How to Have Your BEST Day + Wellness Trends I Love


I am very serious about my routines and when I find something I love, I really get into it. I do a lot of things in the morning and at night to help me find a sense of peace and balance. I tend to be a little stressed and frazzled, so having a routine with easy little things that make me feel good sets me up for really great day. I read a lot of blogs, watch YouTube videos, and listen to podcasts that are always offering up some kind of wellness "trend" and I'll pretty much try anything, so I'm going to share what I love with you guys today.

MORNING:
By 6:30/7:00am I'm usually up. As soon as I get up, I brush my teeth. I was kind of into reading about Ayurveda for a while and I read that you should brush your teeth and tongue before you drink water, so you aren't swallowing any of the gross bacteria that's been in your mouth while you're sleeping. Once I heard that, I couldn't get the picture out of my head, so I brush my teeth first thing. Also, the first thing I'm NOT doing is checking my messages or social media. That immediately makes me feel icky and like I'm wasting time so I try to avoid it til the afternoon.

Then, I meditate...I know I know, I feel like everyone is talking about meditation these days. I've only been doing this consistently for about two weeks. It helps me with my anxiety SO much. It is hard, but after a while you learn to just let go and be still for 10 minutes. I've tried Calm and Headspace and I like them both. I'm really hoping I can keep it up! I recently listened to a podcast with Lorna Jane (if you are familiar with her activewear line) and she said something that really resonated with me. Her morning mantra is: Move, Nourish, Believe. Basically, you just tell yourself, how you are going to move and nourish your body throughout the day and then the believe is kind of visualizing yourself really kicking ass in whatever you have to do that day. I like this because I don't always have time to journal, but it's a simple and easy way to put yourself in a positive state of mind.

After my meditation, I heat up some water and have a cup of warm water with lemon. I've heard this is good for digestion, but I drink it because I love the taste of lemon and like to have something warm when I first wake up that isn't coffee. I try to either walk my dog or stretch for like 15 minutes, but sometimes this doesn't happen. If it's nice (especially in the summer), I like to just sit outside for a minute and take a deep breath. 

DURING THE DAY:
So like I mentioned, I tend to get stressed and anxious really easily and a lot of times it's because I didn't give myself enough time to prepare. I'm usually leaving for work in the morning, so I make sure I have whatever snacks or meals I need ready to go before I have to walk out the door. I try to make sure I'm eating breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack, so I don't have that really starving feeling at 5pm. This sounds like common sense, but I know you can relate to that starving/hangry feeling and that doesn't help anybody, so giving yourself time to prepare really takes away that stress.

This tip is so boring, but water is key!!! I just got the big Hydroflask with the sippy cup straw and I'm usually filling that up like 6 or 7 times a day, which is crazy. Alright moving on, you know you need more water. I love coffee, but I really try to limit my caffeine because of my anxiety. I try to stick to only 2 cups per day.

BEDTIME:
Another boring tip that you know you should be doing: turn off your phone!! 
When I'm ready to wind down (probably 9pm if we're being honest), I set my Bedtime app alarm, put my phone on the charger, and take a hot shower. This relaxes me and most of the time I do my best reflecting when I'm in the shower. 

When I'm finished and I get in my pajamas, I get in bed and lay with my feet up. I'm obsessed with Melissa Wood Health and she always talks about laying with your feet up straight up against the wall to get your blood flowing. Once I started doing this, I fell in love and have to do this every night. I try to read one chapter of a library book (nothing crazy, usually a mystery) while I do this. If I'm not already dozing off, I'll write a little in my journal, but I try to always think of at least 3 things that I'm grateful for before I go to sleep. Continuously bringing gratitude into my life really helps me stay in a calm, positive mindset, so this is probably the most important part of my day.

Now, sometimes I don't get all of these things in every single day, but setting that as my ideal routine and just working towards little ways I can find some peace is key for me. When I give myself enough time to prepare and make time for little things I love, I'm setting myself up for my best day. I'm always posting on @balanced_baig when I try new wellness trends/hacks or (more importantly) healthy snacks or drinks that I read about, so make sure you're following along over there if you aren't already :)

Thanks for reading xx

Sharing Strong Women: Shelby Blakeman


Wow I am SO excited for today's post. While I love sharing my life on the blog, the truth is, I only know so much as a 20 year old. The idea to share the stories and advice of other strong women in my life and community, particularly in health and wellness, has been swirling around in my head for a while and I am so glad it is finally coming to fruition. I'm lucky that I have so many strong women around me that have set such an incredible example for me and I can't wait to share a few of them with you over the next few weeks.

Today, I'm introducing you guys to Shelby Blakeman. She just graduated this past May from the University of Kentucky and is a sorority sister of mine. During her time at UK, she became an instructor at Sweat Lex and started her own online boutique, Threads, that she will be relaunching soon. I'm so inspired by her hard work ethic, contagious positivity, outlook on health and fitness, and willingness to share her story on the blog. I know you guys will love her as much as I do!!!

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Health to me isn’t just about what I eat and exercise. It is extremely important to me that my health be focused on MENTAL wellness first, body second. If I am working towards peace mentally, my physical health follows. I believe that a focus on physical health without mental health is not only ineffective for the long term, but potentially dangerous and can lead to a flawed relationship with food and exercise.

In high school I lost 40 pounds after becoming fed up with being unhappy with my body. I woke up one day with this thought: “I have one body. One single body and one life. I can choose to be miserable and unhealthy. Or I can see what happens if I work on loving my self and taking care of myself. I have nothing to lose. The time will pass anyway. Let’s try and stick with this and see what happens.” It was like someone lit a fire under my ass and I was ready to go and unstoppable. I hated working out but I would find ways to sweat that were fun for me like walks around my neighborhood & doing random stuff at the gym. As long as I was moving and active I felt good. The weight came off slowly (THE KEY TO MAINTAINING WEIGHT-LOSS!) and I stayed consistent.

Nutrition was absolutely KEY in my weight loss. I truly believe that if weight loss is the goal, your eating is the most important thing. I lost the weight over my senior year by eating healthy foods and cutting out JUNK! There is no MAGIC pill, potion, or workout routine and anyone who tries to sell you the “secret” is LYING.

While I am extremely impressed with my dedication, there wasn’t much of a balance- I don’t think I ate ice cream for like 6 months. (Can’t imagine going a week without it now) 😬 When I came to college I was able to eat healthily but was not taking care of my mental health and was really neglecting taking care of my brain. This started to play out in certain ways over the first two years of college but more on that later.

During my freshman year, I found Sweat Lex which is now where I teach barre and cycle classes. I discovered a love for group fitness. I really never looked forward to working out until I tried these classes. I LOVE the motivation that comes from being in a room of people sweating together. I started working the front desk at Sweat until almost 2 years ago my boss finally convinced me to become an instructor. After my training I realized this is my PASSION! I absolutely love teaching. To me every class is like a performance where I get to lead and inspire. Selecting my playlist, planning my classes, and meeting new clients truly refreshes me in a way that I treasure!! I am so grateful. I know Sweat and group fitness will be apart of my life forever- we’re opening a new location very soon and I can’t wait to teach there, it’s so exciting to see and be a part of the growth of the business.

Now that I have graduated college and am dipping my toes in the real world, I can’t help but reflect on the journey that I have been on with health and fitness over the last few years. I have lost and gained weight, ate super healthy and felt great and ate super healthy and felt like shit, felt amazing and confident in my body and the next day hated the way I looked. I have binged, I have messed up. After these struggles with body image/ body acceptance I have come to this conclusion. To achieve peace with our physical bodies YOU HAVE to start with your mental health.Because I was at what was supposed to be my “goal” weight. I was eating my idea of the “perfect” amount of calories in a day. I was STILL NOT HAPPY WITH MYSELF??! What!!! So frustrating.That’s when I realized I had to change what my idea of health was. Why did I think that achieving those goals was going to make me love myself if I didn’t love myself to begin with?It was time for a CHANGE. But now I have learned that breakdowns are sometimes right before breakthroughs. After living with overwhelming anxiety and depression and adhd for months I got help and I’m SOOO not ashamed! It was the best thing I EVER did. A year ago I started seeing my therapist and started taking medicine and I am in such a better place. I read self help books, meditate, watch a ton of inspiring YouTube videos and listen to podcasts and follow lots of positive accounts. I have become much more spiritual and in tune with the world around me. Now I believe that I am in control of 100% of my life (we all are) and know that I am capable of living the life I’ve always dreamed of.. right now I really feel that I am!!!!

Right now I am focused on mental well-being and learning more about healing my body with foods and holistic approaches after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s.For me now it’s NOT about the numbers or macros or pounds it’s about nutrients and nourishment and strength. I’m working to achieve balance in all areas of my life. Now I do not believe in diets at all. The diet industry is designed to make money off of the consumer. I’m working on thinking of all foods as neutral (it takes time to not think of calories as evil since we are told that so much!!!) I love ice cream, pizza, wine, being lazy and I also love vegetables and taking care of my body.

I realize that I am so grateful for my body and all that it does for me!!! I also realize now that mindset is absolutely everything. We are all capable of having everything we want. Life is supposed to be easy and fun and playful... my goal is to help everyone else around me see that. So for now, you’ll find me decorating my house I just moved into with my bf of 6 years and new doggie (5 diy projects in progress at the moment)... teaching at Sweat, preparing for the relaunch and rebrand of my business Threads (cant wait), and working on making each day purposeful and wonderful. πŸ’•

Baigin thank you so much for letting me share my story and if I could share any advice to your readers it would be that your health journey is not linear and to be prepared for bumps along the road, to always love yourself through every stage even if you aren’t exactly where you want to be, and to view health as not just a way to change your external appearance but a way to invest in yourself. You only have one home so you might as well take care of itπŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•

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Follow Shelby on Instagram here and check out her classes at Sweat- I love her classes!!! 

Thanks for reading xx.

All About Abroad: Everything You Need to Know about Applications


Today's post includes just about everything you need to know about applying for study abroad programs. I'm going to roll out a couple different posts all about studying abroad as they come up during my semester in Barcelona, but for the first one, I wanted to talk all about the application process. Before we dive into that, I wanted to share a little news! 

So, in addition to what I have planned for my own site, I will be blogging this semester for ISA, which is the study abroad company that is organizing my program. They have a really awesome student blog where students from ISA programs all over the world share their travel experiences, so I'm so excited they chose me to share my mine!!! Stay tuned for that. I cannot wait for what is to come.

Back to today's post: there are so many factors to consider when applying and I know from experience it can get a little overwhelming, so I wanted to make sure I hit a lot of the major points, so that this post can serve as a resource when you're getting started. 

Start planning ahead.
The best thing you can do is start planning well in advance. For reference, I am doing a fall semester program and I started getting things together around December of last year and most of my deadlines were in March or April. If you're going abroad in the spring semester 2019, I would get rolling ASAP. Applications are no joke and take a lot of time and, if you are applying for scholarships especially, you want to get on top of the deadlines. You are probably going to be working on your applications and getting everything together throughout the semester and some documents that you have to submit take some time to acquire so stay on top of things and space things out so you don’t get so overwhelmed at the last minute. It depends on what country you are going to and where you live, but I had no idea I was going to have to travel from Kentucky to Chicago to apply for my student visa in person. These things aren't difficult if you are aware of them ahead of time.

Meet with an Education Abroad advisor and your academic advisor at your school.
I recommend meeting with your academic advisor first so that you can make sure you’re searching for programs that will have courses that transfer back to your university and count towards your degree. I remember getting my heart set on programs that didn’t end up having the classes that I needed for my minor, so if you go in only searching for the options that actually fit your plan you can avoid that disappointment. There is so much to take into consideration when you’re figuring out exactly what you want and need to do and talking with all of my advisors made everything seem much less overwhelming. My school offers an online portal where you can search programs and filter exactly what you’re looking for, so they can also talk you through the specific resources that your university offers. 

Figure out exactly what you’re looking for in a program.
Visit your school’s Education Abroad office if there is one, research online, and ask people you know that have gone abroad for advice. I was (and still am!) chatting up all my friends -and even strangers really- that went abroad and am talking their ears off. In my experience, every person I’ve talked to loves to share their experiences and stories, so really utilize those people. The reason I say this in regards to programs specifically is because there are so many different types of programs out there. I am doing mine through a third party provider (ISA) that specializes in study abroad experiences and typically has resources/staff near where you will be, but I know several people that have done direct exchanges through their universities. The real difference here is: going through a provider, it typically costs a little bit more, but you have a lot more guidance and “hand holding”, which is how my advisor described it. The direct exchanges through your school typically are less expensive, but you’re kind of on your own when you get there. That's a very general description, but basically, it's personal preference based on how much freedom and guidance you need. I go to college 20 minutes away from my parent’s house, so (even though I like to think I’m pretty independent) I wanted to have a little hand holding in case I do need it.

Money 101
Talk with your parents and make sure you have a clear idea of what you can and cannot afford. Similar to the class credits, it is disappointing to get your heart set on a program that ends up being way out of your budget. Research scholarships at your school, through various organizations you’re involved in, and in your community. I was so surprised that there really are so many scholarships specifically for students studying abroad, you just have to take the time to really research and put yourself out there. When you’re looking online it can seem so expensive (college tuition is honestly a racket), but you really can make studying abroad a relatively affordable option for you.

Be specific and make lists.
It’s crucial to make sure you are not missing any specific details because even leaving out one tiny thing could cause you to miss deadlines or not get credit for the classes you’re taking. Have all your deadlines written down and to-do lists for each application. For example, I knew I was only applying to one specific program, but I applied for about 6 different scholarships all through different organizations that had different requirements and deadlines. I made a list for every individual application, the deadlines for each, and every specific requirement that I had to complete for each. Make sure you keep track of even the tiniest details in whatever way you stay organized best. I have to have things on paper and on my computer. (If you guys want a post on how I specifically stay organized, let me know!)

If there is something I missed or that you want me to cover in the future about study abroad, let me know and I'll make it happen.

Thanks for reading xx

One Month of Budgeting + How to Make a Budget


It's August 1st. That means I have officially been following my new "budget" for one month. If you read my first Spilling the Tea post, I talked about how I had created an Excel spreadsheet to help keep me on track. But first, let me let you in on a secret... I am an Accounting major, but that's not because I'm good at managing my money LOL. My friends know me as the person that gets 5 Nordstrom packages delivered in one day and can't walk into a grocery store without buying $50 worth of things that I "read about online". I'm working on it, I promise.
In June, I did a horrible job saving. Like really bad. I saved some, but like I said, I'm kind of a shopaholic. So July was all about getting it together. Here are my tips and how I actually did at following said advice:

1 // Save eating out for special occasions.
Try to avoid swinging through the Starbucks drive thru in the morning and putting in your mobile Chipotle order on your way home from work. I know you do it because I do it too. I saved so much money making my coffee at home and saving my food budget for when I wanted to get together with friends over pancakes or Mexican food. 

Final Grade: B- 
(I went over my Food budget by $11. One-third of my Food expenses was spent at Starbucks... We can do better.)

2 // For the love of God, STOP online shopping.
This was harder than I care to admit. Do you follow fashion bloggers on Instagram that post 15 swipe up links a day? I do. My guilty pleasure is moms that shop at Loft...I know it's weird... (@purejoyhome and @mrscocowyse if you were wondering) At the end of the day, my success (I did not receive a SINGLE package) was due to me getting a grip and getting off Instagram. I missed the entire Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, but I'm still breathing. I think that being on social media 24/7 gives us a feeling like we need to be like everybody else and sometimes I channel that negative feeling into buying clothes that other people have that I don't need? Someone tell me I'm not alone?!

Final Grade: A+++

3 // Pay attention to what you're spending.
I'm trying not to be cliche with my advice here, but let's be honest, you're probably (like me) spending way too much money without even realizing it. If you have a bank account, your bank probably has an app. If they do, download it. If they don't or you spend a lot of cash, you can always keep receipts. Every week (or day if you're especially OCD like I am) go through what you earned and what you spent. At the end of the week or month, you can go through and evaluate where you can improve. 

4 // Keep a spending log.
This is probably one of the more intense ways to get organized, but I will say, it works. It's also a lot less stressful than you might think. Like I said, all you have to do is sit down at the end of every week and go through what you're spending. I've gotten some experience using Excel at my internship this summer, so I made a spreadsheet with formulas, but honestly, you can keep a spending log with a notepad and the calculator on your phone. No matter which way you do it, just make sure you're keeping track. Living at home this summer I'm lucky that I don't have a ton of expenses, but you can adjust your budget accordingly. Basically you need to make sure you're outlining:
- what you're starting with and what your end goal is 
- your estimated income and expenses
- what's actually coming in
- what's actually going out
I have separate tabs in my spreadsheet to keep track of income and expenses. Here's what it looks like (yes I know it's a tad extra):


I tried to keep this post as simple as possible because I believe in starting small, where you are. We don't have to get complicated right off the bat. I'm all about baby steps. I know I like to stick to wellness topics on the blog, but financial wellness is a real thing. Even if you don't have specific financial goals right now as a high school or college student, it never hurts to keep your bank account in the green. Life happens and you never know when you're going to need those emergency funds. 

Thanks for reading xx.


Cooking with Chris #1: How to Cook Fresh Seafood, Operating Charcoal vs. Gas Grills, Kitchen Safety


I am SO excited for today's blog post. My dad, Chris, is incredible in the kitchen (and also hilarious which you will see from the vlog hahaha), so, while we are on vacation, I thought now was the perfect time to start up Cooking with Chris. I enjoy cooking, but using a grill and handling uncooked meat can be a little intimidating at first if you don't have a lot of experience. My dad has been using the grill and the smoker for years, so if anyone can bring knowledge on this subject to the blog, it's my dad! I really want this series to show that cooking good, healthy dinners can be simple, relatively inexpensive, and totally unintimidating.

In the video, we are cooking fresh tuna and cod. We made a vlog that takes you through every step of the process from seasoning to grilling to plating and my dad gives his tips and tricks on cooking, properly handling knives in the kitchen, and the difference between charcoal and gas grills. I'm including the recipe in this post, but the video really gives the step by step instructions.



WHAT YOU NEED:
- 1/2-3/4 lb. of fresh tuna (this is enough for an appetizer)
- 2 large filets of cod, 1-1.5 inches thick
- salt (use sparingly)
- black pepper (as much as you want)
- garlic powder (as much as you like)
- Tony Chachere's Creole seasoning (this has salt in it and a lot of flavor, so you don't need to overdo it)
- lemon

COOKING:
- Sear the tuna for 1.5-2 min. a side
- Grill the cod 3 minutes a side

OTHER TIPS:
- It doesn't have to be fancy at all- you can buy the cheapest seasoning.
- Don't overdo the seasoning because you can always add more.
- If you are using the same recipe for chicken or beef, my dad recommends adding a little onion powder.
- If you are buying your fish at home and can't get it fresh like we did here, my dad recommends going to Sam's Club, but, most importantly, making sure you are buying US, wild caught fish.

If you have any requests for what you want to see next on Cooking with Chris, send them my way! We will definitely be back with more.

Thanks for reading xx.

Trying a New Health and Fitness Routine + Detoxing from Social Media: Spilling the Tea #3


Happy Friday friends! I'm going to keep today's Spilling the Tea short and sweet as I am getting ready to go to Florida for the week with my family- I cannot WAIT to relax. Although I was gone last weekend to Los Angeles (if you missed that vlog, check it out!), I like to take advantage of all my favorite spots, so I tend to "go go go" when I'm there. August is going to be a lot of preparing and hustling before my semester in Spain and I can't wait to share with you guys that whole process. I've been trying to do a ton of research, but there's just not really a lot of great content out there about study abroad, so I'm going to be the guinea pig for all of my readers and share every moment: good and bad!

So speaking of vacation...my workout routine. Normally if I were going on a vacation, I would be kicking it in gear trying to get my body ready for the beach...but as I've kind of shared previously, I have a lot of stressful things going on in my life and I don't need that extra pressure on myself in terms of what I'm eating and how I'm working out, which I'm sure you guys can relate to. I've been making an effort to reduce my stress level and just chill out. I'm a work in progress and definitely not perfect, but it has really helped me to try to take the pressure off of killing myself in the gym. I believe in always nourishing your body with good foods and getting in protein and veggies, but sometimes a bowl of ice cream and Trader Joe's dark chocolate covered almonds after a long day at work sounds really freaking awesome. 

I love a good sweat, but lifting weights and doing high intensity workouts is not appealing to me right now. I don't force it, but I do try to just move my body in some way that I enjoy. I love walking my dog, doing a yoga video, or taking a spin class. Whatever you love, just do that and make sure you're getting movement in...that's my advice for the week! Once I get back from a semester of studying and siesta-ing (did I mention wine drinking?) in Spain, I might feel differently about kicking it into gear hahaha, but for now, I'm learning to just be happy with what I have, where I am. At the end of the day, all you can really ask for is a healthy, able body.

Lastly for this week, I have decided to step away from social media for the most part while I'm on vacation. I'm planning on dedicating this week to working on the blog. so I'm still going to share my posts on Instagram. I also enjoy experimenting with new recipes when I go to Florida, so obviously if I make something worth sharing, I'll post that to Balanced Baig, but the mindless scrolling and constant story-ing is on hold until I get home. I will report back next Friday with an update!

Have a great weekend and I'll talk to you guys next week!

Thanks for reading! xx

Surprise Trip to Los Angeles: A New Vlog



Happy Wednesday! As I promised in last week's Spilling the Tea, my LA vlog is now up on my YouTube channel. I always love documenting and sharing my adventures and travels and this was a really special trip for me to get to surprise my sister, Anna. I wanted to make sure I had this video up on the blog for you guys, just to keep everything in one place. I hope you guys love this video!


Thanks for watching! xx