Monday, November 30, 2020

3 Merry and Bright Gift Ideas for 2020

Merry and Bright in our Synergy Hats,Three-in-One Mittens
Tahoe Performance FleeceSquall Jacket
I cannot believe tomorrow is the first day of December. Already! The year has felt like the longest year ever, but somehow it'll be over before we know it...well, okay, we know it will be over in 31 days. But do you know what that means? With Thanksgiving behind us, the holiday season is in full effect and I haven't even started my Christmas decorating or shopping yet! Yikes!

I don't know about you, but this year's holiday season has given me a bit of anxiety and sadness. It's still not safe to gather indoors, and the weather has turned grey and cold here in New England. But as I mentioned in my last post, Creating Joy During Stressful Times, it's important to focus on what brings us joy. There will be future holidays to celebrate indoors with family and friends. In the meantime, this holiday season can still be merry and bright. We just have to think more creatively about how to celebrate. Here are a few gift categories that are sure to brighten this holiday season.

Virtual Races

You can donate to Safe Passage through my race page
Just because the days are shorter, colder, and darker (if you live in New England) doesn't mean you can't stay active. There are so many virtual race options, and many of them donate to various charities so your gift keeps on giving. Virtual races are a fun, healthy way to stay connected with family and friends while keeping your head clear and your body moving. There are races for every athletic ability, including races that count walking  toward your team's goals. The more the merrier! Sign the whole family up! Gift a virtual race to your friends! Celebrate your "wins" with a post-race Zoom party!

Mike and I have already signed up for the Hot Chocolate Challenge, which supports Safe Passage (donate here!) and the Hartford Marathon Foundation's 12ks of Christmas, which supports Foodshare. Check out my Instagram for #HMF12ks tags each day from December 1-12 if you want to follow along! There's still time to register (11/30 deadline!). Check out details at HMF 12ks of Christmas. And if you'd like to join our team, we're the Delicate Freaking Flowers!

Virtual Events

Hawks & Reed Performance Arts Center, Oct 2019
As society adjusted to the national shutdown due to the pandemic, more and more events have turned virtual. While virtual events aren't quite the same as in-person, there are many perks to attending them. For example, they often cost less (especially when the whole household can watch on one screen), you can attend any virtual event anywhere in the country (world, actually), and you can enjoy them from the comfort of your own home. There are so many options: musical concerts, theatrical plays, and college events, story slams, museum tours, and more!

I've already attended a few prerecorded virtual writing workshops and live mingles for writers. I've also attended live virtual story slams. 

Don't know which virtual event to choose? I'd love to see you at mine! I'm actually performing in a live virtual event on January 16 for the Best of Valley Voices Story Slam, hosted by the Academy of Music and NEPR, where virtual audience members can choose their top storyteller! Who will be the Best of the Best? Buy your ticket here to watch and participate! The storyteller lineup is phenomenal! You won't want to miss it!

Winter Clothing and Accessories

Early Riser for this early hike! 
Make sure your loved ones are properly dressed for the holidays! Since outdoor activities are the safest way to socialize right now, check out IllumiNITE's new winter clothing line for warm, comfortable winter clothing that protects against the elements and looks fashionable. IllumiNITE uses reflective ink technology that lights up as bright as a Christmas tree in the dark when light shines upon it. If you shop on Cyber Monday, use code 20CYBERMONDAY for 20% off. But if you don't have time to shop on 11/30, don't worry. You can use my discount code RUNBRIGHTLY for 15% off your order at anytime! 

Our winter favorites include:

Long Sleeve Reflective Women's Piper Tee—This has become my go-to shirt for every day comfort. It's so soft and cozy! And I love the pop of color! Whether I'm watching one of my virtual events or heading outdoors for a run, this is my fave thing to wear! 

Early Riser Reflective Men's Pullover—As much as I love my long sleeve tee, Mike loves his Early Riser! It's perfect for any occasion, and keeps him warm and bright outside. Plus, the Hawaiian Blue looks absolutely amazing on him!
All bundled up on this cold
but bright day

Satellite Reflective Women's Running Tight—What are jeans these days? I'm all about comfort. These are my go-to pants, whether I'm at home, running errands, or staying active outside. Plus, they look great paired with my Piper Tee or a nicer sweater when I want to look good but stay cozy for one of my virtual events!

Women's Reflective Windbrite Pant
—Not only do these pants have fleece lining for extra comfort, their outer shell protects me from the coldest, windiest conditions. They've saved me too many times to count!

© Matt Francis Photos
Men's Reflective Mercury Running Tight—These tights keep Mike dry and visible during cold night runs, and also are great for layering under a more technical pant for hiking. They wick moisture away while keeping him warm.

Tahoe Performance Women's Softshell Fleece Reflective Jacket—I swear by this jacket no matter what activity I'm doing: running to the grocery store, hiking up mountains, or running 10 miles on a ten degree day/night. This jacket keeps me warm, comfortable, and bright—and also is quite stylish, if I do say so myself!

Men's Reflective Squall Jacket—Not only is this jacket warm and bright, it's waterproof. Mike throws this wherever we go to keep him warm, dry, and bright all day and night.

HoodieTahoe Performance Fleece
 and Squall Jacket for the win!
Three-in-One Mitten with Removable Glove Liner—What we love most about these is they can be used together or separately. Plus, there is enough room to throw in a hand warmer when you want extended heat on those longer runs or hikes. When not wearing them, we store the gloves inside their mitten for easy storage.

Cold Weather Unisex Reflective Hood—The fabric is versatile enough that you can wear it as a full face covering, or lower the face mask when you get too hot. It's also a quick way to mask up when passing by other runners or walkers.

What are you must-have gifts year? I'd love to hear your ideas! Leave a comment below!

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Creating Joy During Stressful Times

Let's get moving! We lift each other up when feeling down
IllumiNITE Featherlite Packable Jacket & Men's Endeavor Tank
Last week, I popped a blood vessel in my eye. I have no idea how. I just looked in the mirror one morning and noticed the red blotch near my cornea. Stress, so many people said. And I agree. 

The world is definitely on shaky ground these days. Covid-19 cases are on the rise again, one-by-one, the schools in my area are going fully remote, the election coverage is nonstop, and the high anxiety and anger and sadness emanating out of social media feeds feels rampant. 

And the holidays are fast approaching, which means, cold weather and dark days are also fast approaching. 

To destress, laughter is the best medicine
IllumiNITE Waterproof Colorado Jacket & WindBrite Pant
Matt Francis Photos

This year has been far from normal, but it's important now more than ever to manage stress levels and find the calm, find the joy, find the peace every way we can. Mike recently finished the book Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee. It's one of those books you read for a bit, then put down, then pick back up again after pondering its philosophy. 

With stress levels on the rise, we're doing our best to implement most of Lee's advice. Some of it seems like common sense, but when times are tough it can be easy to forget that the little things in life really do bring a great sense of calmness and joy. So, we looked into what we have right in front of us that can utilize. Here's what we've come up with, and it's working1 

To destress, we:

He lights up my life...and my tee
IllumiNITE Vision Pullover & Love Tee 

1. Add bright colors to our wardrobe to brighten our mood

2. Move our bodies every single day (even a 15-minute walk around our neighborhood on our most busiest days helps)

3. Run in the rain 

4. Run in the dark 

 When it run!
IllumiNITE Savannah Tee &
Jammer Running Short 
5. Take long walks through the woods and point out all the animals we see

6. Go for a hike on a mountain

7. Visit with family outside and socially-distanced

8. Plant flowers and trees and spruce up our backyard

9. Physically put away our phones, computers, TV for much needed breaks from the outside world

10. Play a board game or cards 

11. Cook flavorful, healthy meals together (usually also full of color!)

It's all about perspective

12. Sit quietly on the couch or outside with our favorite mugs or glasses filled with coffee, tea, or wine (okay, sometimes bourbon too), and just be in the moment

13. Read uplifting books about the underdog winning

14. Journal for ten-minutes a day (writing prompts from The Creative Wave Facebook group by author Lisa Papademetriou)

15. Watch our favorite sitcoms and funny movies and laugh, laugh, laugh

16. Go to sleep at the same time every night in a quiet, dark room (no electronics allowed)

Game night...healthy snacks
& strategic sneak attacks

17. Surprise each other with love notes or small gifts "just because"

18. Be spontaneous and throw our routine to the wind for an impromptu activity, like getting takeout from our favorite restaurant, going for a long drive, or even just opening that specialty chocolate we've been saving for a rainy day

19. Put on music from "the good old days" and dance, dance, dance in the living room

20. Name five things that bring us joy each, even if it's something minor like enjoying a sunny day, spotting a woodpecker, or saying hello to a neighbor  

I'm sure I could go on and on, but really, these 20 things have become our go-to ways to destress, unwind, and find joy. Implementing little bits of happiness into our lives each day helps us remember that everything is temporary, including these uncertain times, and having a positive attitude eases stress and anxiety. 

Sound too simple? Don't believe me? Give it a try for a week, and then let me know how it went.

Give a smile, receive a smile! No matter what's going on in life right now,
a smile always helps. 

IllumiNITE Waterproof Colorado Jacket & Sentinel Longsleeve Shirt
© Matt Francis Photos

And don't forget, adding bright colors into your life is easier now more than ever. Just use my discount code RunBrightly for 15% off your order at IlllumiNITE.

What do you do to destress? Please share in a comment below. I'd love to add more joy into my life! 

Weather You Run This Summer

The first time I signed up for the Mike cooling down near the end of our 13-mile run. IllumiNITE's Endeavor Tank and Long Running Shorts...