Healthy Habits

Why to Add the Infrared Sauna to Your Wellness Routine

Hitting up the infrared sauna has become one of my favorite parts of my self-care routine. After hearing about it plenty of times—and even writing about it being one of New York City’s hottest (literally) new date spots!—I decided I should probably give it a try. And now that I have, let’s just say I’m hooked. (Sorry, bank account.)

Here’s everything you should know about infrared saunas and their science-backed benefits.

What’s an infrared sauna—and how’s it different than regular saunas?

When I tell people about infrared saunas, they often say, “Oh, yeah—my gym has one of those.” But this isn’t a regular sauna. It’s a cool sauna. Unlike traditional saunas which simply heat up the air around you to make you sweat, this variety uses infrared light to turn up the temperature, heating your body from the inside out.

While some saunas have fancy lighting, infrared light is actually invisible, so it’s 100% safe for you to use: it deeply penetrates your skin without causing any damage like regular light would. In fact, get this: it’s so harmless that it’s used to keep newborn babies warm in hospitals.

What do infrared saunas feel like?

Unlike traditional saunas where the air is usually so hot and dry that it can be hard to breathe, infrared saunas are warm but not at all uncomfortable. Don’t worry, though: you get all the same perks at a much lower temperature, making it perfect for people like me who don’t want to be miserable just to score some health benefits.

So far I’ve done a handful of 45-minute sessions at around 135 degrees and I’ve hardly broken a sweat. (I’ve been told that can happen at first, though—then as you start to use it more, your body starts spitting bullets like crazy.) It’s cozy, relaxing, and when it’s done, you get out wondering if it even did anything until you start feeling and seeing the immediate benefits.

What are the benefits of infrared saunas?

So, the infrared sauna feels great—but what does it actually do for your body, you ask? Past studies have shown regular use can help lower your blood pressure, improve your fitness level, reduce chronic pain, and keep your heart healthy. And that’s just the beginning.

On top of the physical health benefits, that increase in your body’s core temp can also clear up your skin and make it glow, help you relax and destress, rev up your metabolism, give you a major mood boost, help you age more gracefully, make you sleep better, and even aid in weight-loss (you can burn upward of 600 calories in just 30 minutes).

Here’s what I’ve noticed during my infrared sauna sessions so far.

I know hearing a bunch of facts can sometimes sound like mumbo-jumbo, so I’ll leave you with what I’ve personally experienced so far on top of the science.

Amazing skin: Every time I’ve used the infrared sauna, I’ve left with rosy cheeks and completely glowing skin. Any zits I had went down in size and disappeared within a day or two. And the first time I went in, I was having an allergic reaction to a new laundry detergent with a bumpy rash across my chest and stomach (#sensitiveskinproblems!), but within 24 hours, it was totally gone.

Insanely good sleep: One thing I didn’t expect after using the sauna was how well I would sleep. After every use, I snooze like a freakin’ baby. Usually Trixie wakes me up at least once during the night because she’s such a bed hog, but on the days I hang out in the heat, I’m out cold and there’s nothing that’s going to disrupt my deep slumber.

Mood boost + decreased stress/anxiety: If you’re having a bad day, go sit in the infrared sauna. By the time I’m done, I feel like a new person: I’m relaxed, happy, and all my worries have completely vanished. (As a chronic worrier, that’s kind of a big deal.) It’s also great for anxiety and completely calms down my nerves.

I’ve been going once a week and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. If you’ve tried out an infrared sauna, let me know about your experience down in the comments!

Goodbye for Now, New York City

I’ve started writing this post about 100 times and I’ve realized that despite being a writer for a living, there’s no way I can possibly find the words to say everything I want to say in this post. But here it goes.

When I moved to New York City fresh out of college, I never thought I’d leave. It was something a small-town Iowa girl could only dream of, and it somehow became my reality. To this day I still can’t believe I packed my bags all alone and headed so far away from my family, my then-boyfriend (now fiancé!), and friends—everyone I knew and loved. (Alright, alright—I had Trixie, so that helped!)

I immediately immersed myself in everything this city had to offer and fell completely in love with the people, the noises, and the invigorating atmosphere. Heck, I even loved being smushed next to people in the subway: It was weirdly comforting. (That’s not the same case today, by the way.) Now, 5 years later, I’m saying goodbye to somewhere that instantly felt like home—for now, at least.

Clancy and I are heading back to Iowa to the city where we first met and fell in love: Iowa City, AKA home of the Iowa Hawkeyes and one vegan restaurant. He’s going back to medical school, and I couldn’t be more proud of him. And since I’m a freelance journalist, I’m so thankful to be able to continue doing what I love from a much nicer apartment that costs less than half of what we’re paying now! Like, the kind with a balcony, a dishwasher, in-unit laundry, and a bathtub you actually want to take a bath in… something I’m very excited about. I’ve yet to be able to use a bath bomb. It’s on my bucket list.

This is going to be a huge change, but it’s something we’re both ready for. Don’t get me wrong—I’m going to cry my eyes out the second it hits me that we’re actually leaving. But the best thing about New York City is that you can always come back, whether that’s for visits or for forever. There’s something about this place that holds onto you so incredibly tightly, even when you know it’s time to go.

No matter what happens in the future, I’ll cherish the memories I’ve made here forever. Speaking of… this is just a very small number of the many I’ll never forget.

1. Getting proposed to at my favorite spot in the city by my favorite boy in the world.

2. Seeing someone poop right in front of a family of tourists my first week in the city. Yep.

3. Interviewing Steve Carell during one of my first times on the red carpet.

4. Getting my first dream job (because life’s too short for one!) as an entertainment editor at Teen Vogue.

5. Having some of my best friends from back home come visit and going on adventures all over the city together.

6. Going ice skating with Lana and somehow not falling on our faces and/or breaking any bones.

7. Seeing the Backstreet Boys live in concert for the first time with Holly.

8. Seeing a giant, cat-sized rat running across the subway platform while people ran away screaming for their lives.

9. Experiencing a total city shut-down because of a massive blizzard and running through completely dead, snow-covered streets with Clancy.

10. Going to a Gavin DeGraw concert all by myself in Central Park and taking in every single second.

11. Daring Clancy to go to the bodega in his boxers one freezing cold winter night and laughing my butt off as he actually went through with it. (I followed with my camera, obviously.)

12. All the weekend road trips to farm sanctuaries, apple picking, and camping—well, glamping—in Woodstock.

13. Souring everywhere for pumpkins on Halloween with Holly, begging stores and restaurants to sell us theirs, just so we could carve them. (There was a shortage, evidently.)

14. Speaking of, all the Halloweens in general. There’s nothing better than seeing thousands of costumed people running around the city.

I mean……..

Like, c’mon…

15. All of the epic karaoke nights in Koreatown.

16. All the afternoons spent lying in the grass in Central Park with Clancy and Trixie listening to people play Beatles songs at Strawberry Fields.

17. Doing my first (and only!) Color Run with Lana.

18. Getting to show my family around New York City and impressing them with my navigation skills.

19. When Aaron Carter gave me his number after interviewing him. It’s still in my phone. My 10-year-old self would never forgive me if I deleted it.

20. Getting caught in the rain with Lana, like, 20 different times.

21. Getting serenaded by Jesse McCartney. No, seriously. You can watch it here.

22. Scouring the city for vegan food. Then eating so, so, so much of it. I’ll never forget you, Red Bamboo and Peacefood.

23. Having one of the most epic, movie-like nights out with Hilary at a club that felt like a literal rich kid’s mansion.

24. All the times I snuck donuts or Chipotle into the movie theater.

Really, everything. The moments I’ll cherish the most aren’t anything crazy—they’re spending time with the people I love. Eating, talking, hanging out, walking around, watching Netflix, whatever.

It was a wild ride, New York City. See you soon.

February Finds: Vegan Products I’m Loving This Month

I always love snooping around to see what other people are into (tell me I’m not alone!), so I thought why not share some of my go-tos as well? Since this is my first blog post featuring my favorite things, most of these items have been in my life for quite a while—which is even better, because with ample testing time, you know they’re great. So, shall we get started?

Asha Patel Designs East West Prism Necklace

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been super into labradorite lately… and it all kind of happened by accident. There’s been a handful of instances where the crystal has come into my life, quickly making it a favorite—and my go-to for meditation thanks to a woman at a crystal shop who told me I needed one for that very reason. It’s known for being an “ordinary stone that transforms to the extraordinary” and is said to be a useful companion for change, “imparting strength and perseverance.” I’m not too woo-woo, but it does feel nice wearing this necklace given to me by the lovely Asha, the girl boss behind Asha Patel Designs. (Spoiler: It’s one of *four* labradorite necklaces I have now… but you wouldn’t be able to tell. They’re hidden within the design!)

MIA Women’s Maylynn Winter Boot

I love the look of boots like these, but it’s really hard to find a non-leather version—trust me, I scoured the interwebs for months. After searching high and low for something cruelty-free, I finally came across these from the brand MIA at Nordstrom. Then I promptly ordered three sizes, just in case, and my regular size fit flawlessly. The quality is amazing, they look even better than leather, and are super cozy and warm. Plus—the best part for my klutz self!—they have really great traction, meaning I won’t be slipping around in the snow this year.

Matt & Nat Brave Backpack

I’ve been using this backpack for a few years now and after hauling around my laptop, water bottle, and everything else I constantly squeeze into it on the daily, it’s faux leather material is still holding up flawlessly. I not only love this brand because it’s vegan—it’s also super sustainable. The lining is made from recycled bottles, which has gotta be the coolest thing ever.

Earth Balance Vegan Aged White Cheddar Puffs

Sometimes you just need some cheese puffs in your life and that’s why I’m so happy I came across this vegan option from Earth Balance. Before going vegan, I used to chow down Cheetos like it was my job, so having a healthier junk food option around is definitely a plus. Another perk: You don’t end up being stuck with neon-orange fingers for days after eating them.

Fresh Tofu Inc. Lemon Pepper Baked Tofu

I’ve turned into a big tofu fan, which I never thought would happen. Ever. But when I’m too lazy to crisp it up myself (easy-to-follow guide coming soon!), I love picking up this option from Fresh Tofu Inc. It’s low in sodium, high in protein, tastes great, and can be thrown into everything from salad to stir-fry. I always have some stored in the freezer just so I have it on hand whenever I need it.

modelFIT Online

I don’t love a lot of workouts, but I really love modelFIT. Unlike other classes, they’re unique in that they help you tone and strengthen your physique with super-small (but seriously powerful!) movements. Whenever I think an exercise is going to be easy, it ends up burning the worst—and that burn lasts for days. Your abs and butt will be on fire, I can promise you that.

The classes at the New York City studio are great, but they can get pricey—and they’re also hard for me to get to with my schedule. That’s why when they launched their online classes, I was instantly hooked. I’ve been trying them out the past month and I’m so obsessed that I’m going to continue after my trial runs out. Especially because it’s only $19.99/month, which is pretty insane considering this is a boutique studio that trains everyone from Miranda Kerr and Karlie Kloss to Taylor Swift.

R+Co One Prep Spray

I’m so picky with what I use in my hair because my skin is ridiculously sensitive. If something has weird chemicals or a strong fragrance in it, it’ll break me out—guaranteed. I was cautious when I first tried this product from R+Co because it had been quite a while since I had used anything besides shampoo and conditioner, but it’s been about two years and I haven’t stopped using it since. Using ingredients like aloe leaf extract, coconut oil, and prickly pear fruit extract, it not only protects your hair from blowdryers and hot tools, but it also hydrates, repairs, and smooths everything out.

What vegan and cruelty-free products are you loving this month? Let me know in the comments or over on Instagram @tehrene!

8 Ways I Naturally Relieve Stress, Because #SelfCare

I’m going to be honest: I’m stressed out 95% of the time. I love being a full-time freelancer, but just like most jobs, it comes with its downfalls. My schedule can easily go from nice and calm to super overwhelming with a bunch of crazy deadlines and events, which means my top priority needs to be taking care of myself so the stress doesn’t affect me.

I can’t say I follow these methods all the time because I definitely don’t—as you know, life gets busy and sometimes the only stress relief I want is to order some take-out and binge-watch The Office. Whether I’m feeling it or not, I try to at least check off some of these boxes on a daily basis because I know in order to feel like myself, be a good partner, and be successful, I have to stay strong, both physically and mentally. Unfortunately, there’s only so much Dwight Schrute can do for my well-being.

The next time you’re feeling stressed out, use one—or all!—or these natural ways to get yourself back on track.

1. Drink Decaf Tea

One of the biggest mistakes people make when they’re stressed out is to load up on more caffeine. It might give you an energy boost to get through your to-do list, but it’s not going to do you any favors. Caffeine increases the levels of cortisol in your body—aka the stress hormone—and when your levels are high for a long period of time, it can really mess things up, increasing your risk of everything from anxiety and depression to sleep issues and weight gain. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, stick to something soothing that won’t impact your already-stressed-out body, like like peppermint, chamomile, or my favorite, echinacea—an immune-boosting herb that’s been used for hundreds of years.

2. Get a Diffuser

Getting a diffuser changed my life. OK, OK… maybe it didn’t change my life, but it definitely became an easy way to get some much-needed stress relief. Dropping in some soothing essential oils—especially those that are scientifically-proven to relieve stress, like lavender, bergamot, and jasmine—will drift the calming scents throughout your home, letting you quite literally breathe a sigh of relief as they naturally calm down your nervous system. I’ve been using the aromaOm Ultrasonic Diffuser diffuser from Saje Wellness and the quality is hard to beat. Plus—added bonus!—it’s super pretty and fits right in with home decor.

3. Add Ashwagandha Into Your Smoothie

If you haven’t heard of ashwagandha, it’s about to become your new stress-fighting BFF. The herb has been used since ancient times to do everything from combat stress to strengthen your immune system and boost your energy. And the best part? All you need to do to start reaping the benefits is add some into your morning smoothie, which flawlessly cancels out the somewhat bitter taste. I use Organic Traditions’ Ashwagandha Root Powder, but you can typically find a quality product at your local health food store. Or, if you don’t feel like sneaking it into your food, you can also take it in capsule-form.

4. Meditate Daily

I never realized how important meditation was until I started doing it. Now, I’m honestly mad at myself for how long I waited to start doing it regularly. It’s not some weird, hippie thing—it’s been proven by study after study to help with a wide-range of issues, whether that’s stress and anxiety or high blood pressure and sleep issues. The list goes on and on. All you need is 10 minutes a day of closing your eyes and focusing on your breath to start noticing a difference in the way you feel and even handle situations. (For instance, I don’t get nearly as annoyed about little things when I’m meditating regularly as I do when I’m not.) Don’t worry if you don’t know where to start: I love using the Headspace app or meditation teacher Kait Hurley‘s online program to give my mind a break. If you can’t totally relax, you’re not alone by any means. Your mind is going to wander, but the most important thing is bringing it back to the present—not trying to shut it off.

5. Spend Time in Nature

Getting a regular dose of nature in New York City isn’t easy—at all. As nice as it is walking through Central Park, you can still hear sirens and cars and a billion conversations going on. But even with the outside stressors, getting some greenery in my life always calms me down and makes me feel a billion times better. Studies have shown getting outside and surrounding yourself with plants and trees can lower your cortisol levels, so get away from the TV and get some fresh air—it’ll do more for your well-being than you even realize.

6. Get Regular Massages

Massages aren’t cheap, but they’ve become one of those things I’ll work into my budget just because I know how beneficial they are. Spending an hour getting my muscles rubbed out not only makes me function better physically—especially because I get super tight sitting in front of a computer all day, every day. It also leaves me feeling this renewed sense of energy. It’s like I instantly left all my problems behind me. Try to commit to one massage a month, even if that means having to shift other things you spend money on (like eating out, shopping, or Starbucks) to make room in your finances. It’s much more than a treat—it’s much-needed self-care that will positively impact your life.

7. Move Your Body

While daily exercise is one of the best ways to de-stress, it’s not always possible when your schedule gets super busy. Trust me, I know. The thing I try to remember, though, is there’s time for some sort of physical activity even on the busiest days. That might mean I just spend 20 minutes doing an online workout video or taking Trixie on a longer walk instead of going to the gym. Whatever it is, increasing your heart rate does a lot of good for lowering your stress levels and it’s important to make it a priority one way or another.

8. Get Away from Technology

Like many of you, my life literally revolves around technology. Because of that, I have a love-hate relationship with it. I know it’s important for my career and scrolling through Instagram is always fun, but digital burnout is real and technology can be incredibly destructive. Multiple studies have shown people who spend a lot of time using technology—especially social media in particular—can increase depression and anxiety, not to mention make you feel all sorts of stressed out. So instead of opening and closing your go-to apps all day long, turn off your notifications and limit your use. Also, turn off the phone and TV at a certain time every night to do something screen-free, like read a book. It will energize you like crazy.

What do you to do de-stress? I’d love your tips!