Tips for Resetting Your Mind + Body After Traveling

If your summer has been anything like mine, it's been jam-packed with weekend getaways and a bit (or more than a bit) of overindulging. As someone who keeps a pretty routine schedule from day-to-day, this can do wonders to my digestive system, brain function, and overall mental health. I've created some magical memories this summer, and have become so in tune with my body that I'm able to reset rather quickly after ingesting foods and drinks that aren't a part of my typical routine. 

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I recently took a little weekend trip up to my family's cabin in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan - it was magical, dreamy, and the perfect rejuvenating weekend that I needed. I spent my time floating in the lake, reading, napping in a hammock, laughing til my ribs hurt, and indulging in all the gluten/alcohol/sugar/snacks my heart desired. Needless to say, I woke up feeling a bit like a beached whale on Monday morning. But, I didn't freak out as I normally would have a couple of months ago. I've quickly come to realize that the experiences and memories outweigh the physical symptoms tenfold.

symptoms I experience

There are a slew of symptoms that I can experience after my body has been out of its typical routine. These include:

  • Bloating
  • Brain fog
  • IBS or IBS-C  
  • Breakouts
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Inflammation

These may not be the same symptoms others experience, our bodies are all different. But we could all benefit from a little body reset after a well-deserved vacation.

how I reset

PHYSICALLY

  1. Green juice. This is a great way to reset your metabolism, lower inflammation, stabilize blood sugar, and quick start proper digestion. There are also so many benefits for the skin (post-vacation breakouts really blow) and this helps me de-bloat on those extra puffy mornings. Recipe is here.
  2. Hot water with lemon. Every morning I sip on this to kick start my metabolism and detox the body.
  3. Lighter, simpler meals. There's no need to overcomplicate anything, just a few ingredients will do the trick. Chances are, your body is already working overtime trying to digest, so adding even more foods into that equation could stress your body out even more. Avoid raw foods if they're hard for your body to digest and gravitate towards warmer, cooked meals. 
  4. Fiber-rich foods. Getting both soluble and insoluble fiber is essential for proper digestion, and both can be found in plant-based foods. Soluble fiber is liquid-absorbing and filling and can be found in oats, berries, beans, chia seeds, and flax seeds. Insoluble fiber helps move things through the bowel/shuttle all the crud out and can be found in vegetables, brown rice, or wheat. 
  5. Get your gut in check. Gut health is a hot topic today, but it's being talked about for a reason. The bacteria in your gut line your entire digestive system and affect everything from your metabolism to your mood to your immunity. Incorporate more fermented and fiber-rich foods into your diet and lower your sugar intake which can kill the good bacteria. When your gut bacteria is off, it can cause bloating, IBS, IBS-C, anxiety, depression, inflammation, and a slew of other symptoms. The gut-mind connection is no joke, peeps.
  6. Hydrate. Seems like such a simple thing, but often times we forget to drink water throughout the day and after filling up with sodium-packed foods and alcohol, that post-vacay body can pack some serious bloat. Drink tons of water (half your body weight in ounces is the recommended amount) throughout the day to help flush out excess toxins and release that extra weight and bloat. I carry a 40oz HydroFlask with me everywhere so I'm always reminded to sip!
  7. Eliminate foods that cause sensitivities. When I travel I tend to consume foods I don't typically incorporate into my diet. For me, these include gluten, processed sugars, alcohol, and processed food (Skinny Pop where you at). I used to be very rigid about eliminating these foods all the time, and while I definitely feel the affects after consuming them, it's not the end of the world to consume them in small quantities while on vacation. But, I know that I feel my best eliminating these foods 95% of the time. Becoming aware of the foods that cause sensitivities for you is super important if you find that you're experiencing some of these symptoms on a more consistent basis. Try eliminating gluten or processed sugars for a couple of days, reincorporate it into your diet, and notice if anything happens. Maybe nothing will, but that's the trial and error type of practice that needs to take place to become aware of these things. 

EMOTIONALLY/MENTALLY

Adaptogenic smoothie bowl with ashwagandha and cordyceps

Adaptogenic smoothie bowl with ashwagandha and cordyceps

  1. Rest. It's so important not to push yourself too much, especially the first couple of days after you're back. Maybe there's a workout class that you religiously attend on Monday mornings, but if you're body is still readjusting, you're just going to stress it out even more. If your sleep schedule has been thrown out of whack, sleep in a bit longer or take an afternoon nap without guilt. Be okay with allowing yourself to rest and take things slow. 
  2. Adaptogens. They're a specific group of healing plants that support your health and adjust your body to natural stressors. I find that incorporating specific adaptogens into my diet really increases my mental clarity, digestion, and alertness throughout the day. As always, do your research and buy from reputable brands such as Sun Potion and Mountain Rose Herbs. Some adaptogens I like to incorporate into my diet include: ashwagandha (soothes the nervous system and boosts mood), reishi (supports immunity), triphala (supports digestion), and cordyceps (supports brain, kidney, and liver function). Start small by incorporating a half teaspoon into a smoothie or your morning latte.
  3. Say no to things you don't want to do. I find that this is so important for my mental health. If the thought of engaging in something causes anxiety or irritation, I inherently know that I will not be present and authentic. It's okay to cancel plans to make time for yourself. Take this time to practice some type of self care, whether it's a bath, reading, napping, or creating. This will recharge your mental clarity and allow for you to be more present when you're around others. 
  4. Meditate. Take just five minutes every day to sit and be still. If your mind is full of thoughts and ideas, let it be full. There's a misconception that your mind needs to be completely clear or blank in order to practice "proper" meditation, but this is not the case. Meditation for me is a time to sit, to be present, to tap inward. These have been some of the most pivotal moments of personal growth and not one time was my mind completely clear. There's merit in calming the mind through various breathing and mindfulness techniques, but there's also merit in simply sitting and breathing. 
  5. Routines. Whether it's my skin care routine or meal prepping, this is a sure fire way to get me back on track mentally. I covet my routines and when they're out of whack, I tend to get antsy and anxious. I'm one of those travelers where the second I get home I unpack everything and get my apartment back in working order, even if it's 1am. For some people, this may heighten their anxiety and stress, but for me, this is insanely therapeutic. Find a routine that brings joy to you and make it a priority. 

The biggest tip I have when it comes to resetting your body after traveling is to have self compassion. It can be easy to get caught up in the self deprecating thoughts such as "I shouldn't have eaten that" or "I shouldn't have drank so much alcohol," but it's important to remember that these are not life-altering things. Yeah, you might feel uncomfortable for a day or two, but chances are you created some beautiful memories, as well. I used to get so stressed out about getting my body back to normal that it would completely overshadow the experience I just had. It was almost like it never happened. Learning to soften around those times of rigidity has helped me reset quicker and more positively.

With love and light xx

 

 

Tips and Tricks to Beat Bloat + IBS-C

We all know the feeling of being so bloated that you can hardly button your pants. As the day goes on, the gas gets worse and your stomach turns into rock hard bloat instead of rock hard abs - the worst. This takes a toll on the body’s digestion and your mental health - feeling good on the inside = feeling good on the outside. 

There’s a difference between feeling full and feeling bloated. Sometimes we can eat a little too much at mealtime and feel like our stomach is at full capacity, but that’s not the same as when your body is having a hard time digesting and you feel like you’re about to burst even when you haven’t had anything to eat. Ever wake up feeling like you have a concrete block of gas in your stomach? That’s full on bloating. This happens when you’re eating the wrong foods at the wrong time and your body can’t digest the nutrients fast enough. 

This can also lead to some pesky IBS-C symptoms, aka constipation. This can be incredibly uncomfortable and is quite unhealthy. Constipation is when the bowels sit in your digestive tract for too long and the body begins to reabsorb the toxic elements back into the bloodstream - yikes. Eliminating within 30 minutes of waking up is said to be a surefire way to know you've beat the IBS-C symptoms.

Lemon H2O all day erryday 

Lemon H2O all day erryday 

MY HISTORY WITH BLOAT AND IBS-C

I used to experience some degree of gas and bloating every single day. I never tried to do anything about it because I just thought that's how my body was supposed to feel after eating three meals a day. My bloating would be so intense throughout the day that I would have to unbutton my pants when I got behind the wheel and would have sharp shooting pains in my abdomen. 

I also experienced some pretty gnarly constipation and would go days and days without eliminating (sometimes as long as a week). This, of course, added to overall discomfort and really took a toll on my overall health. Back then, my diet was not great. I had been a vegetarian for 10+ years and switched over to veganism about 1.5 years ago, but I was eating a ton of gluten, soy, processed sugars, processed foods, raw salads, onions, garlic, and drinking wayyyyy too much alcohol almost every weekend and hardly any water. I've since found in the last 6 months or so that these things all contribute to my bloat and IBS-C issues. I've eliminated these foods from my diet and can almost instantly feel the effects when I consume them. I talk about this more below, but taking the time to find out what foods your unique body is sensitive to is so, so important if you want to banish the bloat. 

Since I've changed my diet and my meal routines, I hardly experience any bloat and I eliminate every morning within 20 minutes of waking which was completely unheard of for my body before. Food is truly medicine for the body, peeps! Now, there are times where I might overindulge or eat some of the foods that I eliminate on a daily basis. I am, after all, only human and sometimes a girl just needs a Justin's Peanut Butter Cup to brighten her day. But, by using these tips and tricks that I've listed below, I can banish the bloat and constipation more quickly and with more success than I did before. 

TIPS FOR BETTER DIGESTION + BEATING BLOAT

  • Drink lots of water. Every morning I drink 30oz of room temperature water with lemon before I do anything. On mornings where I’m feeling a bit more bloated I drink hot water with lemon. This helps detoxify the body and gets things movin’. Get yourself a large reusable water bottle (I use a 40oz HydroFlask) and make it a goal to drink at least 2-3 of those a day. Even if you're not feeling thirsty, drink that H2O.
  • Read into your hunger cues. This has helped me a ton. Before, I would wake up and immediately eat my breakfast within 20 minutes. I felt like I had to because breakfast is “the most important meal of the day.” Right after I would finish an average sized breakfast of either oats or a smoothie bowl, I would feel so uncomfortably full and the bloat stuck around all day. These days, I don’t eat breakfast until I actually feel real hunger cues, which is usually up to 4-5 hours after I wake up. I'll have my matcha after I finish drinking some water - usually around 7:00-8:00am - and the coconut butter holds me over for awhile. It has helped my digestion a ton and helped relieve most of those pesky constipation symptoms I was experiencing before. By doing this, I'm giving my body the time it needs to digest and process before giving it more work to do.
  • Look at your diet. This is most likely the number one cause of bloat and indigestion. A lot of us get stuck in certain food patterns and aren’t truly aware of the foods that our body is sensitive to. It takes a lot of trial and error, patience, and dedication, but it’s so worth it. I’ve found that onions, garlic, dairy, gluten, soy, processed sugars, and some nightshade vegetables do not agree with my system. I’ve eliminated animal products and gluten completely but occasionally have the other ingredients and can immediately feel the effects on my body. If you're interested in finding out more about food sensitivities, try an elimination diet or look into the Clean Program 21-Day Cleanse to reset your body. Experiment with eliminating one food (i.e. gluten) for a few days, add it back in, and then notice the effects. Maybe there aren't any, and that's okay, too.
  • Take your time eating your meals. This is something I’m still struggling with. I grew up around family members who eat incredibly quickly, so it’s kind of engrained in my mind so scarf down my meals in no time. It takes a lot of mindfulness to slow down, be present, and really taste the foods you’re eating. Breaking down the food more before swallowing speeds up the digestion process. When I eat a meal a little too quickly, I immediately experience gas (burping) and I can feel my body working a little bit harder to digest the meal.
  • Make herbal teas your friend. Drinking warm or hot liquids throughout the day, especially after meals, helps the body break down what you’re putting inside of it. It takes a lot more energy for your body to digest cold water than it does room temperature/hot water. I like to sip on licorice tea, peppermint tea, ginger/turmeric tea, or hot water with lemon.
  • Lean more towards smoothies and warm, cooked meals. Whenever I’m trying to reset my digestive system after a weekend of overindulging, I avoid cold, raw meals like the plague. It’s takes your body a heck of a lot longer to break down a big salad than it does to break down a warm meal. I’ll still eat cold condiments such as kraut or kimchi, but I like the base of most of my meals to be warm. Smoothies are an exception here, though. I find that since the ingredients are already broken down, my body doesn’t have as hard of a time digesting them. If I'm going to eat a salad (because they are delicious), I try to have it for my lunch so my body has more time to break it down. I almost never have cold or raw dinners, as I find it takes a toll on my body and I will, most likely, wake up feeling bloated as heck.
  • Move your body. Stagnant body = stagnant digestive system. It’s no secret that exercising makes you feel better all around. Even if you feel like the bloat is weighing you down, take a gentle walk and allow for the crud to move through you.
  • Get some beauty sleep. Getting enough sleep is crucial for proper digestion. While we sleep, the liver is breaking down the nutrients from that day and preparing the body to function properly the next day. If your sleep patterns are all off or you’re only sleeping from 2am-5am, you’re not giving your body enough time to break down the food you ate the day before. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule makes a world of difference.
  • Cut back on the sugar and alcohol. The hardest task of them all and one I’m still struggling with all the time. Sugar is more addicting than any narcotic on the market and is in virtually everything, making it so, so hard to avoid. Alcohol is a super social thing in our society and it can feel really isolating when you’re the only one not drinking in a group. But, these are moments where you can really tap into what you want to do, not what’s seen as socially acceptable. Not to mention, hangovers are brutal and it feels pretty dang nice to wake up and be able to function without a pounding headache and nausea. I get sugar hangovers, too. 
  • Give yourself a belly massage. This works wonders when I feel bloated or have cramps during my period. I use some clary sage essential oil and apply moderate pressure in a circle motion to my low abdomen (or wherever you're feeling the bloat the most).

TIPS FOR BEATING IBS-C SYMPTOMS (CONSTIPATION)

  • Take a daily probiotic. This goes along with getting your gut bacteria in a healthy place. Include more fermented foods in your diet, as well, and you’ll find you’ll have a much more regular poo schedule. 
  • Drink lots of water. Noticing a pattern here? Water is nature’s best healer. Flush that poo out one sip at a time.
  • Develop a routine eating and sleeping schedule. Schedules can get hectic and I know how stressful it can be when you’re running around and still have to get a meal in. But, if you’re eating dinner at 10pm one night and 5pm the next, it’s going to throw your body out of wack and it’s going to take longer to adjust. Try to meal prep as much as you can so you have stuff on hand for quick and easy meals. Same goes for sleep, try to get to bed by 10pm every night and avoid sleeping in too long.
  • Ashwagandha. I put this healing plant in my matcha latte every morning and find that it speeds up the elimination process if I haven't already gone. You can also add a teaspoon to a smoothie, oatmeal, or bulletproof coffee.
  • Eat more fiber. One of the easiest tricks in the book. Eat a tablespoon of flax meal at every meal, add more legumes into your diet, and get those veggies in!

Beating those pesky bloating and IBS-C symptoms really is about how much you're willing to change in your diet and eating patterns. Maybe it starts with simply drinking more water and incorporating a probiotic pill into your daily routine - you certainly don't need to do a 180 overnight. But, if you are experiencing some of the symptoms I talked about, my hope is you can take a few tips from this post and start feeling like the best version of yourself.

With love and light xx

Simple Self-Care Ideas to Boost Your Mood

Anyone else feel like winter dragged on for a bit too long this year? The dark, dreary days seemed to never end and I found myself majorly feeling the effects of that - the winter blues are no joke. I let a lot of my daily self-care routines fall to the wayside too often and put others before myself a lot. 

No matter the time of year, it’s important to incorporate self-care routines into your daily life. I find that when I’m down-in-the-dumps or in a funk is when I need these acts of self-care the most. There’s a reason you feel more refreshed and revitalized after a yoga class or after eating a meal full of whole, nutritious foods. These things matter and make such a difference. 

These are also little snippets or time where you can recenter, relax, and rejuvenate - either alone or with others. We have a tendency to always being doing things for others or going places with others, but we sometimes forget to pay attention to our own needs. It's important to spend some time alone and be okay with it.

CARVE SOME TIME OUT OF YOUR DAY TO JUST BE WITH YOURSELF AND ENJOY YOUR OWN COMPANY.

Self-care has gotten a bad rap recently. With people saying “I cant believe you spend that amount of money on a manicure” or “You should act your age and spend your Saturday nights hitting up the town,” it can be really easy to second-guess yourself and start to believe you’re not worthy of doing these things. That you should be putting others ahead of yourself. Well, let me tell you something:

YOU ARE WORTHY OF HAVING OR DOING ANYTHING THAT BRINGS YOU JOY AND PEACE.

With that being said, it’s important to note that not all acts of self-care have a price point attached to them. You don’t always need to buy things to feel joy - this is something I’m constantly trying to work on. Something as simple as eating your breakfast in silence without your phone can be a great act of self-care. But let’s not get it twisted, a good manicure can make your whole week.

I’ve put together a short list of simple things you can incorporate into your days to add a little sweetness into your life. 


Jungle baths are where it's at

Jungle baths are where it's at

Create a peaceful shower or bath routine.

This is a great time to become in tune with our body's needs. Whether you choose to bathe at the beginning, middle, or end of the day, it's an opportunity to unwind, release, and, quite literally, cleanse. For me, bathing has shifted from something I feel like I need to do to something that I want and get to do, just for me. Bathing can be one of those mindless times throughout the day where you turn on autopilot mode and go about cleansing your body in the usual sequential order while thinking about all the stressors of the day. But what if you really tapped into your body's needs every day? Chances are they're not the same from one day to the next. Fill your space with candles, essential oils. and music. Start cleansing your body outside of the shower, as well. I've been dry brushing for some time now and have noticed a great difference in my skin's texture and appearance - it's brighter, smoother, and my cellulite has decreased. I tend to dry brush before my shower, but it can be done post-shower, as well. After you bathe, it's crucial that you do some sort of abhyanga, or self oil massage, to moisturize your skin. This can be such a soothing and somewhat meditative practice that allows you to become intimate with your body - your home. 

Stretch. Move. Meditate.

This is so freaking important. When we become stagnant, we tend to feel more irritable, achy, and lethargic. There is a direct correlation between your mood and moving your body. This can be as simple as incorporating a few yoga poses into your morning routine before you get out of bed, or trying out a new workout class once a week. Meditation doesn't mean you need to sit on a pillow and stare at a wall for an hour. I find that cooking and reading are both very meditative for me. But, there is something to be said for taking just 10 minutes out of your day to sit, breathe, and focus inward. Often times we get so caught up in our fast-paced lifestyles that we let our thoughts fall by the wayside. Sitting with those thoughts and exploring them is transformational. I leave a yoga mat out in my apartment at all times so I'm always reminded to stop and recenter myself. There are so many wonderful meditation apps if you prefer guided meditation. Calm, Headspace, and Insight Timer are some of my favorites. Often times, fitness studios have great deals, sometimes including a free first class! Do some research, put your confidence pants on, and get movin'.

Opt outside.

Sunshine cures all blues am I right?! Once the weather started turning the corner for spring and the sunshine showed its face a little bit more each day, my mood instantly boosted. Whether it’s a ten minute walk after dinner or an afternoon hike on the weekends, I cannot stress enough the importance of exploring the outdoors. Taking some time to experience nature has been proven to reduce stress, fear, anger, and depression and increase feelings of positivity, joy, and pleasure. Search for a new park in your area, find an interesting podcast to listen to while you stroll around your neighborhood, or take your lunch break outside if you're stuck indoors all day. Notice the smells, colors, and feelings that come up while you're outside and tap into that. With warmer weather approaching, one of my favorite things is to take a book to a local park, set a blanket down, and bask in the sunny rays (with sunscreen on, of course). Such a peaceful way to spend an afternoon. Getting outside and unplugging from the chaos of everyday life is crucial for our mental health.

Plants. Plants. Plants.

Anyone else talk to their plants like they're your children? Just me? Plants in the home or at your office desk are an instant mood booster. They're beautiful, vibrant, and give you something to take care of and watch thrive. If you're new to the plant life, I would recommend purchasing more resilient plants, such as snake plants or succulents, that can thrive with little attention. Another great tip is to wrap a bundle of fresh eucalyptus around your shower head - your shower will instantly turn into a spa! Plants are also great for improving the air quality in your home and can reduce stress levels. Plus, they're so aesthetically pleasing! My apartment is starting to look like a jungle and I'm 100% okay with that.

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    Tidy up your home.

    When things are out of wack in my apartment, it almost instantly carries over into my life. I feel disheveled and unorganized and it sends my anxiety spiraling down a 60-foot cliff. Now, to the untrained eye, I keep my apartment and things very clean and organized. But I know my space like the back of my hand and if just one thing is off, I can sense an energetic shift throughout my whole home. Creating and maintaining a clean, clutter-free (start the spring purge, folks!), and organized environment is very satisfying and, chances are, will spill over into other parts of your life. Spend a Sunday afternoon going through your closets and cabinets and choose to donate things that no longer serve you. If you haven't worn a shirt in 5 years, chances are someone else could benefit from wearing it more than you. It feels really freaking good to let go. 

    Maintain a consistent sleep schedule.

    There's a reason you feel sluggish and crappy the next day when you've only gotten four hours of sleep and you're thriving off of energy drinks. Getting enough quality sleep plays a huge factor in our immunity, hormones, and overall health. In Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, the hours between 10pm and 2am are dedicated to the Pitta dosha. During these hours, the liver begins detoxing the body and preparing it for the next day. The body also takes this time to make sense of the emotions and mental experiences you had throughout the day. Trying to get to bed either before or right around 10pm is a great way to set your body and mind up for success the next day. Some other tips for a good night's sleep include: setting your phone aside an hour or two before bedtime, reading before bed, having hot tea or an adaptogenic tonic, or practicing some sort of meditation. This can include seated meditation, abhyanga (self oil massage), or simply practicing a few restorative yoga poses to prepare the body for rest. This is a rejuvenating act of self-care that we can practice every single day. You'll wake up feeling refreshed, well-rested, and you might not even need a drop of caffeine! 

    Make yourself some tea or an adaptogenic latte.

    There's something so peaceful about making yourself a warm beverage and taking a few moments to relax and settle. I've incorporated this into my night time routine a couple of nights a week when I have more time. Adaptogens are great for adjusting the body to natural everyday stressors and I incorporate them into my diet every single day. I love to sip on turmeric-ginger tea, chamomile tea, peppermint tea, or this nighttime triphala latte to aid with digestion. 

    Nighttime Triphala Latte

    • 12oz non-dairy milk
    • 1 teaspoon triphala
    • 1/2 teaspoon Ceylon cinnamon 
    • A dash of cardamom
    • 1 medjool date
    1. Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender like a Vitamix and blend for 2 minutes.
    2. Transfer liquid to a saucepan and heat on medium heat until warm.
    3. Pour into a mug and enjoy!

    Delete all social media apps from your phone for a day.

    This is crucial for mental health. Social media has the biggest effect on our mood and self-confidence. One moment you're innocently scrolling through Instagram and the next you're comparing yourself to fitness models and self-depricating. It's a vicious cycle. Practice becoming more mindful about the accounts you're following and how they make you feel about yourself. Experiment with choosing one day out of the week and deleting all social media apps from your phone. Notice how it feels to have an entire day to yourself without the hustle and bustle of notifications, emails, or the stress of how many likes you get on a picture. It will clear your mind and set you up to have a calm and peaceful day.

    Cook yourself a healthy, nutritious meal.

    I’m not going to lie, I haven’t been meal prepping and eating kimchi for my whole life. It took me awhile to truly adapt a healthy, nutritious diet. Ever heard of a junk food vegan? That was certainly me before I started seeing a nutritionist last August. She opened my eyes to so many new foods and, more importantly, the effects those foods have on your body and mind. When I find that I’m getting particularly overwhelmed or stressed, I turn to sugar. With sugar being more addictive than virtually any narcotic on the market, you can see how one medjool date turns into two and so on and so on… This often times leaves me feeling sluggish and bloated. Support your healthy gut bacteria by eating fiber rich foods (flax seeds, legumes, or almonds) and fermented foods (kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, or kombucha). You'll quickly notice that you feel more rejuvenated and energized when you choose greens and healthy fats over a drive-thru meal. 

    Sautéed kale and broccoli with Banza chickpea pasta,  cashew cream, and nutritional yeast.

    Sautéed kale and broccoli with Banza chickpea pasta,  cashew cream, and nutritional yeast.

    Find your creative outlet and flourish.

    Finding something you can put your time and energy into and actually enjoy in the process is extremely fulfilling and joyous. Start a journal, find a new hobby, do that thing you've always wanted but never had the courage to. Maybe you dedicate the first 10 minutes after waking up in the morning to journaling, or you spend some time before bed working on your website. Whatever it may be, incorporate it into your daily routine and let it stick. Set reminders if you have to. Notice the feelings that come up when you create space for these things.

    Laugh.

    Surround yourself with people who make your ribs ache from laughing or watch a funny tv show or movie. I find that laughing instantly lightens my mood if I'm feeling especially rigid and tense and it actually alters the cortisol levels in our body which can decrease stress and fight off harmful free radicals. Sounds like a good trade-off, huh? 

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    Whether it's a face mask, a phone call with your mama, or getting a massage, I encourage you to do something that brings you joy every single day - your body and mind will thank you.

    How do you practice self-care everyday?

    With love and light xx 

    My Journey With Generalized Anxiety Disorder

    Trigger warning: this post discusses my experience with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It is not my intention to trigger someone, but I want to warn those of you who are especially sensitive to these topics. I am not a medical professional nor an expert on the topic, my intention is purely to share my story and help others who may be seeking guidance.

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    Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. - 43.8 million or 18.5% - live with mental illness, and 18.1% (42 million) of American adults live with anxiety disorders, making it the most prevalent mental illness in the United States. Why, then, are we so scared to talk about it? Why is it so taboo? Why is it viewed as a weakness in some eyes?

    We’re taught from a young age to always put your best face forward and we’ve been trained to automatically answer the question “How are you?” with “Good, you?” without even skipping a beat. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m wiling to bet a good portion of the population isn’t always answering that question truthfully, myself included. What would it feel like to actually stop for a second and tell someone how you’re really doing in that moment? Sharing these feelings and expressing these harder emotions are the moments of cathartic release that we need but are few and far between.

    WHAT IS GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER?

    Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD is kind of like anxiety on steroids. Rather than worrying about things like money, relationship problems, or your job occasionally, those with GAD feel extremely worried or nervous about these things on top of a slew of other things.

    All. The. Time.

    I can speak from experience when I say this is an all-consuming illness. These feelings can interfere with everyday obligations and activities such as my job, relationships, or even something as simple as running errands. I worry about everything from body image to leaving at the exact same time for work every morning to food (a huge trigger for me that deserves its own post) to meeting someone in public at a restaurant to making my bed in the exact same order every morning. I’m all over the board.

    GAD develops early, typically from the teenage years to young adulthood. People with GAD may experience:

    • Having a hard time concentrating
    • Worrying a lot about everyday things
    • Having trouble controlling their worries or feelings of nervousness
    • Feeling restless and having trouble relaxing
    • Being easily startled
    • Lethargy 
    • Irritability
    • Tightness in your chest
    • Increased heart rate 
    • Excess sweating, feeling light headed, or out of breath
    • Headaches, muscle aches, stomach aches, or unexplained pains or numbness

    BACKSTORY

    I’ve always been an introvert and was extremely shy until about the age of 16 when I took a big solo trip to Spain to study abroad and was more or less forced to socialize to survive. Anxiety never really crossed my mind until I was in my early 20's, partly because it was never really talked about as openly as it is now.

    When I was younger, I just thought I was a goofy, awkward teenager who got nervous a lot and was a bit sensitive.

    Fast forward to 2015 when the panic attacks started making a name for themselves in my life. They started out pretty low key and I could typically talk myself out of an episode rather quickly. My heart would race and I'd feel some tightness in my chest, but a couple of deep breaths usually did the trick. I didn’t really even label them as panic attacks, just more so intense moments or nervousness. Then, true, unadulterated panic attacks came on with a vengeance.

    PANIC ATTACKS

    I remember my first true panic attack like it was yesterday. It was in November of 2016 as I was driving home with a guy I was seeing at the time. We had gone back to his hometown to go to his friend’s birthday party and I could feel the panic set in almost instantly as I walked through the doors. Actually, that’s a lie, I began to panic as soon as he told me what the plans were for the night. I didn’t know anyone there. He was always off talking to someone and I was frozen with fear. The simple words: I’m going to head to the restroom really quick, can send me spiraling from zero to sixty. I became so nervous that I was overcome with an elevated heart rate, tightness in my chest, intense nausea, cold sweats, and numbness in my left arm.

    Does everyone think he just ditched me?

    Why is everyone staring at me?

    Maybe I should text him to just meet me outside.

    I was fully panicking.

    Now I had certainly experienced feelings of nervousness in social settings before, but nothing of this caliber. I was utterly scared out of my mind. He could tell I was not doing so hot and recommended that we start making the drive home. I was silent. I, quite literally, could not get the words out to tell him what was going on. He kept asking me what was wrong and how he could help, but between attempting to calm my nausea, keeping my eyes on the road, and pure confusion, I had no clue what to do or say. The thought of sharing intense emotions like these with someone else immediately caused me to freeze.

    Vulnerability. Is. Terrifying.

    Then came the panic attack during my 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training. How ironic, right? Let’s not get it twisted - yogi’s aren’t rainbows and peace, love, zen all the time. What you see on Instagram is not always reality. Yoga has actually heightened my emotions tenfold since beginning a dedicated practice over two years ago.

    As a part of my personal experience with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I experience intense social anxiety almost daily and it does not play around. It was a Thursday evening during Yoga Teacher Training in early 2017, the night we met every week. When I was told we were going to do an improv type of dance class with partners instead of a typical yoga-based module where I could sit comfortably in the back of the room, holy SHAZAM did my heart drop. I immediately had thoughts like:

    How can I fake an illness to get out of here?

    Can I sit out without everyone judging me?

    Why weren’t we told about this before coming into class?

    I almost felt betrayed.

    This. Was. My. Hell. 

    People began to dance to the music with looks of euphoria on their faces. They were having a blast and I was over here faking it and not making it. I made it about ten minutes and then something took over and I began to hyperventilate and sob uncontrollably. I rushed out of the room, hoping nobody saw me, and made a b-line for the bathroom where I collapsed onto the floor and lost all control. I couldn’t feel my arms, my whole body was tingling, I was almost drooling from the amount of saliva that was accumulating from my nausea, I was sweating uncontrollably, intensely sobbing, had shortness of breath, and honestly felt like I was having a heart attack.

    Ten minutes passed and I still couldn’t get a grip. I was so claustrophobic in the small bathroom that I ventured out into the other empty yoga studio where the symptoms of my panic slowly dwindled. The cold air calmed my nausea and sweats and I started to take deep, cleansing breaths and feel my body’s sensations in that moment. This was so intense and felt like an out-of-body experience.

    It was in this moment that I knew I needed to seek help. Handling these panic attacks solely on my own was not working and they were only getting worse. When I got home that night I immediately started researching therapists in the area and it took me two months of endless emails, phone calls, and insurance conflicts to finally find the therapist I’ve been seeing for almost a year. It has been a game changer.

    WE COULD ALL BENEFIT FROM THERAPY

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    Although I’ve been seeing a therapist for almost a year and have made some major, personal strides, this does not mean my anxiety is nonexistent now. Ironically, I’ve been experiencing some of the most challenging anxiety of my life recently. To the point where it feels like my heart is pounding out of my chest. My stomach is being twisted like a wet dish towel which can cause my appetite to plummet. My head is pounding with such intensity that I have blurred vision and I lose feeling in my fingers and forearms. But these aren’t just random headaches that I pop an Advil for. These are my thoughts. A constant, influx of thoughts that scream their way through my mind at all hours of the day.

    What if something I said two weeks ago in passing hurt someone’s feelings?

    Why was that random stranger looking at me in yoga class? Maybe they thought I looked fat in this tight shirt.

    I should probably reorganize all of the notes and reminders on my phone, wouldn’t want to forget anything!

    Spoiler alert, I never forget anything that’s of no importance or relevance. My mind is a steel trap of worry-inducing information.

    It’s an all encompassing journey every single day.

    In the recent weeks, I’ve been going through some really difficult personal battles and have had to make some big, tough decisions in my life. This has caused me to spiral on more than one occasion. But with the tools and techniques I’ve learned from my therapist, I am able to redirect my thoughts more frequently and with more success than I was before. I am aware of what’s going on in my mind and can start to talk the anxiety devil off of my shoulder, even if its only for a few minutes. It still counts and it still makes a difference. 

    I’ve tried Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Exposure Therapy, meditation, yoga, acupuncture, changing my diet, journaling…you name it and I’ve probably tried it.

    It can get quite overwhelming.

    My schedule is full of therapist appointments, meditation reminders, nutritionist appointments, yoga classes, acupuncture appointments, all while maintaining both a full-time job and part-time job, supporting myself financially, maintaining various relationships, and carving out some time for myself to just be. It can be too much at times and I find myself wondering if it’d be easier to just deal with the loop of my thoughts because it’s what I’m used to. Because before I started being so intune with my body and mind, I didn't experience nearly as much anxiety.

    Repatterining these thoughts can be so challenging and exhausting.

    But then I remember the episodes of pure, overpowering panic I used to experience and realize I can’t recall having one of those in the last nine months where I couldn’t control it. I went from having, on average, two crippling panic attacks a month to zero. That’s huge.

    I can tell myself that I didn’t gain ten pounds overnight, that the stranger I passed on the sidewalk wasn’t looking at a pimple on my face, that people aren’t excluding me from plans - they’re simply busy with their own lives. I can make it through an entire trip at the grocery store without getting overwhelmed, abandoning my cart (my apologies to the employees of Whole Foods), and speed walking to my car. Now, this doesn’t always work. There are moments where I try to shift my thoughts into reality and it just all feels like bullshit. But, those are the deep, dark opportunities for growth and practicing mindfulness. 

    CAN'T YOU JUST POP A XANAX?

    I first want to disclaim that I do not think anxiety medication is a bad thing and I respect everyone's personal decisions to handle their anxiety however they'd like.

    As I've started to open up more and more about my anxiety over the past year, I've had multiple people tell me to just take a pill. That they started taking anxiety medication and it drastically changed their life. Now don't get me wrong, the thought of simply popping a pill every morning and watching all my worries float away sounded really attractive for about a millisecond. But as someone who strives to live as holistically and naturally as I can, there was no way I was going to make anxiety medication an option. I remember that was one of the first things I told my therapist when I met with her initially. 

    But, even more importantly than the chemical change it would have on my body and hormones, my anxiety stems from deep-rooted traumas that I need to bring to the surface and work through on my own. I don't want a pill to simply mask those feelings for the rest of my life. What would happen if I wanted to stop taking the medication? If I simply forgot it one day? I've put so much time, money, and effort into treating my anxiety that the thought of starting from scratch breaks my heart.

    THINGS WE CAN DO TO CALM THE ANXIETY

    • Deep, cleansing breaths. Inhale through your nostrils deeply, exhale out of your mouth. I also find that counting my inhales and exhales shifts my focus from my thoughts to my breathing and can greatly calm my nervous system.
    • Essential oils. Diffuse them, rub them between your palms, or place a few drops in your shower or bath. Lavender, grapefruit, eucalyptus, and clary sage are some of my favorites. 
    • Talk to someone. This can be really hard and I’m still figuring this one out because I didn’t open up to anyone for years. But when I’m having an especially hard time or find that I’m on the high side of my anxiety roller coaster, talking to my therapist releases a lot of that emotion I’m holding onto and brings my mind back down to earth. With over half (60%) of the population living with anxiety disorders not receiving services last year, it is crucial that we make therapeutic services more accessible.
    • Find your therapeutic outlet. For me, this is cooking and yoga. Find something you enjoy doing that shifts your mind away from the thoughts and anxiety, even if it's for ten minutes.
    • Be selfish! Say no to things that trigger your anxiety. Say no to things you don’t want to do. I’ve really adapted this into my life over the past couple of months. With my mental heath being a priority, I find that engaging in events or plans that send me spiraling really aren’t worth it right now.
    • Cultivate healthy relationships. Surround yourself with people who lift you up, people who support you even when you might be struggling. Weed out the bad seeds that send you into a trigger frenzy. People grow, relationships change. It's okay to pick and choose. 
    • Take a look at your lifestyle. Are you only sleeping for three hours a night and thriving off of caffeine? Do you get home from work and immediately plop down on the couch rather than going for a nice walk or doing some other form of exercise? Do you find yourself taking a trip through the drive-thru everyday rather than spending time making a meal full of whole, real foods? All of these situations can throw your neurotransmitters out of wack and ultimately cause various mental illnesses to occur. Making some healthier lifestyle changes can have an extremely positive effect on your body and mind.
    • Become mindful of your social media intake. In a world where everyone is constantly staring at their phones, it can be easy to get caught up in the whirlwind that is social media. Experiment with deleting all social media apps from your phone for a day, stashing your phone away before you go to bed, leaving your phone in your bag or pocket while you're having dinner with someone, or unfollowing certain accounts that trigger your anxiety in any way. These are all helpful ways to stay more present in the moment. 
    • Positive affirmations. Be your own best cheerleader, peeps! As someone who's had negative body image and self esteem for as long as I remember, it's hard to give myself positive affirmations everyday, and even harder to believe them. But I've found that when I incorporate these positive affirmations more and more into my day, the more they resonate with me. Start small, that's where the change starts. Leave small love notes to yourself around your home. We all deserve a little pick-me-up at all hours of the day.
    • Educate yourself. Do research online (at credible sources) to learn more about anxiety disorders and mental illness in general. I've listed some at the end of this post.

    WHAT MY GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER LOOKS LIKE TODAY

    Over the years of struggling with GAD, I’ve gotten really good at hiding my emotions. If you were to see me walking on the street or in a yoga class, I would assume you’d have no idea that my heart is racing or that the noise from everyone having different conversations is sending me into sensory overdrive. On the outside, I operate like a typical 25 year old just going about her day. I’ve used this as a protection mechanism so people don’t think I’m weak or fragile. 

    But there are nights when I can’t stomach the thought of socializing with people in a yoga class. Where I’d rather stay at home in my pajamas than attempt to make plans with anyone. I’ve learned to do so without guilt or without the fear of missing out on something because ultimately, my mental health is more important than getting wasted on a Saturday night. Finding a balance between maintaining friendships and taking some time for yourself can be really challenging, there's no doubt about it.

    As a friend, daughter, yoga teacher, sister, and caregiver, I make it a point to encourage others to love themselves, to feel strong and empowered in the skin they’re in. But it's not always easy for me to practice what I preach. Sometimes I feel like a hypocrite or a fraud.

    How can I tell these people in savasana to let go of things that no longer serve them when deep down I’m holding onto things from middle school?

    That's a hard pill to swallow.

    But I’m a work in progress.

    I’ve learned that these feelings and thoughts are fleeting. That everyday I have a chance to start fresh. That I will experience moments of pure joy where I’m laughing until my ribs hurt with my friends, or crying happy tears when my best friend sends me a photo of her sonogram and tells me she’s pregnant, or just spending an afternoon with my family who I love with my whole heart. Those are the moments that make this doable. The moments that are worth more than a panic attack on a bathroom floor.

    YOU ARE ENOUGH

    If you’re still with me, I genuinely thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading my story. I’ve held onto a lot of this for years and it feels so cathartic to write it down and release it. A huge weight has been lifted from my heart. I hope this post finds someone struggling or dealing with similar experiences who can relate and know that they’re not alone. That this is so common. I hope to inspire others to share how they're feeling.

    Mental illness does not discriminate between gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, the rich, the poor, or those with disabilities. Mental illness affects everyone and no one experience is more important than the other.

    We are all in this together.

    Know that it’s okay and you’ll have people around you to pick you up when you’re down.

    Whether it’s a parent, a friend, a partner, or a therapist, find someone you can share these feelings with and learn to let go of things that no longer serve you.

    RESOURCES

    If you find that you are experiencing some of the symptoms of mental illness that I talked about and feel like you need more help, please check out the resources listed below.

    1. The National Institute of Mental Health - www.nimh.nih.gov or their HelpLine, 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), which can be reached Monday-Friday, 10am-6pm EST.
    2. National Alliance of Mental Illness - www.nami.org.
    3. Speak with a trained volunteer at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
    4. Get general information on mental health and locate treatment services in your area at the SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline. 1-877-SAMHSA7 (1-877-726-4727), Monday-Friday from 8am to 8pm EST.

    Feel free to leave me a comment with any ideas, questions, or experiences you may have had with Generalized Anxiety Disorder or mental illness in general, I’d love to hear from you. Let’s keep this a safe space full of loving and supportive advice and comments!

    With love and light xx