In yesterday’s post, Easing Seasonal Depression: Part One, I told you about two kinds of light therapy that can be used to alleviate the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (aka, seasonal depression). Did you know that light therapy can also help with anxiety, PMS, and sleep disorders?

Why I Love the Valkee 2

At work, using the Valkee 2

At work, using the Valkee 2

Now that I’ve tried light therapy via both a traditional lamp and a headset with earbuds, I realize I am a devoted convert to the Valkee 2 headset for several reasons:

  • Portability. The headset is small, around the size of an iPod nano, and therefore it is easily transported–sometimes I place it in my back pocket while I’m wearing it. And while I’m using it, I’m not tethered to my desk.
    Quickness. The Valkee 2 requires only 12 minutes of daily use, which is easy to fit into my busy days. After 12 minutes, the device shuts itself off automatically.
    Discretion. It is far more discreet than the traditional SAD lamp. When the earbuds are placed in my ears, nobody can tell light therapy is being used; anyone passing by thinks I’m listening to music. No more co-workers giggling about my Bat Signal. And no more sore eyes (like I would sometimes get with a SAD lamp).
    Charging Time. I’ve been using it for a month now, and I’ve had to charge it only one time. Charging is simple and fast, done via a USB cord plugged into my computer.
These little lights seem to do wonders for my mood.

These little lights seem to do wonders for my mood.

Because of all these attributes of the Valkee 2, I find it incredibly easy to use. It has become part of my morning routine. I typically use it when I get to work around 8:00 am, while I’m checking email. I place the earbuds into my ears, turn the device on (it has only one button), and forget all about it for 12 minutes until it beeps to indicate it’s shutting off. The Valkee 2 has a circle on the front, which lights up when you turn it on. As each minute passes, part of the circle grows dim, so you can tell how much time has elapsed of the 12-minute cycle. For example, when 6 minutes have passed, only half of the circle remains lit. When people stop by to talk to me while I’m using the Valkee 2, I don’t have to remove the earbuds, as they are not noise-reducing earbuds and no sound is emitted during use.

How Do I Feel?

When I showed the Valkee 2 to my physician the other day while I was having my sprained wrist examined, he asked me if I think it’s working. My snarky but truthful response was, “Well, I’m not here asking you for an antidepressant, am I?”

It’s been a month since I started using the Valkee 2, and I feel really good! As I’ve said before, January is typically the month when I feel seasonal depression the most. It’s been a brutal winter here on the East Coast, with so many cold, gray January and February days. But I haven’t felt down, like I usually do in the winter. Of course it’s hard to say whether that’s contributed to the Valkee 2 or other factors (I am also taking a 12-week mindfulness course and I’m giving yoga another shot), but I like to think at least part of it is. I’m considering the Valkee 2 a crucial part of my winter survival plan.

Valkee 2 Giveaway

At the time of this writing, the device, from Finland, retails for approximately US $269 (199 euros). Valkee has generously offered to give one James & Jax reader a Valkee 2 of your own. On Valentine’s Day, Friday, February 14, one winner will be randomly selected to win a Valkee 2. You can enter this random drawing in several ways:

  1. Leave a comment below indicating what appeals to you about the Valkee 2. What makes you want to try it?
  2. Like Valkee on Facebook and leave a comment saying you’ve done this.
  3. Like James & Jax on Facebook and leave a comment saying you’ve done this.
  4. Tweet about this giveaway and comment here with the link to your tweet.

Each of the above is good for 1 entry, so you can enter a maximum of 4 times. Please be sure to leave a comment for each entry. The winner will be notified via email no later than 6:00 pm (ET) on February 14.

Disclosure: I received one Valkee 2 headset, courtesy of Valkee. All opinions expressed herein are a truthful representation of my experience using the Valkee 2 for one month. 

 

Back in November when I was bracing for the approaching winter (like I do every autumn), my therapist asked if I’d started to use my light therapy lamp yet. I had started in October, but only sporadically for a few reasons.

The Problem with Traditional Light Therapy

SAD lamp

My traditional “SAD lamp” (on the right)

First, I rarely sit still long enough to use it for the recommended length of time each morning (I believe it’s 30 minutes, at least to start). I’m a bit frantic in the mornings, packing lunches, checking Jackson’s school bag, and helping him dress and eat while getting myself ready before I race out the door to work. I don’t have the time–EVER–to stop what I’m doing and sit in front of my lamp. I’ve tried using it while I apply my makeup, but I’m sure you can guess how that turns out (I’ll spare you the terrifying clown photo).

Second, and this is directly related to the first reason, I keep my lamp on my desk at work. The only time I sit still for 30-minute increments is at my desk, so it seemed like the perfect place to sit in front of my lamp. However, the lamp is too bulky and fragile to lug home on the weekends, so I don’t use it on Saturdays and Sundays at all. Also, there are some mornings when sitting directly in front of the lamp isn’t feasible. Maybe I have to work on the computer, or maybe I have a meeting. Most importantly, it’s kind of embarrassing to use the lamp at work. I’ve had several co-workers stop by, curious about the light beam being projected from my cubicle to the ceiling. They’ve started calling it the Bat Signal.

Of course even with all those limitations, if something helps to relieve my seasonal depression symptoms, I’ll deal with the downside and just do it–when I can, anyway.

The Valkee 2: A New, More Convenient Light Therapy

The Valkee 2, which is the size of an iPod (approximately)

The Valkee 2, which is the size of an iPod (approximately)

So back to that November day in my therapist’s office… She asked if I’d heard about a Finnish product called the Valkee Bright Light Headset, which is essentially light therapy via earbuds. Intrigued but skeptical, I said I had not but I would look into this.

I found the company’s website and I started to read up on what seemed to me like a completely crazy idea–how could projecting light beams into my ear canals help my seasonal depression?! Because of my day job as an editor of several health care publications, I often read peer-reviewed studies and am familiar with and respect the peer review process. I appreciated that the company seems to have gone to great lengths to provide links to so many such studies, indicating promising results about “transcranial brain-targeted bright light treatment“–talk about a mouthful, right? I clicked through and read some of the abstracts to these studies, published in some very reputable journals.

My curiosity mounted. So what would any blogger do at this point? Find them on Twitter & mention them, of course! With astonishing speed, the company replied to my tweet, inviting me to contact them about perhaps receiving a Valkee of my own. It felt like Christmas to this girl who has suffered from seasonal depression for years!

Not only was I impressed with the idea of a new, portable, convenient way to use light therapy, but I also was impressed by the company’s responsiveness on social media. What’s even better is that the Valkee CEO himself responded to my emails, often within minutes. We talked about the product, and I grew more and more excited to try it myself.

In part two, I’ll tell you how it’s going, now that I’ve been using the Valkee 2 for exactly one month, and tell you how you can win one! 

 

Yesterday was Small Business Saturday, so I feel like I missed the boat by posting about one of my favorite small business today. BUT! Tomorrow is Cyber Monday, and there’s no rule that you can’t shop all the great deals from those same small businesses you checked out yesterday! And I’ve got a great coupon code for you at the end of this post!

I’ve been a pretty big fan of BePe Baby for years. Their slippers have been a staple in Jackson’s wardrobe for most of his 4 years. We started out with the super cool baby slippers with flames on the sides, which you can see in this classic itty bitty Jax photo:

bepe baby slippers

Then we graduated to sports slippers, featuring baseballs, soccer balls, footballs, and more. And now we’ve made it to the largest size, with the crossbones slippers, which we like to refer to as the “pirate slippers.” (We watch a lot of Jake & The Never Land Pirates in my house.)

Jax was happy to model his new slippers:

bepe baby slippers

And a little more closely:

bepe baby slippers

All the things I’ve raved about previously still apply now, years later: Jax loves them because they’re soft, comfortable, “really cool,” and easy to put on and take off without any help. What I love about BePe Baby slippers is that they have non-skid soles, they’re inexpensive, and they’re durable and washable. We’ve only needed to replace these slippers because Jax outgrows them.

For you, friends, BePe Baby is offering a 25% off coupon code that’s good all week (valid through December 8, 2013): JAMESJAX

So stuff your kid’s stocking with some slippers that will make you both happy & check out BePe Baby. They offer more than slippers, too! Check out some of these adorable hats & leg warmers! Oh, and they’re also on Amazon now.

 

I’ve been a BoyMom for over 4 years now and I’m still not sick of playing cars on the floor, Lego (disclaimer: I haven’t  stepped on yet barefoot yet, so talk to me after that happens), and all-things-Superhero.

Amy from BoyMom Designs sent me a shirt that reminds me of all the hours spent helping Jax determine which car is the fastest, rolling cars through each room of our house to see which floor surface is best for races, and choosing which car Jax might someday own from among the 50 or 60 cars he has collected so far (the purple one, of course).

boymomshirt

This was the best pic I could get today. We parents know how challenging it can sometimes be to get everyone to remain calm enough to snap a non-blurry pic!

My new BoyMom t-shirt features 5 rows of fast toy cars, from red to orange to yellow. The logo across the top made me smile and think of Jax. I threw a cardi over it, paired it with some skinny jeans & Uggs, and I’m referring to it as my “mom uniform” on this chilly & chill Saturday afternoon. There’s a turkey roasting in the oven and a Disney movie on the tv. No, it isn’t Cars, but good idea!

Amy & I are offering one of these cute cars t-shirts to one of you and a 20% discount code for the entire site to all of you. You can enter up to 3 times to win the cars t-shirt shown above:

  1. Follow @boymomdesigns on Twitter. Come back to this post & comment to let us know you’ve followed. Leave your twitter name.
  2. Like BOTH James & Jax and BoyMom on Facebook. Comment below to let us know you’ve done this.
  3. Tell us about any one of your favorite parenting moments in a comment below.

One winner will be selected at random on Monday, December 2. In the meantime, please head over to BoyMom to check out all Amy has to offer–her store isn’t just for moms of boys! While you’re there, read her story; she is an inspiration!

Yes, my boys can be dangerous, destructive, messy, exasperating, and smelly — but the good news is that they are only that way some of the time. The rest of the time they are superheroes in the making; respectful and honest do-gooders, defenders of the universe, and best of all always loving. The kind of boys that will grow up to be good men. Of all the jobs in the world, being a boymom might be the most challenging and the most fulfilling. ~ Amy

Don’t forget to use your 20% discount code: U9X5JC.

UPDATE: Angela, you’re the winner of the BoyMom Cars t-shirt! I’ll be in touch with you soon!

Being a music lover (actually, what’s a word stronger than lover?), I have many anthems, each one necessary for a specific situation requiring a specific mood or action.

The other night, my therapist handed me a book about assertiveness. I started skimming through it the very next day, and soon after that, I started applying some of the advice I’d been reading. Fortunately, I must have done it right (if there is a “right” and a “wrong” way to be assertive, and I guess there could be), because I saw a major payoff at work when I craftfully asserted myself about one aspect of my workload that was stressing me out, bigtime.

With that victory still fresh in my mind, on this morning’s commute into the office, my iPod shuffled to a song that I discovered during the formative years of my adolescence in the 90s: “Double Dare Ya” by Bikini Kill.

I don’t have the space, time, or energy to veer into a tangent on why the 80s/90s Riot Grrrl movement was so important to women like me, who were growing up and figuring out life back then. I’m sure there is plenty already written–and it’s got to be better writing than I could ever provide here during my 5-minute writing break–so if you’re curious, maybe start with something simple, like the Wikipedia entry for Riot Grrrl.

“Double Dare Ya” is a song that you have to scream-sing. It’s not good, so if you listen to it, don’t come back here and yell at me or discredit my taste in music (which I promise is pretty awesome). It isn’t good, but it is inspiring and powerful and volatile and emotional (which makes it GOOD), and it sparked so many women to achieve what they didn’t feel they could because they were being held back, whether by themselves or others. It is an anthem of female empowerment, and it has helped me trudge through many days when my self-confidence was at its lowest–it was my anthem for those days.

Today, I’m carrying the song’s message with me. Today I’m writing. I’m putting myself out there, even though I want to shut myself out of the world and hide lately. Today I feel strong. I’m proud of who I am. (And, I admit, I just deleted the word mostly from the end of that sentence, but see? Progress.)

For those who are into words like I am, I present to you the (seriously crude but powerful and inspiring) lyrics to “Double Dare Ya” by Bikini Kill and urge you to watch the video as you read, because you have to hear Kathleen Hanna scream-sing in order to feel the intended impact. Consider it your (feminist) history lesson for the day.

If you have an anthem (or several), I’d love to know what it is! Please share in the comments!

 

We’re Bikini Kill and we want revolution
Girl-style now!!!

Hey girlfriend
I got a proposition goes something like this:
Dare ya to do what you want
Dare ya to be who you will
Dare ya to cry right outloud
“You get so emotional baby”

Double dare ya, double dare ya, double dare ya
Girl-fuckin-friend yeah
Double dare ya
Double dare ya
Double dare ya
Girl

Don’t you talk out of line
Don’t go speaking out of your turn
Gotta listen to what the Man says
Time to make his stomach burn
Burn, burn, burn, burn

Double dare ya, double dare ya, double dare ya
Girl-fuckin-friend yeah
Double dare ya, double dare ya, double dare ya
Girl

You’re a big girl now
You’ve got no reason not to fight
You’ve got to know what they are
‘fore you can stand up for your rights
Rights, rights?
You DO have rights!

Double dare ya, double dare ya
Double triple-fuckin-dare ya girlfriend
Double dare ya, double dare ya, double dare ya
Girl