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self-care

Anxiety...Taming the Monster

Anxiety...Taming the Monster

Today, I have a treat for you! I have asked my dear friend, Rebecca Hamlin, a LCSW (licensed clinical social worker) that knows so much about the stories we tell ourselves when we are in a state of anxiety/fear/stress/shame/anger, to write something for us here on my piece of the interwebs.

Because she is awesome and because she has the same heart for women- to help every one of us drop the anxiety and stress so that we can fully step into the purpose laid out for us by God, she said YES!

When I read this article she wrote, I kept yelling “YES!!”, as if I was surprised that she shared the same viewpoint. But I think the most exciting part for me was that MORE people are talking about the impact we have on our stress, anxiety, health, and overall well-being when we get to the root cause. I coach women struggling with Adrenal Fatigue and burnout that started with a mindset being rooted in anxiety.

I can throw vitamins at you all day long, but until we do the work to figure out the WHY behind your symptoms, we can’t initiate change, growth, and recovery.

I will stop typing now and let you read for yourself what the expert has to say:


There’s a lot of shame surrounding this topic and that’s why I think it’s so important to have these conversations….to shine a light, to educate, and to make sure that those who may struggle with anxiety know that they are not alone. Here’s the challenge though with this discussion…each individual’s journey with anxiety will be different – their symptoms will be different, the origin will be different, treatment recommendations will be different. Honestly, anxiety can feel like a big scary monster that looks different for a lot of people and there are a lot of ways that you can learn to tame that monster.

I will do my best to cover a wide spectrum of experiences, symptoms, and treatment approaches and to also provide some education about anxiety and some tools for becoming more grounded and more centered with the goal of promoting mental wellness for all of us – and I hope that will be really helpful…if you struggle with anxiety and even if you don’t.

In January of this year, I went through a season of anxiety. At the time, I couldn’t figure out what was causing it – though looking back now, I certainly have some guesses but what I was certain of was the inescapable and paralyzing fear. This season gave me a new perspective on anxiety - both symptoms and approaches. It gave me an opportunity to practice what I preach and to change my relationship with anxiety, such invaluable learning for the rest of my life.

I want to share with you some of what I have learned and lived in just the past 12 months.

ANXIETY – STATS

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorder in the United States affecting 40 million adults – most of them women. Only 36.9% of the 40 million receive treatment.

Anxiety is an umbrella term that covers a wide variety of diagnosis including PTSD, OCD, Panic Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, just to name a few.

Studies have declared millennial's the most anxious generation in history. There are a lot of hypothesis as to why this is but let me start with this encouraging information: there is mounting evidence to suggest that mental health is becoming a priority for millennial's – they’re more willing than previous generations to consult a therapist and to talk about their struggles openly, which is a powerful way to end the stigma and to shine a light on mental wellness.

ANXIETY - SYMPTOMS

Anxiety comes in many forms but almost always causes nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worrying. Mild anxiety is vague and unsettling while severe anxiety can seriously affect day to day living.

There is a strong connection between emotional and physical symptoms and anxiety is often stored in the body…physical manifestations like rapid heart beat, rapid breathing, increasing blood pressure, lack of focus, irritability, nausea, sleepless nights, and muscle tension. When anxiety escalates it can be debilitating and have serious effects on our physical health. By some estimates as much as 80% of all disease and illness is initiated and aggravated by stress and anxiety, diseases like diabetes, heart disease, substance abuse, lower immune system, and GI distress.

With anxiety our body is reacting to a threat and the amygdala (the lower part of our brain) is hijacked – it’s literally as if we are being chased by a bear, and we respond with a fight, flight, or freeze response.

Typically anxiety is long-term and is a very internal experience – it’s possible to hide your anxiety and for no one to know the depth of your struggles. Anxiety is often steady and consistent and there may be no awareness of what is causing our anxiety - it often feels irrational or out of proportion with the actual likelihood or impact of the anticipated event. Anxiety is synonymous with a helpless/powerless feeling, which only leads to more anxiety, leaving you feeling completely stuck.

ORIGINS/ROOT CAUSES

There is a continuum with anxiety which makes this conversation incredibly difficult. There are a lot of different origins and root causes, i.e. childhood onset, adult onset, anxiety caused by trauma, and then of course there are hormonal factors, such as postpartum anxiety.

POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY

Postpartum or Perinatal Mood Disorders, also known as PMD (which includes both postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety) is the most common medical complication of childbirth and it’s estimated that it effects 10 - 20% of women giving birth globally. In Pima county alone 4,000 women suffer with PMD. Baby blues last for a couple of weeks while symptoms that last longer indicate PMD. Sadness is only one symptom and other common symptoms include anxiety, irritability, and nagging self-doubt.

Here's the key to PMD, you don’t have to suffer alone! Here are a few steps if you or someone you love seems to be exhibiting symptoms of PMD;

· Talk to your doctor

· Learn more about the symptoms

· Know that it’s a common complication and it’s not your fault

TREATMENT

For anxiety, most often the best treatment approach is a combination of both therapy and medication. Here’s my disclaimer about medication though…so often we want a quick fix. An easy solution to a complicated problem. I want to encourage you, if you’re struggling with anxiety to not simply treat the symptoms but to discover and treat the root cause. My experience is that anxiety is often rooted in trauma and shame. In many cases, healing is possible and you don’t have to live with anxiety forever. Healing from trauma and shame is the harder path but can lead to incredible freedom and joy.

Struggles with anxiety or even depression, don’t have to define you, in fact, learning to cope and manage it well can lead to being a wiser and more compassionate human, but we have to do the hard work of healing.

Here are some important factors to consider as we work at changing our relationship with anxiety.

SELF-EXPLORATION AS A FIRST STEP

As you work with a therapist, part of the process is self-learning and self-exploration. Understanding the emotional continuum and where you land on that will help you know how to treat your symptoms - both when you are experiencing acute anxiety and then how to lower your overall level of anxiety. In addition to understanding your anxiety intensity you will identify patterns and triggers and learn to avoid them if possible. Many people identify too much caffeine, not enough sleep, or too much social media as major anxiety triggers. When you’re more aware of these triggers you can do a better job of planning and preparing for them.

LOWERING YOUR OVERALL ANXIETY LEVELS

The second important step in treating anxiety, after learning about your anxiety, is to lower your overall anxiety level. When you work with a therapist, you will learn coping skills and distraction skills for both preventing anxiety (to the degree you are able to) and to manage anxiety. Everyone is different and different things work for different people so testing this and trying new things becomes really important. While there may be no cure for your particular anxiety, there are things that can help you in your journey. Just a few of the things I often recommend;

· Meditation – head space app

· Yoga

· Exercise

In addition to these tools, mindfulness becomes an invaluable skill. Anxiety means our brains are disconnecting from our bodies. Mindfulness becomes a priority to learn to manage anxiety. Get out of your head and into your body…slow down, be present and avoid judgement. Meditation and yoga are both great tools for developing and strengthening the skill of mindfulness.

DEVELOPING RESILIENCY – HOW DO WE PROMOTE MENTAL WELLNESS

Resiliency is a critical component to not allowing these struggles – if it’s anxiety or something completely different – to define us. How do we develop this skill?

COMMUNITY/REDUCING THE STIGMA

Individuals who struggle with anxiety are more likely than the general population to feel lonely and isolated from others. Yet, close relationships are both preventative and restorative when it comes to emotional wellness. Our minds and emotions are healthiest when we maintain strong attachments to people whom we can be open, honest, and vulnerable.

I realize that there is still a significant amount of shame involved in being honest. My hope is that you will do the hard work of building a community where you can be honest about your struggles. There is freedom in honesty and honesty can begin the healing process. Freedom from shame and stigma releases us to do the work of healing – this work requires vulnerability, honesty, connection and empathy.

Thank you, Rebecca, for your honest and brave work. Visit her website.

If you are ready to embrace your wellness, starting with mindfulness and intention, head over to Revitalized Wellness! The 12-week group program is open now! There is an AMAZING bonus for those who join by 4/28! 💜

In health,

Ericka



Stress Management: Pursuit for Peace

Stress Management: Pursuit for Peace

At the end of 2017 I received the best gift and the most unsatisfying diagnosis of severe hormonal imbalance with Hypothyroidism. Despite my focused approach to “health”, I had some major blind spots. I had to take a long, hard look at what was in my life that didn’t need to be and what was missing.

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How does this happen to a health coach?

I’d gotten lost in the day to day. I was tied to my commitments and obligations. I was ruled by the “shoulds”. I allowed the “chores” to become my beacon of direction. What needed my attention? Who needed something from me? What wasn’t complete and was needing only me to be finished? These days turned to weeks and the weeks turned to months.  My life was much more reactive than intentional.

I focused on my work, my tasks, and “what can I control”?

In this season, I allowed all of the “shoulds” and “need-tos” to consume me. Yet, that wasn’t the part that rendered me ineffective as a wife, mom, daughter of God, friend, daughter, employee, or business owner. The largest missing piece for me was my time with God. I had allowed the excuses of why my health could not be a priority or why my time with God would be compromised during this season of my busy. You see, those things can’t be SEEN. They aren’t necessarily physically in front of me demanding my attention. God isn’t like a child, always pulling at you and grabbing your face to look at Him. He doesn’t give you deadlines to meet. He patiently waits for us to seek Him. I believe there are blessings within our days that God places to remind us of His faithfulness and love.  But you must be still to find them.

There was very little room for stillness. When I found it, I typically saw some shiny object begging for my attention, and there is where my attention went. “Sorry peace, you’ll just have to wait until I complete this project or travel for this conference or create more content” …blah blah blah.

I tend to strive for perfection and sometimes it paralyzes me and renders me ineffective, looking like a deer in headlights. I want to meet the expectations of all the people, I desire to please, and I will sometimes forget that my needs are important too. Does that sounds familiar?

I swapped out my morning walks for email responses and never-ending meetings about the meetings. I missed my time in nature, but God’s creation wasn’t going anywhere, right? So I kept striving. I was working about 50 hours a week in a full-time career and I was building my growing coaching practice. I was still a wife and a mom. I was burning the candle at both ends and pouring gasoline in the middle.

As time went on and the demands grew, it felt like walls were closing in on me. I yearned for time to just be. To be still and just be in God’s presence. My health wasn’t nearly as patient as God. The reminders of the importance of maintaining my health came frequent like an annoying neighbor kid who rings the doorbell every 30 minutes. I was fatigued most of the time, I started gaining weight, I was irritable with most, but especially my family. 

I was trying to manage my stress as best as I could and my symptoms smelled of Adrenal Fatigue but it seemed like something more. After my visit to my primary care physician, I was frustrated and confused. I KNEW something was off and all she could gather was a “mid-life slide”.

You know, the downhill slide you embark on once you hit 40 (and this was just before that)? Your metabolism slides down, your energy slides down, your weight slides up and your boobs and belly button also head south. She made me feel like my extreme fatigue, brain fog, irritability, weight gain, heavy periods and dry skin were just a sign that I had one foot in the grave and another on a banana peel. Her solution? How about an anti-depressant?!

I didn’t have a Xanax deficiency, my body was telling me (loudly) that I had no longer made my health a priority.

In my pursuit of success, I had lost the roadmap I give to my clients to prevent and recover from burnout. I had allowed the voice of social media and “experts” to shift my attention and priorities.

My next best steps?

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FIND SUPPORT:

Thankfully, I had created amazing connections with practitioners that I trusted to help me uncover the root cause of my symptoms. I asked for help. I knew that I couldn’t see all my blind spots. I needed some people to guide me through this time. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and severe hormone imbalance. We are talking crazytown imbalance.

I gained new insight into what was going on within my body and a plan to lead me back to recovery and homeostasis. I had new adjustments to make. I also needed to focus on restorative exercise (yoga, walking, stretching, deep breathing).

REASSESS MY PRIORITIES & GOALS:

As I was working on healing my body and recovering from stress induced hormone imbalance and hypothyroidism, I knew that I could no longer keep up the pace I was running in life. It was time to let go of my full-time position that I had held for over five years as a Business Development Manager of a supplement company and focus on my health, family, and growing coaching practice.

I understand that not everyone has the ability or luxury to take this step; I am so grateful that I could. I worked hard to build my practice and gain new clients (I’m still working on this!) and I desired to build upon what I had started a few years before.

It was time to shift my lifestyle to promote wellness. Again, let me say, the answer isn’t for everyone to quit their job and become a full-time entrepreneur (and this could be more stressful), the point is to dig in, seek God and ask what He has for you. For me, I had a calling to build my business and reach more women.

I allowed myself to build margin into my day. I allowed myself to rest. I allowed myself to just be.

SEEK GOD:

Another “next best step” was for me to lean into God. I had missed the connection, the peace, the growth, and the relationship that I gained when I made time to listen to His voice. I couldn’t move forward without His direction.

This time of physical challenges left me grateful that I was given an opportunity to stop looking inward and instead, focus my eyes back to God. I had been living in my own strength for some time. It was time to get His help.

What did I learn?

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In the past 12 months of changing my lifestyle, my career, my priorities I have learned so much about myself and was able to increase a better understanding of my clients. What were my main lessons?

I was not as much of a time-management ninja as I thought. Being in charge of your own time can be challenging when you do not report to anyone, have nobody expecting deliverables with a deadline, and have open structure to your day. I had to create structure for myself. My time is a commodity and I was wasting it at a neck-breaking speed. I had to implement systems, processes, and time limits to get things done (even writing this blog has a time limit).

Health is not a constant. Once you figure something out and feel pretty comfortable, you may need to make new changes. I have spent the past year doing lots of tweaking, testing, changing, and going back to the drawing board. I feel like I have a good hold of what is working for me to normalize my hormones and thyroid function but I understand that it can change and I will be ok when it does. Being frustrated and stressed about it doesn’t improve my health. I can only pay attention to what my body is telling me and move from there.

Comparison is a thief of joy. Embarrassingly, I spent too much of this past year looking at other coaches in my industry and wishing I was where they are. I wanted the number of clients they had, I wanted my website to look like theirs, I wanted my photos to look beautiful like theirs. I was focused on other people more than I was on my own journey. This creates a root of bitterness and resentment. It makes us discontent where we are. We get so focused on what we are lacking and where we want to be next that we miss the joy of right now.

What I came to know? I have a journey to experience and teach me. There are no short cuts. I can have a growth mindset or fixed mindset about my journey. I can be positive or negative. It’s up to me. I have a choice. Thankfully, I chose to embrace my place and I have felt the freedom and success that brings.

There are not fast fixes that last. We all want the easy button. I am totally guilty of this. Why draw out a process and the results to be had by taking the long way? Here’s why: Because the quick fixes are often not sustainable. They work temporarily because you can only do the work for a short time (think crash diets, long hours working, caffeine dependency) and they are never something you can build a healthy lifestyle around. I wanted to jump 1,000 steps forward . In my own health and business, I wanted to get to the glory days of success without the work…because that just feels better, right? I mean, why can’t it just be easy? You know the saying, “you don’t appreciate what you didn’t earn”? It’s true. I have earned my success (and I will continue to earn my future success) in my current business and health and family life and it’s amazing to know I put in the work. I appreciate the people, the journey, and the results so much more. The best part? I can keep this pace forever or until God asks me to change my direction.

Community is key. I have had struggles in my path (and some continue) but I asked for help. I knew that I couldn’t do everything on my own. I have an amazing support system between my husband, kids, friends, and experts that help guide me, pray for me, keep me accountable and check in on my progress.

We tend to have a default setting that tells us we can do it all alone; it will be faster, cheaper, and keep the anonymity. If we don’t share the struggle, it’s not really a struggle, right? WRONG. It continues to fester and eat away at us until burnout, breakdown, or both, happen. Gather your people and ask for help. Seek expert advice and trust the process.

What does this mean for you?

I pray that my lessons offer a light of hope for you. In my struggles, observations, and research, I was able to better understand you! I understand your stress (even better!) and I know how to help you increase your energy, focus, time management to improve your success in work, family, and lifestyle.

During this year, I was able to fine-tune my programs based off of feedback and need. Revitalized Wellness is now open and offers you a sustainable roadmap to beating burnout! Click the link to find out more about the 12-week group program that is offering my clients AMAZING results-greater than they imagined!

I am making this journey one of ease for you (notice I didn’t say EASY). I guide you, you become more aware of your lifestyle, choices, and the impact on your health.

Drop the shame.

Lose the guilt.

Feel empowered.

Believe you can feel better.

Accept help.

Make a choice.

I hope you choose you.

In health, Ericka 💜

Additional resources:

Facebook Live - What causes burnout?

5 Ways Stress Impacts Weight Loss

What is Adrenal Fatigue and how does it impact health? - Interview with Dr. James Wilson




Stress Management: Women-Balance, Self-Esteem, & Body Image

Stress Management: Women-Balance, Self-Esteem, & Body Image

I interviewed Dr. Ariane Machin, co-founder of Conscious Coaching Collective, to discuss modern issues that we, as women, deal with. There are impossible societal standards that are placed upon us requiring unachievable perfection. It negatively impacts our body image, self-esteem, relationships, and overall self-worth. This discussion is rich in grace, humor, and balanced perspective that gives women permission to say no and embrace your space. 

I hope you love this interview as much as I do! Isn't Dr. Machin the greatest?!?! I could talk to her allllll day. If this spoke to you the way I think it will, then make sure you head over here to get on the waitlist for INTENTIONAL WELLNESS! It is a whole wellness program that flips "diets" on their heads! It's time to look at stress management, gain energy, and feel healthy & whole again. JOIN THE WAITLIST!

Until next time, sisters!

Whole Health. Whole Love. Whole Success. 

Stress Self-Care for Working Moms

Do you remember the commercials in the 80's of the frazzled mom who would exclaim "Calgon, take me away!!"? The next scene would show her up neck deep in a frothy bubble bath and suddenly all was right in her world.   When stressors present themselves in your busy life of running a business, raising a family, maintaining relationships, volunteering, and the list goes on and on...you may feel like you are going to lose your mind. How can you fit one more thing on your to-do list? That is when self-care is so critical. Taking a step backward to change your point of view. Evaluate the bigger picture. Taking a deep breath and asking God for guidance. Giving yourself the gift of self-care.   Yet, sometimes the stressors come in the form of environmental toxins and chemicals you knowingly put in your body and not from your schedule or obligations alone. Those toxins instigate a stress response because it is foreign in your body and causes inflammation. Eliminating those from your environment and, more importantly, your body will begin with self-care.  I invited my friend, Kristin Szerszen, to share her top tips for natural self-care that rejuvenate, reduce your inflammation, and minimize your stress. She is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to essential oils and the benefits for your health. I am so excited to share my blog with her!    

Do you remember the commercials in the 80's of the frazzled mom who would exclaim "Calgon, take me away!!"? The next scene would show her up neck deep in a frothy bubble bath and suddenly all was right in her world. 

When stressors present themselves in your busy life of running a business, raising a family, maintaining relationships, volunteering, and the list goes on and on...you may feel like you are going to lose your mind. How can you fit one more thing on your to-do list? That is when self-care is so critical. Taking a step backward to change your point of view. Evaluate the bigger picture. Taking a deep breath and asking God for guidance. Giving yourself the gift of self-care. 

Yet, sometimes the stressors come in the form of environmental toxins and chemicals you knowingly put in your body and not from your schedule or obligations alone. Those toxins instigate a stress response because it is foreign in your body and causes inflammation. Eliminating those from your environment and, more importantly, your body will begin with self-care.

I invited my friend, Kristin Szerszen, to share her top tips for natural self-care that rejuvenate, reduce your inflammation, and minimize your stress. She is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to essential oils and the benefits for your health. I am so excited to share my blog with her!    

Did you know... the average person applies 300 chemicals to their body every single day, and 80 of those chemicals before breakfast?!?

Most of these chemicals are from four things --- soap, makeup, shampoo, and hair care. The biggest pollutants in our home are fabric softener, dryer sheets, air freshener plug-ins, and candles.

Health & safety data only exists for 15 percent of all the chemicals out there, even though so many are known to cause asthma or endocrine disruptions! I highly suggest you open your cupboards and start researching the products that you are using and the ingredients that they are formulated with. I found the phone app called 'Think Dirty' to be very beneficial and helpful in my research. 

Essential oils are a safe and natural option to use in our homes and as a part of our care routine. There are some very easy and affordable ways to incorporate these products into your life. I am going to share some solutions that you can easily implement into your beauty and self-care regimen!

Aromatherapy:

It's amazing that scents can have such a powerful impact on our bodies! Therapeutic essential oils are extracted from plants. These oils help plants thrive and maintain wellness so by using them we are able to gain the benefits that plants do from having the oils inside.

Essential oils can help you stay above the wellness line as opposed to always be treating symptoms and putting a band aid on things. They support body systems the way that they are meant to optimally function.   

Using essential oils aromatically is an easy and effective way to get the therapeutic benefit of the oil that you are using. You can simply open your bottle of oil and smell it, wear diffuser jewelry that holds the oil, and use a diffuser to disperse the oil in the air in your home.

I use the diffusers in our home throughout the day. In the morning, I will use oils for alertness, focus, and to help wake our minds and bodies up for the day; my typical go-to selection is a citrus oil like Lemon or Orange. Throughout the day I will use different oils based on what may be going on for us; as a mom of a two-year-old, I find myself diffusing the oil blend called Stress Away most of the time! At night, I use calming and grounding oils like Lavender and Frankincense to help us unwind from the day. You can also use your diffuser during your detox Epsom salt bath, I often do!

Epsom Salt Bath with Essential Oils:

Who doesn't love a great bath? I have found that incorporating a relaxing detox bath with Epsom salt into my routine helps me destress and unwind. This is my favorite and most used thing in my self-care routine so I will go into good detail on this.  ;)  Oil and water do not mix so mixing the essential oil with Epsom salt is a great way to add two amazing products to your bath!

Find an Epsom salt that only contains magnesium sulfate (MgSO4) without any fillers or additional ingredients. Epsom salt has 7 amazing benefits: boosts magnesium levels, reduces stress, eliminates toxins, relieves constipation, reduces pain & inflammation, improves blood sugar levels, and volumizes hair.

Take about 1 cup of salts and mix with your preference of essential oils. I typically use about 5-8 drops per cup of salts. By using essential oils with the salts, you will also benefit from the therapeutic properties of the oils. Lavender and Frankincense oils are my favorites to use for when I want to relax. For those days that I have a tough workout or have worked hard in our yard, I use Peppermint to relieve sore muscles. You can even use Eucalyptus oil to help if your breathing needs some support! The oily combinations are endless so you can truly customize your bath experience however you want!

Once your oil is mixed with the Epsom salt, pour into your bath under the running water and mix it into your bath water. I keep two glass jars of ready to use Epsom salt beside my tub with my favorite two oily combinations; this way I don't have to mix it for every bath. 

It is so much fun to be able to create your own spa experience at home! Enjoy!  

Skin Care & Personal Care Solutions:

26 seconds is all it takes for the ingredients in your personal care products to enter your bloodstream! Once I learned this statistic, it became more important than ever for me to make sure that the products we are using are safe for our bodies.

I switched a lot of products that we use to simple DIY options or researched safer options to purchase. Please visit my blog at www.KristinSzerszen.com for recipes to make things like facial masks, hand soap, makeup remover, rash balm, anti-aging facial serum, bar soap, sugar scrub, and a recipe that I am working hard at perfecting... body butter that is smooth yet not greasy! If I started listing all of my recipes and specific solutions in this post... it would be never ending, so I'll be respectful of your time and point you to my blog where I am posting all of my recipes. 

If you are not a DIY type person, don't fret! There are solutions available for purchase that will meet your needs.  I always suggest to research ingredients!  I am happy to make suggestions on our favorites so please don't hesitate to reach out!  

Essential oils are a very versatile and safe solution to use for personal care and beauty care. There truly is an oil for everything! The therapeutic properties of oils can be used to help make product swaps in the effort to achieve a toxin free lifestyle. I would be so happy and honored to help guide you and offer any suggestions in using essential oils. Please email me at Kristin@KristinSzerszen.com with any questions. 

Thank you to Ericka for sharing her blog and having me as a guest!  

 


As a gift to my readers, Kristin is giving away this awesome diffuser necklace to one of my lucky readers! Simply leave a comment below to be entered and I will pick a winner on 7/15/17. She is also offering a 10% discount at her website on any purchase with the code: ErickaEller. Yay!!!