So, there I was, a striving 24-year-old college student. I was settled at a desk in my college’s computer lab, working on a Microbiology paper, that was due the next day. The later it got into the night, the more I realized there was no way I was going to finish. That thought made me tremble inside, since I had calculated the time it SHOULD have taken me, and I already passed that time, with no end in sight. This initial worry brought on a number of new thoughts. You see, after I finished the paper, I was going to study for a test from another subject, and it was obvious that I wasn’t going to get to it. The thoughts pursued. This lead into a fear of faltering grades. It wasn’t because the work was hard, but simply because I didn’t have enough time in the day to get done what I needed to get done. It was frustrating, and a mixture of emotions ran through me. I was saddened. I was angry. I was frustrated.
I had put so much time and energy to get myself into college to strive for a better life for myself. It just became more and more of a heavy burden. Everything I suffered through, like driving an hour to get to school each way, every day, because I couldn’t afford to live on campus. It was all just to grasp for that goal of graduation, that seemed so far away. I started to listen to the voices in my head of those who were against me going to college in the first place. And now, they were just laughing in my face. In that moment, I was a failure. It was all too much, and everyone who thought college was a mistake was right. I CAN’T handle it. I DON’T deserve a better life. I should just give up, and be a nothing, a nobody in my mind, because I just don’t deserve any of it. As these thoughts radiated within my mind, it was like in an instant, everything changed, and it would alter my life forever.
As I sat there, this feeling of heat came over me, and it was like the air became instantly thick, surrounding me, holding me, as the pressure built up, as if squeezing me. My head became light as the computer screen started to blur. My stomach instantly started to turn, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to throw up or pass out. It was at that moment my attention went to my chest, as my heart started beating out of control. I had never experienced my heart beat so fast while in a sedentary position. One moment I’m calm, the next SECOND, my heart beat a ba-zillion beats per minute, and felt like it was coming out of my chest. I don’t remember what happened next, only that my dear friend brought me to the infirmary. Scared out of my mind, the nurse took my vitals. After she was through, she then asked me what I did today. I was confused, and a little irritated with her. I’m DYING here, and she wanted to know what I did today? All I kept thinking was “fix me, fix me”, make it all stop. Make my heart stop beating so fast. Then she asked me if I had any stress….
Ah stress! I actually LIVED stress and anxiety, during most of my life, but I didn’t realize how much it affected me, even at that moment. I just went about my life, stressed, anxious or not, and just dealt with each situation as it came. When you live with something for so long, it becomes a part of you, so much, that you can’t even recognize the difference of what is stress, to what is reality.
For me, life was stressful. I wanted so much in life, but didn’t know where to find it. The one thing I knew I wanted, was to get out of my house. I wanted to live on my own. After watching most of my high school friends go off to college, I felt “stuck” in a place I wanted to peel away and escape from. It wasn’t that I didn’t apply to college. Actually, I was accepted into a couple of GREAT colleges, and wanted to go SO bad, but, at the time, I had no funds to get me there. And unfortunately, I didn’t know about financial aid until it was ultimately too late.
In my mind, I missed any opportunity for college, and went to work. The cost of a college education was too much for me, and even with financial aid, I knew I wouldn’t have been able to afford it.
I went to work as a waitress, and although, fun at times, it was hard for me to visualize doing this when I was forty. With each day I worked, I desired more for myself. I knew there was more to me, and I wanted more for me. It’s not that waitressing is a bad career choice, I just got bored with the same routine. I wanted more of a challenge for my mind, and that desire to move out only grew with time. I wanted to make enough money to get me out of my house, and on my own, and I wanted to have a career that I knew I was going to enjoy. I just didn’t like waiting tables.
I knew that if I wanted something bad enough in this life, I was going to have to do it on my own. So I did. After deciding which career I wanted, I made the decision to get my butt into college, and pressed on. I ignored the people telling me it was a mistake, because I knew, some how and some way, I was going to succeed. I did much research on getting funding for college, and decided to take on the financial burden. I asked my parents for some help, and they did what they could. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to be able to get me on campus, so I had to commute. I would have to travel an hour each way, but at the time, I didn’t care. I was just excited to start this new endeavor. I would have to keep my weekend waitressing job, because I had bills to pay, including a car payment, for my little Ford Escort. Again, looking at the bigger picture, I was too excited to worry about, what I thought were petty things. I was doing this, and I was excited.
But, I learned quickly that striving for an education in the medical field is no picnic. With every class you take, there is an equal amount of lab classes that goes along with it. It’s not easy to have ten chapters of reading to do, only to get a two question quiz on the ten chapters of material. Especially, after being away from school for three years, learning how to study again was not easy for me. Add in driving an hour or more to get to school, where most of the time is sitting in traffic, then staying the entire day taking classes and labs, then heading back home only to sit in more traffic. The only thing I wanted to do when I got home was to eat, then go to bed, only to start the next day over again. I couldn’t even look forward to weekends, since I worked double shifts on Saturdays, and sometimes double shift on Sundays to keep financially afloat. The worst part of the entire situation was not getting the studying in that I had wanted. That’s where the pressure started to build inside. For quite some time, I didn’t let it get to me. I pressed on. Some call it strength, some may call it stupidity. And I was ok with it all, until I started to put a lot of that pressure on myself, which become more intense as the days rolled on. By the end of my sophomore year, was when I felt the routine starting to get old. My grades were slipping, and I was getting tired. I felt if I could just live on campus, or someplace closer, to alleviate that awful ride to and from school, it would have helped considerably. That was what was exhausting me. But, I just didn’t have the funds. I was just able to keep my head above water as it was with my weekend job, and just couldn’t afford any more of a financial burden. Then I started to doubt myself. Why am I continuing to fight this upward battle? The classes were only getting harder and I was starting to feel like a failure. But, I couldn’t fail. Failure wasn’t an option. Dropping out would only give power to those who didn’t want me to go in the first place. Dropping out would put me right back to where I was before. Dropping out wouldn’t get me out of the house. I started to fight with my thoughts.
It was all this that eventually brought me to the place in that computer room. The place where my body was not just telling me to slow down, but was screaming at me to.
I get it. I understand.
Life isn’t perfect, and there will be times in our lives that are challenging. There will be times in our lives that we need to press on. There will be times in our lives when we feel alone. But we ALWAYS have choice.
I could have easily just reduced the number of classes I was taking, which would have helped tremendously, and would have eased my mind of the burden. But, I was stubborn. I was impatient. I was letting my ego overpower me, and listened to my head, instead of my heart. This was the mistake I made back then. So, the anxiety and panic followed me all the way thru graduation. Funny, how they miraculously ended after that. I still had stress and anxiety at times, but the panic attacks ceased.
Regardless of where the fears stem from, our body reacts to the fear. For me, it was the fear of doubt, the fear of failure, and the fear of having to be put in my place. When we put enough pressure on ourselves, or allow the fear to grow, is where the trouble starts.
After that experience, I had hoped the panic attacks had stopped forever, but unfortunately, panic attacks found their way back into my life again when I hit forty. It was a time that I started to doubt myself again, but this time, it was different. This time it was based on a fear that developed after an illness, and I found myself right back in that place I was fifteen years earlier. The fear of illness, the fear of not being enough, or there for my loved ones. The fear of dying. The fear of not accomplishing everything I wanted in this life. When you are young, and a young person dies, it’s a freak thing. But the older you get, the more mortality isn’t a freak thing, but a natural thing. Different situation, but the same doubt of myself.
After suffering for some time, I decided to NOT be plagued by this again. So, this time, I took the opportunity to learn why this this is happening, and to dedicate myself to keep me on the right track of wellness, and so I did, of which I now share with you.
If your fear stems from doubting yourself, it’s a thought process change. Change how you listen to your thoughts. Don’t allow the negative ones to take over and build up inside. Find ways to quiet the mind. Find ways to tap into your inner strength, confidence, courage, and happiness. Find joy. Interact and surround yourself with people who make you happy, laugh and that make you feel good about yourself. It starts with choices, and it starts with you.
With peace and love..XO
We all have an inner saboteur, and at some point in our lives, we may have been majorly affected by it. Have you ever kept yourself from going on a job interview, because you thought you weren’t good enough? Have you ever listened to that negative, inner voice tell you something that you start to believe? It’s that pesky, annoying part of ourselves that craves negativity, and can steer our mind from succeeding in life.
It can create worry over an upcoming event. It’s that part of us that can tell us we are no good, ugly, or fat. It can tell us that we have no talent, we will never succeed, or we will never find our soul mate. It could make us feel sick, fearful, nervous, anxious, or even crazy. It could tell us that we don't deserve a good life. It allows us to get lazy, procrastinate, and even miss out on events that could alter our lives for the better. It’s that part of ourselves that lives in fear and can beat us down, if we allow it.
Maybe this “saboteur” was born through a childhood experience? Maybe someone told you over and over again something negative about you until you believed it, even if it wasn't true. Maybe someone made you feel insecure, which left you with a feeling you held onto over time. Maybe this saboteur stemmed from a fear and anxiety over something that you can’t let go of, thus turning into an internal struggle within yourself.
So how can you break free from yours, especially if you have lived with one for so long, and it seems to be a part of you?
I have found different approaches out there, mostly to “accept” your inner saboteur, because it’s a part of you, and honestly, this is something that we learn as yoga instructors. But, with the type of saboteurs I have lived with over the years, it took more than acceptance to help me keep mine at bay. I offer you something that is a bit more concrete, so, if you are having trouble with your inner saboteur, and find it hard to accept that this is a part of you, you may want to give this a try.
What has worked great for me, is to start by creating an image of what my inner saboteur looks like. So, close your eyes, relax your body, and look deep into what this image may look like. Ask yourself, “What does my inner saboteur look like?” It could look like anything, just be sure to go with your first thought. (It took all of about a couple of seconds to have an image pop into my mind.) Once the image is there, hold on it it. Stare at it. I stared at mine, looking at all the details about him, to the point I could almost reach out and touch him. This was my way of getting that picture stuck in my mind, so when I wanted to find him again, it would be easier.
I ended up picturing him as a little monster. He is kind of a square-ish, short, cartoon-y looking creature with big teeth and big eyes. I created this vision of him, and made him so real in my mind, that he is almost palpable. By creating this vision of him, it gives my mind a point of reference, some “thing” to direct my mind to, instead of just random thoughts. It’s like seeing a book in front of me, instead of scattered papers everywhere.
So, when I start to hear that inner negative voice, I can more easily recognize that picture I created in my mind. I have given these negative thoughts a face. By putting a face on it, and making it into an entity, it becomes a physical thing that I can talk to, as well as push aside.
So, when I start to feel my saboteur sending me sensations and worry, and scattered thoughts, I would find a nice quiet place, close my eyes and tap to it. I can call upon my inner saboteur to first try and reason with him. I could give him a voice, and ask him why he feels that way about me, or why he thinks I should listen to him. He could respond, or he could be stubborn. Mine are typically stubborn, so I may find myself saying things like "knock it off" to him. I watch him stop smiling his evil grin, and look away frustrated. If the thoughts are something that doesn't affect me too much, I can just tell him to go away, which sometimes may work. I can watch him turn away and walk in the opposite direction with his head held low. If the thought prevails, I can tell him more intensely to "Go AWAY!!" If there is no reason behind his accusations about me, I try to tell myself that there is no reason for me to worry about these thoughts, for they are “just thoughts”.
If that doesn't work, I have pictured myself running up to him and chasing him away. For those more intense thoughts and feelings, like those that have stemmed from childhood, I have found myself even punching or kicking him away, and yell at him to "stop bothering me!" It sounds weird, but try it! This may sound violent, but there is something to be said about winning a fight with your saboteur. I have found that I enjoy kicking him away in my mind, since its like watching a football being kicked across a field. I can even make it funny, by adding a sound to my thoughts of him saying “AHHHEEeeeeeee”, as he flies thru the sky. At that moment of watching him soar, makes him a bit less frightening, and makes me feel a bit more empowered. I take a moment to feel that inner strength within me, and watch myself walk in the opposite direction. Having a "win" against your saboteur can be very healing, and taps into the inner strength you have inside. When you have these moments, embrace them. Bring a smile to your face and take a moment to revel in the moment. Once you start having more "wins", it becomes easier and easier to deal with this inner voice of sabotage.
Remember that we have choices. We can allow our thoughts to take over, or we can do something about them.
This process has really helped me realize that those negative thoughts and feelings aren't "me", and not the person I want to be. It can separate out who "you" are, and the negative thoughts and feelings you don’t want in your lives.
Let go of your inner saboteur, chase him away, or fight him and win! Notice how you feel after you win that first round. It becomes much easier to win more rounds the more you practice this technique. Unfortunately, he will come back over and over again, and especially in the beginning. But over time, it becomes easier to recognize your own negative thoughts before you have to call on your image. This makes it easier to release those negative thoughts before they get out of control.
So who is YOUR saboteur? Who is this guy anyway? Allow yourself the freedom from negativity. Allow yourself to be more empowered. Find the inner strength within you, let him go, and onward to your fabulous life!!
With peace and love.. XO
As you may have read in my previous blog post, Laughter and Why its So Important, my first Laughter Yoga experience taught me a great lesson that I needed to learn about myself. The exercise that enhanced my awareness, was draping our arms down towards the ground as we basically cried it out. This was to eventually have us lift our arms up over our heads to let out laughter. The problem was, I felt so comfortable down in that crying out place, I didn’t WANT to bring my arms up over my head to laugh. I wanted to stay down there and continue to pretend to cry. It felt comfy, and it was actually work for me to lift my arms up.
This exercise taught me how comfortable I was in that place. This was a place of sadness, self-pity, and regret. It seemed that I enjoyed being in a place that kept me sad, because it was what I knew. It’s like my body was protecting itself, wanting to keep in this state, since it didn’t know or really understand the other side.
I understand that I may have created this “habit” of misery within myself at some point in my life. Somewhere down the line, I must have kicked in the self-pity and sadness about my life, and stuck with it. The feeling was so strong that even though I thought I was happy, deep inside, I really wasn’t.
Since, you can’t change what you don’t know about yourself, it was upon this moment of realization, I decided I wanted to make myself a better person. I decided that I didn’t WANT to be comfortable in sadness. I REALLY wanted to be happy. So, if you want to be happier, how do you make this change? What could I do to help make myself feel warm and fuzzy inside?
Well, to start, I continued taking the Laughter Yoga classes. Through these classes, I developed a clearer understanding about what can make someone happy. And basically, I learned that it comes from ME. (Something that we hear about a lot, but it really sunk in here.) What else did I learn from Laughter Yoga? I learned that even when we fake a smile and laugh, we can release endorphins into the body. I also know from teaching mindfulness, that when we allow negative thoughts into our mind, we can end up down a rabbit hole of negativity.
So, after about a year, it was then, I decided to do this little experiment on myself…
I knew that whatever I did, I wanted to take it slow, since anytime you change something too quickly, it would never stick. So, to start off easy, I decided to begin with just daily smiles. I knew from the class that just a smile can allow for positive changes inside the body. So, I made it a point to smile, or rather, fake a smile, 5 times a day. It didn’t matter where or when I did this, but I wanted to be sure I was going to be consistent, so I chose to smile at a memorable place. I chose every stoplight while I was driving. I figure, I was in the car every day anyway, so it would make sense that this was a good place to start, so why not? So, every time I stopped at a stoplight, I would crack a smile and hold it until the light changed. It felt funny and weird at first, but I knew it had to be beneficial in some way, so I continued on.
I’m not exactly sure how long the process took, but, it seemed to gradually have a real positive affect on me. Not only did it become easier and easier to find that smile at each stoplight, but it stopped being so “weird” and started to feel more natural.
After I started feeling comfortable smiling to myself, I decided to branch out and test this on the public. I started at the grocery store. I made it a point to start smiling at people as they walked by. An interesting phenomenon occurred. People actually smiled back! Imaging that! By smiling at others, it seemed to develop an instant connection between me and the person in front of me, even when I didn’t know them. And let me tell you, it felt pretty good inside. REALLY good inside! There were moments it seemed that my smile actually made someone’s day. This is when the experiment took off!
I then took this to an even larger level, where at every public place I would go to, I would just have a smile on my face, just to notice what would happen. Sure enough, without saying a word, people seemed to just be drawn to me to say “hello”, or “good morning”.
It may sound crazy, but during the time of this experiment, my feelings towards other people had become more and more positive. I always felt that people were judgmental and never want to be bothered, but this changed that for me, and made me look even deeper at myself.
So, what is so wonderful about all this, is that I don’t even have to force a smile anymore. My body just naturally does it now. So, I can be sitting on a chair, and my husband will walk by and ask me what I’m smiling about. I’ll be in the grocery store, and people will say “hello” to me, probably because I have a welcoming smile on my face. It seems when you really open yourself up to others, they WILL respond. I don’t have to force a smile on my face anymore, because its already there, and at stoplights, my body just naturally smiles now.
I feel happier since I’ve done this, and its amazing the connections with others I have developed. I feel more outgoing and self-confident inside. I see people differently now, and I like what I see in others. (For the most part, anyway..LOL.) My students and friends are more open, and I have much more patience and tolerance with even the difficult people in my life. Placing the emphasis on the positive instead of the negative, has eliminated a lot of the negativity from my own life. I am much happier and look forward to helping others find their own inner happiness, by using these tools in my classes.
So, give it a try. Give yourself a month or so of forcing a smile, various times during the day, and notice. Notice how the feeling of just turning up the muscles on the sides of your mouth can change you. It can bring on new forms of gratitude and love of self. It can bring on a sense of community with others, which makes us feel a part of something bigger, instead of feeling so alone.
Go out there and smile..and enjoy your beautiful day!
Love and peace.. XO
Most women have had some sort of Premenstrual Syndrome, (PMS), at some point in their life. PMS can consist of cramping, mood swings, fatigue, gastrointestinal issues, along with other symptoms like acne, insomnia, water retention, depression, and of course, anxiety.
Hormonal anxiety is a bit more difficult for people to deal with, since its based on bodily functions rather than an emotional response. This basically means that it is more difficult to deal with, and harder to calm the body down with typical mindfulness methods and tools.
Enter the spice saffron. Saffron is an amazing spice that is derived from the flower known as “saffron crocus”. It is the most expensive spice, since it takes about 70,000 crocus flowers to produce just one pound of dried saffron. It may be expensive, but what I love about this, is that you only would have to buy it once, since the only thing you do with it, is smell the contents!
Since saffron had been used for PMS for thousands of years, a group of scientists had decided to focus on creating an actual study about it. A double blind study out of Iran was once performed, testing the theory of saffron and PMS. The original study had the subjects ingest 30 mg/day of the saffron, and the results showed a significant decrease in symptoms between the patients who ingested the saffron from the ones who did not. It was later determined, by the same people, that sniffing saffron alone, can have the same results. They determined that the smell alone was enough to trigger a hormonal response, causing changes within the body. This study had the subjects sniff saffron for 20 minutes. Apparently, by sniffing saffron, it can help balance out the hormone levels, and by doing so, can decrease overall anxiety symptoms in people.
This was music to my ears!! For me, who has suffered crazy anxiety two days, like clockwork, before my cycle every month, it was a no brainer. So about a year ago, since it's always been my passion to be my own guinea pig, I gave it a try, and I had noticed a significant difference. Unlike the study, I would just take a few good sniffs out of the jar, so not the 20 minutes as recorded, yet still noticed my body start to calm after about 10 minutes or so. Is it the perfect remedy? Not really, since it seems that the relief is temporary. Maybe it would help me more, if I sat there with the bottle under my nose for 20 minutes for longer lasting affects. BUT, the funny thing is, what I do recognize is that if I sniff the saffron for one months’ cycle, the next months’ symptoms aren’t as bad. And there have been months that I’ve gone without needing to sniff at all. Coincidence? Is it really the saffron, my body just being normal that month, or is it a psychosomatic response? Either way, it seems to work, it is much cheaper than other remedies, and carries no side affects. It is also a way of not putting harmful substances into the body. So, for me, when I am near my cycle, and start to feel a little tense and anxiety build, and my typical mindfulness techniques aren’t working as well as they should, I’ll assume its my hormones. I’ll sniff some saffron, and keep it close by for a couple of days as symptoms arise. The beauty is that the saffron sniffing can alleviate other PMS symptoms along with anxiety.
So, if you are one of those people who suffer from hormonal anxiety, or anxiety related to PMS in your life, saffron sniffing may be one of the tips to try. It seems to work for me, which is my reasoning for bringing this forth to you, but you be the judge. For the small amount of money, and the relief and/or piece of mind you can get, it’s well worth the experiment!
One spice container of saffron costs between $12 and $18, but I have seen it online for around $9.00. Shop around, but remember that you only have to purchase this once!
I have to say, I really love this method! I have been sniffing saffron now, for about 20-30 minutes, after I start to feel anxiety symptoms....with amazing results! This has to be one of the best tips for hormonal anxiety, and hope you will give it a try yourself! Although, you may want to change out the bottle after a year or so, since the smell starts to deteriorate after that time.
Still a cheap remedy!
Happy saffron sniffing!
Love and peace... XO
Our last article, Understanding How Food Can Help Manage Anxiety, described reasons foods can help alleviate some of the symptoms of anxiety. This article will give more specifics on which specific nutrients and foods have worked well for me and why. I have kept certain foods in my daily diet to help keep my own anxiety at bay. Here are my picks for best anxiety relieving foods, followed up with some healthy meal ideas!
#1 TRYTOPHAN- (My favorite: Turkey)
If you are looking for relaxation, foods containing tryptophan are my number one choice. We are all familiar with the tryptophan in turkey that allows us to get relaxed and sleepy over Thanksgiving. Well, this can’t be more true. For those days I feel a little tense, there is nothing more soothing than some turkey and sweet potatoes to take the edge off. Having trouble getting to sleep at night? Having a small portion of turkey and carbohydrate before bedtime may give you the additional dose of relaxation to help you fall asleep faster. Other great tryptophan containing foods are: milk, cheese, nuts, salmon, pineapples, eggs, beans, spirulina, spinach, chickpeas, avocado, bananas, potatoes, soy, and beets. (For more about why you should eat a carbohydrate with a tryptophan containing food see Understanding How Food Can Help Manage Anxiety)
#2 FOLIC ACID- (My favorite: Wheat Germ)
Folic Acid has proven itself to me time and time again, and my favorite "go-to" food item is wheat germ. What I love about wheat germ is that I don't have to cook it or prepare anything for it. When I start to feel tense and even depressed, I just sprinkle some on my yogurt, or my salads, and I can even sprinkle it in my ice cream. It contains the folic acid I need, but also contains thiamine, which are both attributed to helping raise serotonin levels and cognitive function. Low levels of folic acid have been linked to anxiety, so finding sources of this nutrient can be extremely helpful. After consuming wheat germ, I can feel more energetic and in a better mood by the next day. I feel less tense, and ready to take on the day! Other sources for folic acid are: asparagus, lentils, avocado, spinach, nuts and citrus fruits.
#3 VITAMIN C- (My favorite: Broccoli)
Vitamin C has been proven to help decrease the levels of cortisol in the body. I have to admit that ever since I added broccoli into my diet on a regular basis, my body is happier. Broccoli, like other cruciferous vegetables are the “cleansing tools” for our intestines. So, not only do they help to maintain a healthy colon, (and a happy colon is a happier you), it contains high levels of vitamin C to help lower cortisol levels. Most people who have adrenal fatigue have high levels of cortisol in their body, so broccoli is a great food to consume. Broccoli also contains a good amount of folic acid as well, which makes this a great food to include in the diet, and a staple in our home. Other great sources of vitamin C are: citrus fruits, kale, red peppers, and Brussels sprouts. (For more about how cortisol affects your body, see our last article: Understanding How Food Can Help Manage Anxiety).
HEALTHY MEAL IDEAS:
Always remember when starting changes in your diet, you also need to be aware of what you need to stay away from. Remember that any stimulants will only add to your anxiety. Staying away from anything with caffeine is the best place to start. (coffee, chocolate, energy drinks). Ingesting too much sugar can also have an affect on your anxiety, so try to keep the amount in check as well. Read the labels on everything you buy from the store, and stay clear from items that contain High Fructose Corn Syrup. This name seems to change in order to fool consumers, so staying away from processed foods and eating more whole foods is a great way to stay on top of what enters your body. Making your meals, although sometimes difficult due to time constraints, is the best way to to go. Try to make more time cook meals, or select a day of cooking for the week, or freeze what you can.
Remember that it takes a conscious effort on your part, to be successful. And be conscious of what foods you are consuming. If you eat a good portion of broccoli, but then follow it up with a bag of chips or cookies, you are defeating the purpose. Diet changes are difficult, so remember be patient with your body. It is also important to remain positive and not get frustrated or down on yourself when failures occur.. because they will. And it's OK. Use these foods as building blocks, or stepping stones instead of a reason for defeat. Remember when you're actively thinking about your anxiety, you're giving anxiety more fuel. Keeping busy is a great way to keep your mind off of negative thoughts. Go for walks, find a craft, get involved with others, because when you start to understand that you don't get anxiety when you are busy, you realize that focusing on anxiety really isn't that important.
Introduce healthy habits into your life. Eating properly, taking time for yourself, staying active, exercising, smiling, and learning how to enjoy life are great tools for managing anxiety.
With Peace and Love.. XO
For thousands of years, herbs have been widely used to help relieve symptoms of many different ailments. So after trying different herbs to help alleviate my own anxiety, I had noticed something. All these "natural herbs" can have side affects.
So, just as your favorite medicine may carry a list of side affects, herbs may have them as well. Since I have developed a sensitive digestive system over the years, I have become quite hesitant with herbs. But I have found two specific herbs, for tea, that have helped calm some of the annoying symptoms that can go along with anxiety. They are:
#1 CHAMOMILE TEA –
Chamomile Tea holds a strong number one spot for me, since it contains a relaxant that soothes and calms the body. It has proven to not only calm the nerves, but can calm the lining of the stomach as well. (This is especially helpful for those with “belly anxiety”.) I love to periodically have a nice cup of tea a couple of hours before bed to relax. (Precaution: if you take blood thinners, please speak to your doctor before consuming this tea, since it can thin the blood if you consume too much. Side affects may be nausea and vomiting, but only with high concentrations. Chamomile tea is also a diuretic, so you may find your way to the bathroom overnight. When I drink this tea, I'm always sure to consume it a couple hours before bed, to avoid having to get up later.)
#2 PEPPERMINT TEA-
Peppermint tea is a staple in my house. It is soothing to the belly, especially after a large meal. It can help aide in digestion, reduce belly aches, and is supportive for irritable bowel sufferers. My anxiety sometimes would start in my belly, therefore, relaxing the belly has helped keep the more severe anxiety at bay...and a happy belly is a happy body! (Precaution: for those with acid reflux, this tea may relax the valve by the stomach which may increase acid reflux. It may also interact with some medications, so it is advised to check with your doctor first before consuming this tea, especially if you are pregnant.)
Take note that I only ingest a single ingredient tea, as I have personally found a side affect or two with the multi-ingredient teas. I have also found hidden caffeine in a few. You will want to read the label as "no caffeine", and be leary of words such as "naturally decaffeinated" in the multi-ingredient teas, since it's a nice of saying "there is still a little caffeine in here". Green tea, for example, although very healthy for the body, may contain caffeine even as decaffeinated.
Mixing the herbs together may seem like a good idea, but it can also be confusing if you react to something, since you can’t be sure which ingredient was responsible. Ergo, finding one ingredient that works for you, may be the easiest way to go. I have stuck to buying only one ingredient Organic Chamomile tea, and Organic Peppermint tea. These teas have worked very well for me, and depending on my need for the day, I'll choose accordingly. If I’m having more belly issues, I choose the Peppermint, and if I’m looking for more overall calm, I choose the Chamomile.
OTHER TEAS TO CONSIDER
Now just because I have sensitivities to other teas, doesn’t mean you will. And just because I don't have an issue with Chamomile or Peppermint, doesn't mean you won't. Remember that we are all different! Here are a couple of other teas you may want to consider.
-Rooibis tea (for insomnia, reducing anxiety, indigestion aide)
This is another tea you may want to consider. For me, since I have a sensitive belly, this tea wasn’t great for me, but I understand that it can help with insomnia, as it has a sedative affect. The problem is that it also may cause stomach upset, and for that alone, I don’t use it. It has been known to help reduce anxiety, promote sleep, and aide with indigestion. (Of course, I can get any and all affects with my two favorites, with no worry.) This herbal tea also has a history of helping with headaches, insomnia, and hypertension.
Rooibis is typically found in combination teas, (more than one ingredient), which doesn't appeal to me personally. Just please talk to your doctor before consuming this tea, especially if you have any liver or kidney issues, since it has been linked to liver and kidney toxicity. It also can show estrogen like activity. Those undergoing cancer treatments or have a hormone related cancer, like breast cancer, need to speak to their doctor before consuming, as it can also interact with certain medications.
-Passionflower Tea (for anxiety, insomnia)
Due to its ability to help reduce anxiety symptoms and insomnia, it remains on the list of teas to try. Side affects that have been seen are: dizziness, nausea and involuntary muscle contractions. Please speak to your doctor before consuming this tea if you are taking blood thinners, drink alcohol, or are on blood pressure medication as it may interact. Due to the possible muscle contracting affect, it is also advised that pregnant women should stay clear, even if you are breastfeeding.
-Lemon Balm Tea (anxiety, insomnia, indigestion)
As with the above, Lemon Balm can have a sedative affect to help calm the body. The side affects of Lemon Balm may be: nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and dizziness. The good news about Lemon Balm is that it doesn’t seem to interact with medications as Passionflower and Rooibis may. It also can be found as a “one ingredient tea”. So, if you find this herb agrees with you, it can be another good choice. Just note that it is always a good idea to check with your doctor first, especially if you are pregnant.
Just remember to continue to do your own research. These teas are not a replacement for any other methods you are currently using for anxiety. They are certainly not a cure, and can only be helpful in relieving some of the additional annoying symptoms that can be related with your anxiety. It's always helpful to have an additional tool, which is what these are...just another tool.
Be sure if you have any medical issues or concerns that you check with your doctor before heading head first into herbs. Don't let the words "but its a natural plant" get in your mindset, since some of the most natural plants can be harmful to our bodies. Start with small doses. As you steep the tea, just don't let it steep for very long at first, and see how you feel. You can gradually make the tea stronger if you don't notice any side affects, and then enjoy...
With love and calm... XO
There are many foods listed on the internet that have their merit for being good anxiety relievers. After doing my own research with my own anxiety, I have created a list that has worked the best for me. (..and what’s best for me may not be best for you, so be sure to try do your own research!)
So, why are certain foods better for relieving anxiety than others?
Foods that release serotonin-
Some foods contain the building blocks of mood enhancing amino acids. When these cross the blood-brain barrier, neurotransmitters, like serotonin, are released into the body, resulting in a calmer you. Most serotonin is found in the digestive system to aide in digestion. The rest, however, is found in the neurons of the central nervous system, which allows the serotonin to help regulate mood, sleep, and appetite.
So what are these amino acids, and which foods contain them?
So, which carbs are the best to release insulin for tryptophan success?
Complex Carbohydrates- For better overall health, choosing the slower releasing carbs, complex carbohydrates, are the best way to go. Foods such as oats, brown rice, lentils, beans, and sweet potatoes allows for less of a sugar spike, which should result in a longer lasting effect of the serotonin once released in the body.
What is Cortisol and how does it affect your body-
Cortisol is a steroid hormone called a glucocorticoid, which is produced in the adrenal glands, found on top of each kidney. It is released during times such as stress, exercise, and when there is a “danger” afoot. When there are high levels of cortisol in the body, and the brain thinks there is a “danger”, it can link up with epinephrine to release the “fight or flight” mechanism. This allows for a sudden burst of energy, or “panic mode” to help a person if they needed to run away faster, or to provide an increase of strength. With those who suffer anxiety and panic attacks, the brain can be fooled to think there is a “danger”, based on fear, and the body kicks in this burst of energy. The brain thinks it is helping the body, but, for those of us who have experienced this, it is far from a good feeling.
Can foods help combat high levels of Cortisol?
Absolutely! Prolonged increase of cortisol levels can result in not only anxiety, but adrenal fatigue as well. You can help combat this by increasing your vitamin C, zinc, folic acid, and omega-3's. (spinach, kale, broccoli, citrus fruits, salmon, walnuts, wheat germ, beans and barley.)
Nutrients you may be deficient in-
Let’s face it. Stress can drain your body of important nutrients, and we can end up becoming deficient in some, therefore, enhancing anxiety. Here are some of the key nutrients we should try to keep in our daily diet to avoid worsening anxiety.
-B-vitamins (green leafy vegetables)
-Calcium (dairy, kale)
-Vitamin C (citrus fruits, kale, broccoli)
-Magnesium (dark leafy greens, nuts, fish, beans)
-Tryptophan (turkey, milk, asparagus)
-Vitamin D (dairy, sun exposure)
-Folic Acid (wheat germ, lentils, dark green vegetables, citrus fruits)
If you notice with the above list, increasing the amount of green leafy vegetables, like spinach and kale, citrus fruits and dairy should help increase the nutrients you may be lacking. Help replenish your body with healthy whole foods, and try to stay away from processed foods, since the additives and preservatives can further keep the body down.
Stay healthy and get healthier from the inside out.
(Stay tuned for some upcoming healthy stress and anxiety reducing meal ideas!!)
Love and peace.. XO
So, there you are, realizing that all of a sudden you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or even anxious. You want to do something about it, but feel trapped within your own skin.
When you feel as if there is no way out, what can you do?
Here are 5 quick tips that you can work on, to help you recover from these times of stress, tension, and anxiety, so you can get on with your life.
Since we are all different, the idea is to find which method works best for you. Allow yourself to take these methods on, at home, and into your daily life, to help change the way your mind looks at how you deal with stress and anxiety.
I know we all hear this stated a lot, “just breathe”, but using the correct method can enhance your calm, and in a shorter period of time. This is my favorite method to use when I am feeling the need to calm my body down quickly.
- Stand with your feet about hip width apart with your eyes closed, to internalize and block out potential distractions. (Unless you have a need to keep your eyes open.)
- Place your palms together and SLOWLY exhale your arms down to heart center. The slower the better, for whenever you exhale longer than the inhale, you kick in the parasympathetic nervous system that is responsible for relaxing the body.
- Repeat this move about five times, very slowly, and notice with every exhale that your body becomes more and more relaxed. Relax your shoulders, and feel the body as it starts to let go.
There are many different ways you can “breathe”, and this is just one of them. I find this method to be most helpful for me, as for many of my students. The best time to practice this move is when you are NOT in a stressed out state. Why? So your body can get used to how you are SUPPOSED to feel, and really tap into how you can relax yourself. This way, when you ARE tense and anxious, the body will recognize the feeling you are trying to accomplish. The more you practice this in a relaxed state, the easier the brain will understand the feeling you are looking for.
2. SHAKE OUT YOUR HANDS / BREATHE
There are times that I may feel additional energy within my body, so, to add to the above, and if you are one of those people who need to “get the energy out”, you may want to try this.
- Stand, as above, with the feet about hip width apart and with your eyes opened or closed. (Closed allows you to internalize more.)
- Take a nice long inhale, but instead of just inhaling the arms over your head, allow your body to shake your hands out as you lift them up over your head, towards the ceiling.
- Then place the palms together, and slowly exhale, longer then the inhale, till hands are at heart center.
- Repeat this a few times, and then maybe morph into just raising your arms over your head, without the shaking, as your body feels the relaxation wave through you.
If you are one of those people who, once stress and anxiety start to build, experience an influx of thoughts, you may want to use focusing as a tool. Here are a couple of examples to try. It has been proven that when you focus in on one thing and one thing alone, your mind can’t allow any further thoughts in!
Now, laughter may seem like a ridiculous idea when you are feeling stress and anxiety, and the LAST thing you want to do. BUT, the benefits outweigh the idea. Smiling and laughing allows for endorphins to be released, which counter anxiety and stress. The more you laugh, the less stressed you can be. The body also can’t process being negative and positive at the same time, so if you have a tool to switch the body into a positive state, this may be helpful.
Sometimes we have trapped energy inside the body that just may need to move about to get released. In these cases, it may be helpful to:
Cat/cow pose, in particular, is a great example of moving the body with the breath:
As you inhale nice and slow, you move your body nice and slow. As you exhale, extend the time of the exhale longer than the inhale while you move very slowly. You should start to feel the joy of the movement of your body, as you start to relax.
Remember that with all these methods above, it is REALLY important to practice them. You can’t expect your body to just leap into relaxation, when it’s not trained to do so. Try each of these, on their own, and notice which methods work best for you. Only YOU know your own body, so honor it, and listen to it.
Since these methods take only seconds to minutes, you can practice them many times throughout the day. Be sure to never rush through them. Find a quiet space and give your body that time to really FEEL the relaxation come over your body. Relax the shoulders and FEEL them drop down your back as you exhale. Remember, the more you practice this, the more your body will tap into the understanding of “how” to relax. You will then have ability to help calm your mind and body as you need to. These are great tools to start you on the process of learning how to relax the body and mind.
With peace, love, and calm... XO
So there I was driving along, heading to teach my beach yoga class, as I come upon an intersection with a Chevy Camaro SS in front of me. I didn't think too much of it, as I pulled up to a red light behind him. As the light turns green, and with no one in front of him, he starts to go, yet then sticks the "pedal to the metal", revs his engine up, and then peeled off in front of me. I just shook my head thinking, "Yeah you're cool...NOT! It's just another crazy teenager on his way to school." So, shortly after, and as I come upon some traffic, I pull into the right lane and see that same car up ahead. I eventually catch up to and try to pass him. I decided to check out this “teenager”, only to see the driver of the car…. has GREY HAIR! My "teenager” was, in actuality, a 60(+) year old man! I just smiled to myself, as I shook my head again thinking, "either he slipped that clutch, or... they just never really grow up, do they?”
Last year, I was traveling along a side road, when I came upon a guy on a motorcycle in front of me. He was dressed as any typical “Harley dude”, wearing a leather jacket with his motorcycle club name on the back, black leather boots, riding gloves, and wallet chain. And, of course, you can’t miss the long grey hair tied in the back, that matched the long “ZZ Top” looking beard down the front. All seemed pretty typical, yet, as I pulled up closer, I realized that it was he who was blasting “Turn the Beat Around” by Gloria Estefan on his stereo. I smiled to myself, as I pulled up alongside him at the light. As I love a good Gloria tune, I looked over at him and smiled. He looked back, nodded, and as the light turned green, he took off blaring her voice down the street with that long grey beard in tow. I smiled to myself, realizing this guy has no idea that he TOTALLY made my day!
We seem to get programmed to assume certain things about certain individuals, and it becomes almost comical when we realize how wrong we were all along. Just as I assumed that the only type of person that would ever peel out at a light would be a teenager, I also assumed that I should have been hearing something like Ozzy or The Grateful Dead coming from the stereo from the Harley motorcyclist. We all, at some point, allow ourselves to assume. I used these fun little examples to show what I mean, but the issue of assumptions is far worse out there in the world.
Today, we can see how assumptions can bring out the worst in us as humans. Assumptions can coincide with racism, and assume that people “are a certain way” based on their nationality or color of skin. Being Italian, people may assume many things about me that probably aren’t true. (But, if you assume, since I'm Italian, that I'm a good cook..well.. I'll have to give you that one!) Letting those assumptions fly unwarranted can cause, not only stress in the relationships of the people around you, but unwanted stress and anxiety within YOU. Why bring about high tension and anxiety over people and things that we may not know much about, or worse, understand. It just doesn’t make sense!
So is it worth it?? Is it worth wasting our energy to this extent? I say absolutely NOT! Keep in mind that we don’t have any control over anyone else’s actions. The only thing we have control over is how we react. Just as we assume that person that just cut us off on the road is a total jerk, we need to breathe and take a moment to look at both sides of any situation. The person may have just cut you off because he or she is trying to get to the hospital in a hurry. We don’t know what is going on inside another person, and we have no control over them either, although, YOU have a choice. You can get angry at that person, tense up and increase the anxiety within your own body, OR, you can let it go, relax your body and take care of yourself. Just because someone crossed your path, doesn't mean you need to give them any of your energy. I had always loved a good road rage in my day, but after realizing how much stress it would put on me, I started to choose that higher road of clarity.
Give people a chance. None of us are perfect. Give yourself the chance to break thru assumptions, and find that new higher road to your own clarity. We all want change to occur, and it starts with us…all of us.
Let it start with you.
Love and peace.. XO
Its that time of year again. It’s the time of year that we decide to make those significant changes in our life for the better. Now that’s all fine and dandy… IF we can stick to them. We call this decision to change a “resolution”, which is defined as: “a firm decision to do or not do something”. Resolutions can vary from wanting to exercise more, eating healthier, treating someone better, changing a negative action, or starting that new plan that you keep putting off.
But what seems to happen with most resolutions, especially those of which we want to exercise more, or eat healthy, is that we start off dedicated, yet, over time, we end up trailing back into our old ways. This may lead us needing to create the same resolution the following year...with similar results. Why does this happen, and why can’t we just stick to it?
First, let’s look at the word “resolution”. Maybe we shouldn’t think of it as a resolution, but more like a “change of habit”. A habit is defined as: “a behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary”. The difference between the resolution definition and the habit, is that a resolution doesn’t have that “follow a regular pattern” involved with it. A resolution is basically just a decision you make.
So, for those looking to create a physical change, like exercising more, eating better, or changing a negative action, unless you create a new HABIT out of this type of resolution, it has a good chance of failure. In order for this new idea to stick, you need to bring this change directly into your daily life. But be careful. If you expect too much of yourself and take on TOO much too soon, you may increase the chance of failure as well. For example, if you say to yourself, “I will run five miles a day”, you may feel the need to actually run five miles EVERY day. So, when life happens, as it always does, and you don’t have time to run the five miles one day, you may say to yourself “I’ll do it tomorrow” which opens the door for a pattern of failed attempts.
With this type of resolution, you need to be PATIENT with yourself, and just make your ideas more broadened. So, instead, say to yourself, “I will walk every day at this time”, and leave the rest open ended. The point is that you want to, at least, walk, every day. Maybe some days you will run, maybe other days you will walk more of a distance, other days it may be a shorter distance, and that’s ok. The point is to repeat the same type of activity over and over, to create a habit. Over time, and once that habit takes over, you won’t have to worry about doing it or not, because the activity will become second nature. Think of it like brushing your teeth. It's a good habit to brush your teeth every morning. We may not brush the same way every day, BUT we, at least, brush our teeth. Think of these new habits you want to work into your life the same way. You don't have to do it the SAME every day, just be sure that you are doing it in some way shape or form.
Remember, that in order for a habit to develop, it not only needs to be repeated over and over, but it needs to remain easy to complete. If you make it too difficult, chances are you may not follow through. Just as it may have taken time to develop poor habits, give yourself the time that is needed to reverse those poor habits into healthy habits. We create most of our habits out of enjoyment or ease, or from what soothes us in some way, so try to make your new habit enjoyable and fun! Keep smiling through, and remain positive about it.
So, what if you are looking to lose that extra weight you put on over the holidays? Do yourself a favor, and try not to settle for the “quick fix diet attempt”. This is where people take a week or two and basically starve themselves to shed some of that unwanted weight. How do we learn to eat properly by starving the body? Sure, some may lose a bit of that weight, but what happens within a month or so? The weight all comes right back, and we go right back to the same poor eating habits that got us there in the first place! Instead of learning healthy habits, the poor habits remain, and nothing changes. So how can we get those habits to stick?
As I stated earlier, be PATIENT with yourself. This is especially true concerning weight loss, since losing weight not only takes time, but it varies from person to person. So, if one person can lose a certain amount of weight in a few weeks, it may take another person twice as long to lose that same amount. Our bodies are all different, so you need to accept what is, and try not to get frustrated with sluggish results.
Slowly start creating new eating habits. Start with slow changes, since the body will respond to that. Look at all the choices of food you make now, and figure which appropriate changes you can tolerate. You can switch out simple sugars, like cookies and cakes, with sweet fruits like pineapple, oranges, or apples. This way, you are still giving your body the sweetness it craves, only in a healthier form. For those that crave the crunch to snack on, you can replace those chips with crunchy nuts, celery, carrots, or broccoli. Create a habit of choosing the healthier foods and by having ample amounts of fruits and vegetables readily available in the fridge for the times you need that quick snack. (You can buy vegetables and fruits already chopped up, so they are just grab and go, so there is not excuse!) These little starter tidbits will help you get on your way to a healthier you!
Think about the daily habits you already have in your life, and how you can create new ones to go with them. For example, think about how you brush your teeth every morning. It’s a habit. You may do it a bit differently every day, but you still do it. Think of other habits you may have in your life, and try to get these new healthy habits to accompany them in the mix.
We are all human so allow yourself a couple of setbacks….but LEARN from them! Be aware of how you feel when you eat chips over celery, or cookies over oranges. Be aware of how you feel if you skip a day of walking, and how much better you felt after you went for that walk or when you progressed into a run. Connect with your body to tune into those feelings and how you feel. The body responds to what it needs and what makes it feel good. Exercise makes the body feel good, just as eating healthy makes the body feel healthy. Start slow and steady as you connect within, and release that happy, healthy person you have inside.
Good luck.. and Happy New Year!! XO
Michelle has a BS, E-RYT, YACEP, CHN, CLYL, and Y12SRL.