The 411 on Menstrual Cups

If you’re still using tampons and pads, toss those puppies aside (or donate them to a woman in need - please do that instead) and get yourself a menstrual cup. I’m not exaggerating when I say that using a menstrual cup has completely changed my period game for the better.

Menstrual cups have been around for 80 years but I just started using one in June of 2017, partly because I was stuck in my ways of buying tampons and pads, and partly because I didn’t see a lot (or any) information on menstrual cups in the mainstream media. I didn’t even really know they existed. 

Power to the ladies

Power to the ladies

PERIOD STIGMA

First and foremost, using a menstrual cup has completely transformed the way I view my period. There are a lot of stigmas attached to periods that are engrained in our minds from the time we experience our first flow. 

They’re gross.

They’re dirty.

We shouldn’t talk about them.

Now, of course you need to take proper hygiene into consideration when using a menstrual cup, but let’s get one thing straight: periods are awesome.

The female body is a powerhouse and it is something to be so proud of. 

Over 50% of the world’s population menstruates, yet these conversations about periods are frowned upon and not typically welcomed. 

Despite the power to the period mindset I have now, I didn’t have this same belief before getting off of birth control in September of 2017. After I decided to leave the pill behind and control my hormones naturally, I lost my period completely for about four months. I felt really discouraged and started to think I made the wrong decision. Even though I inherently knew I would have a lot of work to do since I had been on birth control for over nine years (!), it really rattled me once I was experiencing the symptoms first-hand.

But, slowly overtime, my period started to come back. I was healing my body with foods, exercise, and self-care. I’m still working towards getting a regularly scheduled period to this day, but this journey has completely amazed me. I'm truly experiencing the natural rhythms and cycles of my body for the first time without chemicals controlling my hormones for me. It's pretty cool.

WHY MAKE THE SWITCH?

Nearly 20 billion sanitary napkins, tampons, and applicators are dumped into North American landfills every year.

On average, a woman experiences her period from 3 to 7 days and menstruates from age 13 to 51. That means the average woman endures some 456 total periods over 38 years, or roughly 2,280 days with her period - 6.25 years of her life

With 70% of women using tampons that we're instructed to change every 4-8 hours (using 6 hours as an average), the cost adds up quickly. A box of 36 tampons costs $7 at CVS.  

1 tampon every 6 hours = 4 tampons per day x 5 days of having your period = 20 tampons per cycle  x 456 periods = 9,120 tampons. At 36 tampons per box, that's 253.3 boxes x $7 = $1,773.33.

And that price point doesn't even include the cost of pads, panty liners, birth control, heating pads, or any other necessity that's a part of your monthly period routine. Read more about that here.

Chances are, most girls are not starting out with a menstrual cup when they experience their first period. From that time on, we get so used to buying tampons and pads because it seems more convenient to stop at a local pharmacy whenever you need.

I haven’t purchased pads or tampons in a year. 

My period vessel is always patiently waiting in my bathroom cabinet and the convenience is undeniable. It comes with a little bag for clean storage so I sometimes throw it in my purse if I think Aunt Flo will be stopping by that day.

Furthermore, tampons are made of toxic-laden cotton that can easily be transferred into your bloodstream via your vaginal walls. Over 85% of the tampons that are produced today contain glyphosate - a cancer-causing agent and one of the primary ingredients in the weed-killing chemical Roundup. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't want anything close to Roundup coming near my yoni.

According to Dr. Maggie New, the co-director at the Women's Clinic at the Akasha Center in Santa Monica, California:

Chronic exposure to these toxic ingredients increases our risk of cancer, causes oxidative stress and metabolic changes, and disrupts the endocrine system. This can contribute to adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immunological effects. Conditions such as infertility, endometriosis, and thyroid disorders are all on the rise, for example, and are affected by exposures to chemicals and toxins in our environment.

Menstrual cups are made out of medical grade silicone and are BPA free, making this method non-toxic, eco-friendly, affordable (it’s a $40 investment for 3+ years of use), sustainable, and hassle-free. 

It's worth noting that I've only used the Lunette Menstrual Cup in my experience, so I'll be referring to that particular cup here.

WHAT IS THE THING?

Menstrual cups are easily inserted into the vagina to collect the uterine lining during menstruation. Rather than absorbing the blood as a tampon would, a menstrual cup collects the blood over the course of your period and is periodically cleaned to prevent leakage or a risk of infection. Tampons hold 6-18g of blood whereas menstrual cups can hold up to 30ml in the largest size.

HOW TO USE YOUR CUP

I’m not going to lie, the first time I went to insert my menstrual cup (or even thought about it), I got really nervous. Even though I had been using tampons for years which is essentially the same type of insertion method, this was so new to me and I started to get all these wacky thoughts about it.

What if I can’t get it out?

What if my blood leaks all over my underwear and misses the cup?

What if I damage the inside of my vagina?

Will I be uncomfortable for the next 5+ days?

The 'c' fold

The 'c' fold

I can confidently say none of those situations have ever happened.

I definitely experienced some discomfort the first couple of times because I was so tense and had a hard time relaxing. But with practice and patience, that quickly disappeared and it's been super easy ever since. Introducing a menstrual cup into my period regime has been amazing. When inserted properly, they're more comfortable than tampons and 99.99% of the time I can't even feel it. 

Start by folding the menstrual cup in half so it makes a ‘c’ shape and then simply insert the cup as you would a tampon. If the 'c' shape doesn't work for your body, you can watch this video and learn about nine more fold variations that may work better for you. Some things to keep in mind while inserting:

  • Relax your muscles. This is the most important thing to keep in mind while inserting your cup. The first couple of times I tried, I was very tense and had to continually remind myself to relax. Relaxing will help position the cup right under the cervix and behind the pubic bone. 
  • Insert your cup while you’re in a squatting position, this helps with opening the vaginal walls.
  • Once the cup is inserted, you need to make sure it fully opens and does not stay folded inside of you. To do this, keep relaxing your muscles and pull on the tab gently as to not pull the cup out. This allows for the cup to open and creates a seal formed by the walls of your vagina and vaginal muscles. You can also slide a clean finger around the bottom of the cup to see if it has opened, but the tab method works better for me.
  • Since vaginas are tilted backwards, guide the cup towards the small of your back to ensure proper insertion.
  • Use water or a non-toxic lubricant if you find the area is especially dry and not allowing for the cup to be inserted comfortably, although blood typically acts as a natural lubricant during menstruation.
  • Notice if the stem on the end of the cup is too long once inserted which can cause discomfort while wearing the menstrual cup. You can simply snip it down a bit so there's enough left to help with removal.
  • Insert your cup the day before your period is due to prevent any leakage.

A menstrual cup can be worn for up to 12 hours depending on your individual flow, and it's recommended that you change your cup 2-4 times a day. It can also be used with different contraceptives (such as an IUD), while swimming, during yoga (although it is not recommended to do inversions while on your period as this would cause the contents of the cup to spill back into your uterus), and while you're sleeping. 

Easy breezy.

To take the cup out, a lot of the same guidelines apply that you would use for insertion. First and foremost, relax those muscles. This is pretty crucial. If you’re tensing up, your vaginal walls will hug the cup and not allow for it to be removed - they're just doing their job.

Pinch the bottom of the cup and avoid tugging on the stem, this allows for the seal to break for a smooth removal. However, if the cup has traveled a little too far up there, you can use the stem to help release it a bit, just make sure you pull gently. There shouldn't be any pain or discomfort during removal. 

HOW TO CLEAN YOUR CUP

First, wash your hands with a fragrance-free, mild soap. Then, simply remove the cup, dispose of the blood in your toilet, rinse with cold water first to prevent staining, and then wash with warm water and a bit of the Lunette Menstrual Cup Cleanser. Lunette also makes cleansing wipes for gals on the go. Look closely and check that the air holes around the top of the cup are clear and fully open, as these can sometimes get clogged.

After your period is finished for the month, wash the cup as normal and then put it in a pot of boiling water for 15-20 minutes. Your cup should always be disinfected before and after your cycle to ensure proper cleanliness. 

As for cleaning your cup in public, I never find that this is an issue because of the lengthy wear time. If I know I'll be out and about for awhile, I make sure to clean my cup beforehand and have never had to change it in public. If you find that you do need to make a quick change in a public restroom, own it. If you know that you have an especially heavy flow, I would recommend purchasing the Lunette cleaning wipes just for peace of mind.

SIZE GUIDE

That’s right, there are two different sizes of menstrual cups because no two vaginas or periods are the same. 

Here's a chart to help you determine which size fits your unique shape the best:

 

Lunette's  guide to finding your right size

Lunette's guide to finding your right size

Throughout my time using a menstrual cup, the biggest takeaway I've had is learning to truly appreciate and honor my body. I've become so in tune with the cyclic nature of my body and it's the coolest thing to experience first-hand. I felt my body ovulate for the first time this year and I was in complete awe.

We need to make an effort as a culture to destigmatize periods and stop period-shaming women for something that is natural and vital. 

After all, women are the life-force of the world.

Have you switched over to the menstrual cup way of life? If you have any questions or want to share your experience with a menstrual cup, leave me a comment! 

With love and light xx

 

Mad About Matcha

Happy Sunday everyone!

I'm sharing this to give you all the 411 on matcha - where to buy it, how to use it, and why it benefits you. 

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I've never really been a big caffeine person.

I’ve never had a coffee habit that took me weeks to kick or any addiction to other caffeine sources. I would occasionally get a latte to-go at a coffeeshop that was laced with processed sugars and the only time I drank soda was mixed with alcohol. 

I find that coffee, similar to alcohol, is a very social thing in our society. People meet for coffee at all hours of the day, cap off their nights with an espresso (genuinely confused how those folks fall asleep…), or grab coffees for coworkers. Even when I didn’t want to be drinking coffee, I’d find myself ordering one here and there because I was usually with someone else doing the same. The power of peer pressure.

Some people drink a cup of coffee and feel perfectly fine. Others, including myself, find it very hard to digest. After I would finish a cup, I would experience nausea, sweating, irritability, jitters, acid reflux, indigestion, increased heart rate, clammy hands, and was easily startled.

Not an ideal situation first thing in the morning or during any hour of the day for that matter.

I switched to hot, herbal teas a couple of years ago and haven't looked back since.

MORNING MATCHA RITUAL

There’s nothing I love more then a slow, sweet morning. 

Getting to enjoy my rituals and not rushing to pull myself together before leaving for work or yoga is heavenly and helps set the tone for the rest of my day.

I began seeing matcha popping up all over my Instagram feed awhile ago and became curious about this green potion. It looked so inviting and cozy so I decided to give it a shot with a recipe I found online. This particular recipe included salt (why…just why?) and I remember immediately spitting it out after my first sip. I thought it was disgusting so I set matcha on the back burner for a bit.

But, I continued to find myself being drawn towards matcha. I knew there had to be a recipe out there that I would enjoy if so many people were raving about it. I found a salt-free recipe, gave it a whirl in my blender, and it was delicious.  

Since I deal with Generalized Anxiety Disorder as I talked about previously, I got a little weary of reintroducing caffeine into my system because I didn’t want it to cause mood swings or any type of hormone imbalance. I’m pretty in-tune with my body so I observed any side effects matcha might have had on my body after my first cup and was pleasantly surprised. I still felt calm, my mood was elevated, I didn’t break a sweat, and I was ready to take on the day. 

I also think it's worth noting that I don't drink matcha every single day and I don't rely on the caffeine in matcha to function properly. I like to have one cup about 4-5 times a week and I don't find that I experience any withdrawal symptoms if I don't have it.

SO, WHAT IS MATCHA?

Matcha is a green tea powder made from a specific tea leaf that comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. White and black teas also come from this particular plant, but matcha is harvested from plants covered and grown under shade for 20 weeks which boosts their chlorophyll levels, hence the vibrant green hue.

Matcha has been used for centuries in Japan as a sacred ceremonial drink, whereas today you can grab a matcha beverage at any trendy neighborhood coffee shop whenever you’d like. 

HEALTH BENEFITS

This vibrant green powder packs a powerful punch and has been proven to:

  • Sustain energy and produce a lasting calming effect. Matcha contains L-Theanine, a non-dietary amino acid that assists in boosting alpha waves in the brain, which works simultaneously with the caffeine from the green tea to produce a sustainable calming effect. Since matcha is ground into a fine powder, it provides the entirety of the Camellia sinensis plant’s benefits unlike traditional green tea that you would steep in hot water.
  • Improve mental clarity. The L-Theanine found in matcha has been found to reduce anxiety levels and enhance your overall mood by promoting a natural state of relaxation while simultaneously improving your mental alertness. 
  • Protect you from harmful free radicals. Matcha contains high levels of antioxidants in the form of catechins, flavonoids, and polyphenols. These powerful antioxidants protect your body from harmful free radicals AKA the pesky guys that are responsible for aging, tissue damage, cancer, and some inflammatory diseases. Just one cup of matcha has the same amount of antioxidants as ten cups of regular green tea!
  • Boost immunity. Those powerful antioxidants found in matcha are also responsible for helping your body fight diseases and infections, thus boosting your body’s natural immune defense. Matcha also contains epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) which helps boots immunity and promote overall wellness. The EGCG also plays a big part in fighting harmful bacteria in the mouth that can cause staining in the teeth, cavities, and bad breath. 

KEY TOOLS & INGREDIENTS

  • High speed blender. I'm currently using a Vitamix which is the real MVP of blending, but it is quite pricey. I've used a NutriBullet before with success, but be extra careful as I've read some reviews of people's NutriBullets exploding from the hot liquid. Always blend hot liquids with caution and never, ever put boiling water into a blender, you'll set yourself up for a third degree burn.
  • Tea kettle or small saucepan. Unless you can heat your liquids up with magic.
  • High quality matcha, duh. There are a ton of different matcha brands out there and some can get quite pricey. I'm using Ippodo Matcha right now and I'm really enjoying it. If you're new to the matcha world, I would definitely recommend finding a cheaper brand so you don't have to spend $50 on a 40g container not knowing whether or not you'll enjoy it. Mizuba Tea Co. has some affordable options as well as Whole Foods. Always check the ingredients list when searching for matcha online, a lot of brands can add fillers so make sure it's 100% matcha and preferably sourced from Japan. Quick note, I store my matcha in the fridge to prolong the shelf life and keep it fresh!
  • Coconut butter. The stuff that makes a matcha latte so creamy and dreamy. I don't use any nut or seed milks in my matcha latte, so coconut butter is essential to create maximum frothiness. You can always add half water, half milk of your choice to your matcha recipe if you really want to up the creamy factor, but I just find that it's an unnecessary extra step in the mornings. Coconut butter also provides a healthy dose of fat which prepares the stomach lining and can eliminate some of those not-so-pleasant feelings that result from drinking plain green tea or matcha on an empty stomach. I love the Artisana Coconut Butter.
  • Adaptogens. First off, these are not necessary. But, why not pack your matcha latte with a little more healing power and health benefits? If you're not up-to-date with the recent adaptogen craze that's taken the wellness world by storm, they're a specific group of healing plants that support your health and adjust your body to natural stressors. There are so many adaptogen options out there, but I typically stick no more than three adaptogens in my lattes. My favorites are ashwagandha (soothes the nervous system and boosts mood), reishi (supports immunity), triphala (supports digestion), and cordyceps (brain power while supporting the liver and kidneys), but I encourage you to do some research and find some that speak to you. Sun Potion has great options that are worth the investment. 

EVERYDAY MATCHA LATTE

Serves 1

  • 16oz hot (160°-175°) water
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut butter
  • 1 teaspoon matcha 
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ashwagandha

(Note: if you prefer for your latte to be a tad sweeter, you can always add 1/2 a teaspoon of maple syrup, a few drops of stevia, or 1/2 a teaspoon of honey if you’re not vegan)

  1. Bring water to a boil in a tea kettle or saucepan and let cool for a bit before placing it in your blender.  
  2. Add all of the other ingredients into the blender and blend on high for 2-3 minutes for maximum froth potential. Pour into your mug or tea bowl and enjoy!
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HORMONE-BALANCING MATCHA LATTE

Serves 1

  • 16oz hot (160°-175°) water
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut butter
  • 1 teaspoon matcha 
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ashwagandha
  • 1/2 teaspoon maca 
  • 1/2 teaspoon reishi 
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

(Note: if you prefer for your latte to be a tad sweeter, you can always add 1/2 a teaspoon of maple syrup, a few drops of stevia, or 1/2 a teaspoon of honey if you’re not vegan)

  1. Bring water to a boil in a tea kettle or saucepan and let cool for a bit before placing it in your blender.
  2. Add all of the other ingredients into the blender and blend on high for 2-3 minutes for maximum froth potential. Pour into your mug and enjoy!

GINGER-TURMERIC MATCHA LATTE

Those nails doe

Those nails doe

Serves 1

  • 16oz hot (160°-175°) water
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut butter
  • 1 teaspoon matcha 
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ashwagandha
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

(Note: if you prefer for your latte to be a tad sweeter, you can always add 1/2 a teaspoon of maple syrup, a few drops of stevia, or 1/2 a teaspoon of honey if you’re not vegan)

  1. Bring water to a boil in a tea kettle or saucepan and let cool for a bit before placing it in your blender. 
  2. Add all of the other ingredients into the blender and blend on high for 2-3 minutes for maximum froth potential. Pour into your mug and enjoy!

Leave me a comment letting me know if you tried out one of these lattes! 

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