Managua airport for an hour.

Ran barefoot to my gate while my bag was about to be removed.

Arrived in Miami, FL.

Took a Super Shuttle to Diagnostic Center For Women.

Had my first breast ultrasound and mammogram ever.

(Everything looks “fine”, they can feel the bump, can’t see it on tests, so they say it could be an internal pimple or an inflamed cartilage tissue) 

Walked with my suitcase to a Winn-Dixie on the corner for a banana and a ricotta & spinach pastelito.

Rode the Metrobus to the South Miami Metrorail station.

Rode the Metrorail to Downtown Miami.

Walked three blocks to my sister’s apartment.

Took my car and drove almost an hour to the City of Doral, FL.

Took a Boss Chick Dance Workout class.

From there went to Publix.

Made it “home”.

One more run: Don Glotón Food Truck to satisfy my sister’s Venezuelan food cravings.

Now in bed.

How was your day?

As you can see, mine was EPIC.

Good night,

Laura

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How Have You Been?

In Blogging, Career, coaching, Contributors, Giving Back=Paying It Forward, Health, Lifestyle, News, Videos on September 28, 2017 at 08:50

Aloha!

How Have You Been?

How has 2017 treated you?

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What are your plans for the remainder of it?

How are you preparing to finish it with a bang / in a high note?

I hope you are well, that this post finds you in good health and spirit and that you are safe wherever you are considering everything that has happened around the world lately. Please consider volunteering and/or donating to the causes closest to your heart.

It’s been a while since my last post. I barely shared a few articles on our Facebook page. I have missed you, writing for you, connecting with you. 

Last year was life-changing: After four years living in Nicaragua, I moved back to the United States, to my beloved Miami (It’s been over a year already, and I still owe Lia Seirotti a post about that-coming soon, promised!).

The move happened fast. We became homeowners. I thank my husband for doing most of the research and paperwork. I limited myself to following the great tips in this article by my talented friend Zania and contacting another great friend Oscar Terán as a realtor. The rest was signing a mountain of documents and we are still choosing furniture!

Once again, I was ready to conquer Miami. To recover my space, my work, my friends, my life. Not that I had lost them, but I definitely needed to reconnect.

They were all priorities. Work took over though. I started getting hired for Public Relations and Entertainment Production projects, it felt like I had never left and it was a great reassuring feeling. Fun projects took me to some of my favorite destinations while pulling me away from blogging, writing and social media, as I always strive to respect the time of my clients and the privacy that they deserve.

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I also went back to school for my Professional Coaching Certification. I am still offering complimentary coaching calls, please don’t hesitate to contact me and take advantage of that.

While all this was happening, I was simultaneously “working” on my health. I had been dealing with a hormonal imbalance that not only affected me physically but also emotionally as it directly conflicted with the deepest desire of my heart. I turned 34 in the middle of unpromising fertility diagnosis and felt like there was nothing to celebrate. I was wrong. More on that soon. In the mean time, if you plan to have children, please ask your doctor if you can start taking folic acid daily. You and your future babies can thank me later.

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Family and work kept me busy and entertained with exciting and all-consuming endeavors, including touring with a rock band in South America and other trips to new places and revisiting old ones. I kept it all to myself, absorbed it, digested it and now I am ready to share it. Stay tuned for upcoming travel blog posts.

The election results also affected my blogging persona. I realized once again the power of media, considering that a product of it had become president, and I felt even more responsible for what I was creating and sharing. It paralyzed me for months. Still not over it, but I have decided to transform fear and empower myself through it instead. That’s another reason why I am back.

Four days after publishing our latest post, I received the miracle that I had been praying for. Long story perfect for a future post. Just know that “When Jesus says yes, nobody can say no”.

Earlier this year we also lost two of our beloved contributors: Alfonsina Ferreira and Godelena Segura. I deeply miss them, their smiles, their energy and their wisdom. I am grateful for their lives and souls and the valuable time that we spent together.  

Take this post as a relaunch of this blog. I am back and with so much to offer. I want to write posts that have a lot for you in them. I can’t promise frequency and regularity, just content that will make you content. In that order, I would love to hear your ideas. What would you like to read about? Please let me know as soon as you can.

Thanks in advance for sharing this post with your family, friends and colleagues!

Who misses you?

Laura

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¿Qué Hacer para NO Quedar Embarazada?

In Career, En Español, Family, Health, Lifestyle, News, Relationships, wellness on September 17, 2016 at 08:36

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¡Gracias a la revista Glamour México y Latinoamérica por la oportunidad de compartir información útil con sus lectoras en todo el continente!

Este artículo aparece originalmente en la edición de Septiembre 2016 de Glamour México y Latinoamérica, ¡a la venta ya!

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Si tienes alguna pregunta o duda sobre este tema, por favor no dudes contactarnos.

Recuerda: El mejor método es…¡el que te funciona a ti!

Y tú, ¿cuál prefieres? ¡Por favor déjanos saber en los comentarios!

Tu amiga,

Laura

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TBT: Try This At Home

In Blogging, Health, Lifestyle, News on September 15, 2016 at 07:00

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The things we do for love.

You know me. You know I wouldn’t be genuinely excited about cooking. Unless it’s something that I can easily make at home and offer to my Sicilian husband who runs on pasta. Cheese has always been the exception though. I remember grating Parmigiano Reggiano® during my childhood in the Dominican Republic. It was one of the very few tasks that I enjoyed in the kitchen. And today, almost thirty years later, I enjoy it even more after learning Parmigiano Reggiano®‘s origins, facts and mouth-watering recipes.

The perfect recipe for a fun summer evening consisted of twenty-four fellow bloggers celebrating Italy’s King of Cheese: Parmigiano Reggiano® at the historic Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, FL. A serata of good food, fine flavors, camaraderie and team work led by the Biltmore’s award-winning Executive Chef David Hackett and organized by The Blogger Union.

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Our hosts Danielle Caponi Bolla, Executive Chef David Hackett, Chef Beppe, & Federico Bolla

Everything tastes better with cheese! Little did I know that beyond its delicious flavor, Parmigiano Reggiano® cheese was also so good to me. Now that I am in my thirties, I am very cautious of what I eat, and Parmigiano Reggiano® passes the most important tests:

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  • Always handmade with high quality lactose-free milk with no additives and natural fermenting agents
  • Easy digestibility
  • Great source of energy, protein, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins.
  • It has one of the lowest cholesterol levels of any cheese.
  • Parmigiano Reggiano® is made today with the same ingredients as nine centuries ago, in the same places, with the same wise ritual gestures, in a traditional way and with the same passion and loyalty. How many products in the market can say that?

Too many cooks in the kitchen? Not a problem! We had the luxury of having Executive Chef David Hackett and Italian-born Chef Beppe Galazzi, teaching and guiding us on every step, from peeling and cutting techniques to making fresh gnocchi!

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Alejandro, Rick, Executive Chef David Hackett, Claud, and guess who is the one on the right?

With their help, we prepared and enjoyed six innovative dishes, from antipasti to dessert:

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Iberico Ham, Phyllo, Parmigiano Reggiano® Asparagus Fingers

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Parmigiano Reggiano® & Cilantro Gnocchi with Key Lime Butter Sauce

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Parmigiano Reggiano® Potato Flan served with Chorizo, Wild Mushroom and Tomato Ragu

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Parmigiano Reggiano® Crusted Sea Scallops with Cumin Corn Salsa

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Parmigiano Reggiano® Taco Shells with Cuban Picadillo

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Spicy Chocolate-Dipped assorted fruit with dusted Parmigiano Reggiano® and coconut dust

Thanks to The Blogger Union and South Florida Bloggers for inviting us to this event and to Danielle and Federico from Parmigiano Reggiano® and The Biltmore Culinary Academy for their hospitality!

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The very best thing about Parmigiano Reggiano®?

It gets better with aging, just like you!

Cheers!

Laura

P.S: Check out other great posts about that night on The Huffington Post, The Blogger UnionCoral Gables LoveThe Fashionable Esq.BlogHerGarlic&ZestMunch MiamiBlame It on Mei, and Knock on Food. For more information about Parmigiano Reggiano®, please visit:http://www.parmigianoreggiano.com/

Photos by: Ray Santana Photography

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WOD: Pilates ProWorks Miami

In Blogging, Career, Entrepreneurs, Health, Lifestyle, News, wellness on June 28, 2016 at 09:00

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Have you ever tried Pilates?

I am not the athletic type, nor the most disciplined fitness fan, but I have tried everything from The Boss Chick Dance Workout, Burlesque workshops, Jane Fonda-type aerobic classes and excruciating boot camps. I know what I enjoy and what works for me and my body. That’s why I got very excited when I received an invitation from The Blogger Union for a workout at PilatesProWorks Miami.

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The Blogger Union members at Pilates ProWorks Miami

Pilates ProWorks is a fitness concept centered on the fundamentals of classical Pilates with a modern, innovative twist. Pilates ProWorks currently has 15 locations around the United States and South America. Miami’s the twelfth location in the US and the first one on the East Coast, located in charming Coral Gables, FL. To pair with the excitement of attending my first workout as a blogger, I found metered parking right in front of the studio!

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Summer Christensen, PPW Miami Studio Owner

Our host and instructor was Summer Christensen, owner of Pilates ProWorksMiami. Summer, 37, first became part of the Pilates ProWorks family in 2010 when she helped open the first studio in San Francisco. “After teaching at the first Pilates ProWorks in San Francisco, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of. Oscar, the Pilates ProWorks Founder and my business partner, built a company that truly values, and creates growth opportunities, for its people. I have the benefit of his years of experience, a solid business model and the wonderful Opening Training Team that he put together. Now I have my own studio and Oscar as a mentor and friend. Being a business owner has been a dream of mine for years. This endeavor has been six years in the making and is a true labor of love, hard work and perseverance.” said Summer, during a candid interview for our blog.

After taking us around the modern and welcoming facilities, it was time for these Princesses of the Blogosphere to hop on our carriages! Yes, forget those Pilates Reformer machines that looked like torture devices, PilatesProWorks uses a very comfortable custom machinery called FitFormer™ for a challenging 55-minute workout “ride” that develops strength and flexibility to the sound of an energizing playlist! It definitely got my heart racing and took my breath away! 

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Summer aims to inspire clients to discover their inner strength by pushing themselves physically. And she practices what she preaches: Pilates ProWorks Miami and her baby boy are only five months apart.

How does she handle being a mom, and entrepreneur, teaching two consecutive classes some days, and everything else in her life? 

Summer: “Everyone said we were crazy to open Pilates ProWorks Miami, have a baby and move cross country when I was 9 months pregnant. My two “babies” are five months apart but I wouldn’t change a thing. I am lucky enough to have a loving ‘village’ of family and friends who believe in me. I couldn’t do it without their help and support. Colin, my husband, works at night so he gets to spend most days with our son, Von. My mom recently retired and she is thrilled to be able to spend so much time with her grandson. Most of my girlfriends’ had children before me so they are a fountain of information, advice and empathy. I am excited to be on this adventure and look forward to seeing my babies grow and thrive.” 

One last tip for thirty-somethings?

Summer: “One of the most important things I can do to keep myself sane, is to exercise. Carving that time out of my day, to take care of me, is vital. It gives me a chance to reset my brain, reconnect with my body and consciously breathe. It makes me a better owner, instructor, wife and mom. I come back stronger, more flexible and patient and better able to handle whatever life throws at me.”

Thank you, Summer!

Your Hard Core fan,

Laura

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25 Merrick Way
Coral Gables, FL 33134
P:(305) 631-2534
E: miami@pilatesproworks.com
Pilates ProWorks Miami wants to help you stay committed to working out through the summer season with their Save Up & Slim Down Membership Event through June 30th! The first month is $65 plus you get to choose a bonus gift from pairs of ToeSox, hand wraps, water bottles, t-shirt, tank tops or 2 months of Nutrition Pro. It can only be purchased in studio or over the phone. Hurry up!
 

About Summer:

A third generation Miami native, Summer is thrilled to bring Pilates ProWorks to her hometown. As a former dancer, Summer has been in the fitness industry for six years. She has been teaching Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga since 2009 and Pilates since 2010. Pilates ProWorks combines her passion for a healthy and active lifestyle with a fulfilling career.

 

Photo credits:

Summer Christensen’s: Tommy Hernandez 

Bloggers’: Paola Méndez

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SOS: Gael Isaac Aquino

In Family, Finances, Giving Back=Paying It Forward, Health, News on June 22, 2016 at 12:22

One of my dreams is to become a mom.

That was also the dream of Evelyn Urbáez, 35, a Dominican mom who gave birth to twin boys Gael and Matthew, only four months ago.

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Gael and Matthew

Little Gael is in need of an urgent cardiac surgery to correct a Double Outlet Right Ventricle with severe pulmonary stenosis. His little brother did not survive, however, Gael still has a chance for a healthy future and needs your help. As the surviving baby of twins, his parents are desperately trying to save his life. Unfortunately, they do not have the financial resources needed for his surgery, the cost is $35000.

Please help save Gael. You can be his miracle. Please donate here

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Gael Isaac Aquino

Donate Today for Gael Isaac Aquino

We firmly believe no donation is too small to help us save children’s lives. Every donation, regardless of the amount, takes us closer to our goal of raising and maintaining a multimillion-dollar fund for the critical care of children with no resources for medical treatment in their home countries.

If you wish to donate by check or money order, you can mail your donation to:

International Kids Fund
P.O. Box 2020
Miami, FL 33101

Please Specify on your check or money order to which child you would like to allocate your funds and make your checks or money orders payable to International Kids Fund.

In Gratitude,

Laura

 

 

How My Mother Taught Me to Love

In Blogging, Contributors, Family, Giving Back=Paying It Forward, Health, News, Relationships on May 30, 2016 at 09:35

The following piece was written by Lia Seirotti, Writer and Blogger at A Girl in Her Thirties

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Lia Seirotti

Some people come into our lives and we feel instant chemistry. With little effort we form a friendship that is not easily broken. Others, require time and effort, and with great difficulty we work to build those relationships. Still, in the face of rejection, if we counter with love, we can create strong bonds. That is what my mother taught me.

My mother says I rejected her almost immediately when I was born. It could be because I was dealing with the pain and symptoms caused by a slight birth defect; but I suspect my real defect was being born with a tendency to be less affectionate than most humans. From then onward, I’ve continued being somewhat cold. To this day, I prefer not to have unsolicited skin contact, I rarely ask for hugs, and I am extremely uncomfortable when strangers touch me. I am perfectly content this way. Deep down, however, I know this personality trait has always bothered my mother. In fact, my mother might well be the exact opposite of me, she is more open about her emotions and is not afraid to let her feelings show. Perhaps these are the reasons we didn’t have that instant chemistry the day we met. Rather, our bond is the product of a resilient effort made by my mother to win my affections over time.

It was with courage, through the worst of times that she single-handedly built our relationship. When I was hospitalized at the age of two, my mother dropped everything in her life to advocate for me. With much hardship, she traveled great distances in a developing country, in order for me to receive the best medical care. She stood up to doctors and demanded that I be treated the way she instinctively knew was best. Later, at the age of eight and immigrants in this new country, I was hospitalized a second time. My mother spent every night at my bedside. She comforted me through the physical pain and the fear I felt. Despite the fact that I was not very communicative or affectionate, she stayed with me. Then, when I was diagnosed with different disease at the age of twenty-one, she took care of me once again. My mother knew it was important for me as a newlywed to conserve some dignity. So, for almost a year she came to my house weekly to inject my medications, so that my husband wouldn’t have to see me that way. When I soiled myself in my own bed, she cleaned me. When I lost more weight than I expected, she took my dresses in so that I didn’t look as sick. And when the suicidal thoughts left me debilitated, she cleaned my house and cooked for my husband.

Ten years have passed since my mother last took care of me; but when my older sister called me recently to tell me my mother was in the emergency room, I dropped everything. It was the middle of a workday. Hardly thinking and without packing any clothes, I shut my computer down, got in my car, and drove six hours to be by her side. To be honest, all those moments in my life in which my mother had taken care of me didn’t even cross my mind. I was driven by pure instinct. It was almost a sixth sense that I felt. I knew exactly what my mother needed, and knew that I was the only one who understood the proper way to care for her.

I knew she would need someone who could advocate for her, because that was what she did for me when I was two. I knew she would need someone who would stay by her side every sleepless night, because that was what she did for me when I was eight. And, I knew she would want dignity and privacy because that was what she gave me when I was twenty-one. Immediately upon arriving, I organized and cleaned her room, because that was what she meticulously did for me every week when I was sick. I asked her if she had eaten and taken her medication, even when I knew she hadn’t. I knew I had to make small talk and pretend we weren’t all scared. I knew it was my job to downplay the entire situation as if it were normal, because I have learned to never let the fear of chronic illness show in your demeanor as caregiver.

Now that my mother is recovering, we hardly speak of illness, she knows I’d rather not get emotional. But now we both know now that I am capable of caring for her and that I will when she needs it again. In fact, I don’t remember if I hugged her or kissed her, but I know I cared for her and loved her.

Doctors say there is a vital moment immediately after birth in which a mother and child should have uninterrupted skin to skin contact. They attribute this to being key in any mother-child relationship. While that may be true, I have learned that if you missed that chance you can make up for it with resiliency, compassion, and consideration. Without realizing or intending to, my mother taught me so many invaluable lessons about love. She has shown me that even if you feel you already deserve it and shouldn’t have to, you can work to earn someone’s affections. She taught me how to nurse someone you love. She modeled what unconditional love looks like and taught me that it can triumph over unrequited love.

About Lia:

Lia is a writer, blogger, and art-lover. Ultimately, just a girl in her thirties blogging about Miami’s lifestyle, her travels, and growing up in general on her coming of age blog: www.agirlinherthirties.com.

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Recibiendo Un Nuevo Ciclo

In Contributors, En Español, Health, Lifestyle, News, Spirituality, wellness on February 4, 2016 at 00:01

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Por Alfonsina Ferreira

A sólo unos días de celebrar la llegada de un nuevo año de vida, “My shining 39” como he escogido llamar a este nuevo ciclo, he vuelto a leer las páginas que con el corazón desnudo, el alma llena de fe y cada célula de mi cuerpo repleta del más grande amor divino, escribí durante lo que fueron tal vez los meses más intensos que he vivido, pero al mismo tiempo, los más enriquecedores, reveladores y trascendentales.

Y al leer estas páginas, brotan de mis ojos lágrimas llenas de emoción, y llegan a mí los recuerdos de que fue justo un año atrás, en estos días en los que el calendario marca el inicio del mes que me vio nacer, donde me preparaba física, mental, emocional y espiritualmente para el momento que marcaría un renacer en mi vida: La cirugía con la que pondría punto final a mi batalla “contra el cáncer”. Y utilizo comillas al mencionar esto porque más que contra el cáncer, la “batalla” que libré fue contra mí misma…contra mi ego, contra mis paradigmas, mis creencias erradas, contra las conversaciones que no me apoyaban y sobretodo contra todo aquello que me alejaba de encontrar mi mejor versión, mi esencia, mi verdadero SER.

Desde entonces, tantas cosas han pasado: Milagros esperados, bendiciones insospechadas, inmensurables manifestaciones del más genuino y puro amor, y el asomo en el horizonte de un nuevo futuro que va más allá de lo que jamás pude imaginar.

Hoy, a sólo unos días de comenzar el último ciclo de mis “treintas”, camino por el sendero de la vida con el corazón repleto del más profundo agradecimiento, dando inicio a un nuevo y excitante capítulo en el libro de mi vida, colmado de grandes ilusiones, planes, ideas, sueños, metas, pero sobre todo, de un nuevo propósito: ¡¡¡SER!!!

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Sí, sólo eso, SER…

Ser  lo que quiera Ser, sin hacer caso de esas vocecitas que ocasionalmente aparecen y me dicen que no puedo…

Ser lo que pueda Ser, dejando a un lado los agotadores e insuficientes esfuerzos de querer “encajar”, “agradar” y “complacer” a cualquier persona menos a mí misma…

Pero más que nada, Ser lo que vine a Ser: Luz, amor, paz, contribución…recordando siempre el inmenso privilegio que es poder abrir mis ojos cada mañana, respirar y darme cuenta de que la vida me ha concedido una nueva oportunidad: El regalo de vivir un nuevo día.

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Febrero 2, 2016

Sobre Alfonsina:

Nació en Santo Domingo en el seno de una familia amorosa, mostrando desde pequeña su interés por servir y contribuir. Con más de veinte años de experiencia en el área de banca y negocios y una maestría en Administración de Empresas, actualmente se desempeña como Directora de Negocios Corporativos de un Grupo Financiero Multinacional.

Al cumplir sus treinta años inició una jornada de búsqueda y crecimiento personal a través de talleres de transformación y liderazgo que la inspiraron a obtener una certificación en Coaching IAC Coaching Masteries avalada por la International Association of Coaches, así como también a certificarse como Entrenadora Transformacional en la academia LTDG (Leadership Training & Development Group).

A los 37 años enfrentó lo que sería el reto más grande de su vida: El diagnóstico de cáncer de mama, situación que abrazó y recibió como la oportunidad de reinventarse y de sacar el mayor aprendizaje posible. Un año más tarde y totalmente recuperada y renovada, inició una certificación como Health Coach con el Integrative Institute for Nutrition, de New York, con la finalidad de poder compartir su experiencia de sanación y apoyar a los demás a crear bienestar, amor y felicidad en sus vidas. Puedes ver más de Alfonsina a través de su página de Facebook 101 Happy Healthy Ways. ¡Hoy es su cumpleaños! ¡La pueden felicitar por aquí!

Crédito Fotos: Silvani Hernández

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Is Stress Stalking Your Life?

In Career, Great Articles Found Doing Research, Health, Lifestyle, News, Relationships on February 2, 2016 at 09:00

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Are You Aware Of The Dangers Of Stress?

Source: Is Stress Stalking Your Life?

One in four of us admits to feeling stressed every single day, but too often we do nothing about it. Writer Lizzie Pook, 30, found her way back from burnout… 

It was in a stark A&E cubicle, while a consultant slowly inched a camera up my nose and down my throat until my eyes streamed with tears, that I realised things had to change. Up until that point, my health had been slowly spiralling downwards. I had been blighted for two years by an endless cycle of infections and flu. I’d recently been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, and was suffering other bizarre physical symptoms, too: strange and erratic spasms in my nose, a numb tongue, angry rashes all over my body and a constant ringing in my ears. Eventually, things came to a head, and my GP packed me off to see if emergency-room doctors could explain the terrifying choking feeling that was rising in my throat.

The diagnosis that day was not hugely surprising. My body was being ravaged by stress, and it was reacting the only way it knew how. If I didn’t make some significant changes in my life, the doctor said, I was heading straight towards burnout and was at risk of making myself seriously ill. We may brush off stress as weakness or even inconvenience but, the truth is, it is having a debilitating effect on increasing numbers of women in the UK. Recent studies have shown that over half of all women would describe themselves as ‘moderately or extremely’ stressed.

Four out of five of us believe we push ourselves too hard, and a recent survey by Sanctuary Spa found that an estimated 12 million women feel that they are on the verge of burnout. It’s no surprise we’re feeling more stressed, either. Studies suggest our ‘have it all’ generation is struggling to juggle high-pressured jobs, financial worries and the never-ending quest for a decent work/life balance. For me, the causes of my stress were not unusual: a little self-doubt, a lot of anxiety, and the constant fear of disappointing others (particularly at work, in my high-pressure job as a journalist, where I would constantly put in overtime to prove how committed I was). That’s not to mention the tendency to over-worry about my family. In fact, since the death of my father 10 years ago, I’d felt sort of responsible for the happiness of everyone in my family; surely that’s enough pressure to shake the foundations of even the strongest woman.

But this constant anxiety began to gnaw away at my brain like a burrowing parasite. It soon affected my behaviour. Every morning on the journey to work, I could actually feel my blood pressure rising. I was so on edge that if a harried fellow commuter bumped into me, I’d huff and sigh theatrically. If someone started reading my newspaper over my shoulder, I’d eyeball them with embarrassing pantomime incredulity. There was no relief at night, either. After a frantic day at the office, I’d lie awake into the clammy early hours, convincing myself that my mother was having a heart attack, or that my brother simply wouldn’t wake up the next morning. The anxiety was so all-consuming, it felt as if I was losing my grip on reality.

‘Stress changes the way your body functions,’ says Neil Shah, director of the Stress Management Society. Our bodies are only designed to be in a state of stress, known as the fight-or-flight response, for a short period of time – just long enough for our ancestors to fight off the sabre-tooth tiger, for example. But according to Shah, if we stay in this state for extended periods, high levels of the stress hormone cortisol are released, damaging our immune, gastrointestinal, neurological and musculoskeletal systems. ‘Things like digestion, the reproductive system and our pain responses are also diminished,’ he says. ‘Because the body is focusing on keeping only our vital organs working and pumping blood and oxygen to our limbs.’

This means those under extreme stress can suffer a bizarre range of symptoms, including palpitations, hair loss, changes to their menstrual cycle and even miscarriage. That’s not to mention adrenal fatigue (where the adrenal glands function below necessary levels, causing profound tiredness and burnout). One woman I know was under so much pressure in the run-up to her wedding that she broke out in angry hives all over her body five days before the ceremony.

Back in that A&E room, I knew I had to make some changes – to turn my life on its head. The decision involved risk: leaving a job I absolutely loved to travel the world as an unemployed woman approaching her thirties (gulp). But I felt compelled to see what effect taking a hiatus from my normal routine would have on my wellbeing. So I handed in my notice, packed my bags and spent three months travelling the world (sleeping in tents, reading countless books and eating what the hell I wanted; not worrying about my expanding waistline or the state of my hair). Amazingly, my physical symptoms quickly diminished, and I felt happier and more relaxed than I had done for years, despite having left my dream job behind.

Now I’m home, forging a career as a freelance writer, and I have a new approach to life’s worries. For some of us, stress and anxiety will be an ever-present part of our daily lives. It is always going to manifest itself in some way because it is as much a part of us as our fingerprints. We cannot simply banish stress forever. But if we can learn to recognise when it’s getting too much, when the scales are tipping just a bit too far in the wrong direction, and take action, then perhaps we can assimilate it into our lives in the least harmful way possible. That’s what I’m hoping…

Don’t throw that monitor! Listen to stress management expert Eileen Burns…

1. Make a list and focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking is the main cause of stress, lack of focus, poor concentration, fatigue and anxiety.

2. Take a breath when you’re overwhelmed. Simply drop your shoulders and become aware of your chest rising and falling.

3. Have regular tea breaks and leave your desk for your full lunch break to encourage the body into a more relaxed state.

4. Move. Even stretching at your desk helps reduce muscular pain, tension and circulation problems.

5. Stay hydrated. Dehydration adds pressure and stress to the body’s systems.

Photo: Monkey Business Images/REX/Shutterstock (5103856a)

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