Extended trips to a hospital suck. Here’s what you can do to make it more comfortable.

I recently returned from a long trip to Mayo Clinic. It was successful and I learned a lot — including a bit about self-soothing. Okay my mom helped too.

The point is, having a long stay at a hospital can be really depressing, uncomfortable and the homesickness sets in the moment you set down your bags. All we ever want to do when we’re sick is to cuddle up with something familiar. Here are some things you can do to make the stay a little more comfortable.

Where you stay

  • Do you like walks? Baths? Working out? Try and stay at a place that allows you to have at least one outlet or point of comfort on-site. I personally desperately wanted a bath tub. My whole body hurt after long days of being poked and prodded and all I desired was to melt in an epsom soak tub.
  • Also, keep in mind proximity to the hospital. My mother and I chose to stay close enough to the hospital that it wasn’t stressful to drive there and back a couple of times a day, but far enough that I didn’t completely feel like I staying was on campus.

What you bring

Bring anything that reminds you of home and makes you feel the most like yourself. Stuffed animals, a candle, a book, tarot cards, excessive skincare options (obviously I took part in this one). No matter your age, this is your chance to have a safety blanket when you want it. If you have an emotional support animal and are able to bring them, DO! Now that I have my puppy, I wish she would have been there with me.

What I brought: 

  • Tarot cards
  • Magazines/books
  • Crystals
  • Skincare/treatments and masks
  • My favorite sweatshirt and sweater
  • Fluffy socks (it was summer but I was able to snuggle up during a movie!)
  • Bright nail polish
  • Homemade soap from Sade Baron
  • Lord Jones CBD Gumdrops

I was planning on only bringing comfy clothes and was going to opt out of bringing my favorite handbag. At the last second, I tossed it in and I’m so happy I did! It helped me feel more like myself and less like a patient (even if I needed to be one for 12 hours a day).

What you can get there

  • My mom came up with the best idea on the first day — flowers. We went to Trader Joe’s and took some time to pick a few different kinds of my favorite, non-allergic flowers. After that, we went to the local dollar store and bought a couple of vases so that we could make bouquets and place them around the hotel room. If they don’t have vases, use big cups or glasses!
  • We also got little baskets to put our toiletries in. This way, it looked more homey and we didn’t have to go through the process of digging through our bags every time we needed lotion or toothpaste. It was all out for us to see!
  • Cotton pads and micellar water saved my life during this trip! Okay maybe not. But they saved my skin! Every night I was too tired to stand at the sink and wash my face. With micellar water and cotton pads, I was able to wash my face in bed and go to sleep feeling clean.
  • Epsom salt is easy to find at any pharmacy so you don’t need to lug around a 6 lb bag. My favorite is Dr. Teal’s Lavender Epsom Salt. Dump a bunch of that into your tub and wait for you muscle aches to chill out.

Set it up

  • Put away all signs of the hotel. If there’s a sign telling you how to use the coffeemaker, hide it. It’s amazing how putting away those constant reminders can help you settle in and shake off that hospital/patient feeling.
  • Spread color and flowers around the room(s)! I’m a big believer in color therapy. Happy colors make you happy!
  • Stock your fridge with healthy snacks that fit your diet. And make sure to bring some with you during the day while you’re running between tests and appointments. Hospitals have horrible options for anyone with dietary restrictions.

As always, feel free to share your recommendations and ask questions in the comments section!

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How I grew my hair back (after harsh meds and disastrous haircuts)

I’ve struggled with my hair for my whole life. I wasn’t gifted super thick locks to begin with (thanks, genetics), but the combination of harsh medications and rapid weight loss certainly doesn’t help. To make matters worse, a few years ago I was seduced by the cliche of chopping my hair after a breakup. On good days, it was adorable. But it also meant I needed to suffer through the process of growing it out once I was tired of sporting a bob.

Here’s what helped me achieve the healthiest — and soon to be longest — hair I’ve ever had.

BIOTIN — It makes all of your hair grow more. But hey, it’s easier to quickly remove hair than it is to grow it back. It’s worth extra waxing and this is what I swear by. I take organic biotin chews because I take so many other pills that I figure I’ll give my stomach a break.

REGULAR TRIMS — Keep the hair that you do have on your head, healthy and strong. I usually get a trim every two months.

STYLE — Get yourself an awesome stylist to make all the in between cuts look intentional. I’ve been going to Jaime at Stilisti in Boston for years now. She took my mullet and turned it into a cute cut at each stage of hair growth. It saved me, because I probably would have chopped my hair off again in desperation for a style.

PRODUCT — It matters. Some products can leave residue on your hair that will lead to breakage. You don’t want to undo all of your hard work! I’ve been using Virtue products for the past week. Full disclosure, they did send them to me. However, my hair has never felt so smooth and healthy and I find myself recommending the products to all my friends and family. Even my fiancé uses it!

It’s time we take stress seriously

I’ve been a stress ball since I was little. I’m type-A and I take some convincing when it comes to calming down. Instead of my parents yelling at me to do my homework, they would tell me to go to bed already because I was staying up too late working on my project. I basically came out of the womb with a furrowed brow.

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Note the intensity of four-year-old Karolina.

When I got diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, that changed (or rather, it needed to). Stress doesn’t cause Crohn’s but it is one of the biggest triggers for a flare. The same goes for my other inflammation-driven ailments: psoriasis, migraines, chronic pain. I’ve known this for most of my life, but that doesn’t mean I always gave stress the credit it deserves.

You see, I never wanted to admit that my body was being rundown by stress — that I was actually harming myself with it. People often look down on being stressed. You know what I mean — when you can’t eat or sleep and your friend says, “oh, you’re just stressed.”

But stress is so much more than what causes a permanent crease on your forehead. Some of the symptoms of stress are: headaches, muscle pain, digestive issues, sleeping problems, chest pain and a weaker immune system. None of those symptoms should be taken lightly. The most alarming thing about stress is that is can physically change your body. Doctors know that high levels of stress can actually change the composition of bacteria in your gut — leading to digestive issues like IBS. And if I wasn’t freaking you out enough before, recent research suggests that chronic stress can alter your DNA.

This summer, I landed in the emergency room. I couldn’t stop throwing up. I had an ongoing migraine for weeks. Not even morphine would touch my abdominal pain. I was convinced I was having a flare and so were my doctors. So they kept me in the hospital and ran some tests. My blood came back pretty normal and my MRI results were at my baseline. I had a follow-up appointment with my gastroenterologist and he asked me if I was stressed more than usual. I was. We talked some more and my doctor told me that my stress levels were so high that my body was mimicking a Crohn’s flare. I was really happy to hear that I wasn’t flaring up again but it was quite a slap in the face. This is what stress can do to your body if you don’t manage it.

All this to say, TLDR; Everyone gets stressed and stress makes everyone sick. Stop feeling bad about being impacted by stress, and start advocating for your body. 

Here are some things that have helped me manage stress:

  • Making self-care a priority
  • Having a pet
  • Creating an oasis (this can be you bedroom, a library, a park)
  • CBD/Medical Marijuana (post on this coming soon)
  • Laughing
  • Listening to my body and responding to what it needs
  • Learning to say “no” sometimes
  • Acupuncture

Every body is a #BodyHero

Glossier recently came out with the mother-of-all campaigns for their new oil wash and lotion — Body Hero. It includes women of all shapes and colors and truly shows the beauty in every body.

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My fellow Glossier reps kicked off the launch with their own stunning and unique photos. They shared their insecurities and perfect imperfections in personalized posts. I’ve really never been more grateful to be a part of such a cool company.

I wanted to support it with my own badass photo and shimmery body. But to be honest, I’ve been fighting my body everyday — especially lately. I certainly have not felt like a hero. It’s hard to feel like a hero when you struggle to get out of bed every morning. When you can’t hold your partner’s hand because it hurts too much. When every fiber in your body aches around your brittle bones and hurting insides.

So I locked myself in my bedroom, accompanied by my cat and partner, and I had myself a good cry.

I realized that because my body fights everyday, I am a Body Hero. I have dealt with harsh criticism from myself since I was little and learned that I would always be different. I’ve looked at stretch marks and IV bruises and patches of psoriasis with such disgust. But our bodies don’t deserve that! My stretch marks are records of years of chronic illness that no doctor will ever have on file. My IV bruises are proof that I can tolerate a sting. And my psoriasis is confirmation that yes, my body and spirit can handle more.

So although you may feel weaker than maybe you might’ve been without an autoimmune disease, you have so much strength to be able to get yourself up and take on the day. Feed off of that tenacity and know you’re a hero. Each body, every body is a #BodyHero.