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Easing Anxiety in the Year 2020

The wrath of 2020 has spared no one and anxiety is becoming somewhat of a runoff pandemic. Even those who generally slide past the burden of anxiety have found themselves in her grasp. Anxiety is more than a deliberating mental experience. It can cause physical aches and pains, mental illness, loss of productivity and can weaken your immune system. Stress and anxiety release the hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol in your system prohibits virus killing T cells from doing their job.
Whether you've dealt with anxiety your whole life or it's a new experience for you, incorporating these practices into your daily routine can help you find the clarity you deserve.

Set Boundaries.

Applying boundaries to all areas of your life can work magic for your mental health. It's one of the main factors that has given me my life back after struggling with mental illness for most of my life. When we think of boundaries we often think of setting them with certain people in our lives, but this practice can be applied to almost every aspect of our life from our loved ones to our playlists. In times of high anxiety take inventory of who and what you're investing your energy in that day/ week. Maybe you need to distance yourself from texting your best friend for a week or two. Perhaps a family member has been draining your energy lately and it's time to step back and spend some time alone to refuel. I'm not telling you to cut ties with the people you love. Explain to them that this has been a heavy year and you need to spend some time working on building your mental clarity back up so you may not be as available as you usually are for a while. Your loved ones will understand. Remember, they want you to be happy and healthy. Also, take inventory of that you're absorbing on a digital level in your daily life. Has your playlist been sad or unfulfilling lately? Maybe it's time to explore a more upbeat or inspiring genre of music. Are you jumping on social media in the morning and heading straight to the controversial comment section first thing in the morning? How much time are you spending on social media each day? What shows or movies have you been watching recently? Perhaps it's not the best time to watch The Purge or Grey's Anatomy

 In one of my favorite books, You Are Here, Thich Nhat Hanh writes:

Perhaps you are in contact with too many negative elements. You have looked at, listened to, and touched many things that are negative in nature, such as fear and despair. These negative forces are everywhere. When you turn on your TV, for instance, you run the risk of ingesting harmful things such as violence, despair and fear. At that moment you say to yourself 'I don't need these things. I refuse to watch these programs. I am going to seek out things that are refreshing in nature, healing and helpful things'. 

Give Gratitude.

It's a challenge finding gratitude during an apocalyptic year such as this, but I promise you can find at least three things for which you can give gratitude. Instead of getting on social media in the morning or at lunch try writing down at least three things you can show gratitude towards. It can be something as simple as I'm thankful for this quiet moment or I have so much gratitude for the sun giving me warmth and vitamin D. I know it might sound a little elementary but when we start showing gratitude for the thing in our daily lives it helps us realize how much we really have. It helps us remember that despite all of the pain, chaos and uncertainty in life, there is still beauty in the world. 

Stay Hydrated.

When the physical state of your body is stressed from lack of hydration or proper nutrition it causes our mental state to become stressed also. Staying properly hydrated is hands down the easiest thing to do on this list of easing anxiety. Drink at least eight glasses of water a day (more if you are particularly active). It's not going to be an in your face change of mental states, but under the surface it's kick starting your body into being able to manage it's systems without the extra stress of dehydration. 

Bonus points if you're also minimizing processed foods (junk food/ pre-made box foods), sugar, and alcohol while maximizing veggies, fruits, and healthy whole food meals. Don't underestimate the power nutrition has on your mental health. 

Just Breathe.

Yes, this is much easier said than done when you're in the midst of an anxiety attack and it's already hard to breathe. Intentional breathing is extremely effective in calming you down when in panic mode, but let's focus more on how we can be proactive with our breath. Just 10 minutes of intentional breathing every day helps lower your blood pressure and decrease anxiety. It's a form of meditation that helps properly oxygenate your body resulting in less stressful states internally. 

When we are fully in the moment with our breathe we aren't worried about yesterday, tomorrow, or the pain of the world. There are many methods but I recommend starting with a 4, 7, 8 breath. Inhale extending the belly while counting to 4, hold breath for 7 counts, and exhale fully for 8 counts. Breath work is a great way to begin a mindful meditation practice. Adopting mindfulness throughout your daily life has a magical way of causing anxiety to melt away. I'll admit, this one does take a while to build up as it can be hard to quiet your mind especially when so much is going on in the world. If you're having trouble silencing your mind enough for breath work or meditation try incorporating sound therapy. It induces brainwaves to reach meditative states with ease. Fun Fact: Just one hour of sound therapy is equivalent to eight hours of sleep. Check ours out here!

Sleep Hygiene.

I know it's tough to get that good sleep right now. You're probably waking up at all hours of the night worried about something. The state of the country. The state of your job. The state of a loved ones health. The list goes on for all of us right now. That's why it's so important for us to do everything we can to at least try and get a restorative night's sleep. Sleep is the renewal process for your body. Without proper sleep your mental health declines and your immune system can't properly function. We might not be able to help how many times we wake up through the night but we can set the stage for better sleep. Make sleep a ritual. In the modern world rituals are becoming somewhat taboo, but rituals help things become habitual. The key is repetition and tricking your mind into remembering that it's time to rest at this time and for this amount of time EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. 

  • Thirty minutes to an hour before bed turn your thermostat lower, change into actual sleeping clothes, and turn off the tv and phone. Listen to calming music, read or meditate and drink tea in a room other than your bedroom. 
  • Take your tv out of your bedroom. It's too tempting to just turn on when you can't sleep. Also, there is talk that electromagnetic frequencies from the tv can disrupt your sleep even when turned off. Do not keep your phone by or in your bed. Keep it away from your bed. I promise you can live eight hours without it by your side. 
  • Use a sound machine if the silence is too loud and make your room as dark as possible. 
  • Don't drink alcohol or eat too close to your bed time. You might think a glass of wine helps you sleep but it actually causes disruption through the night.
  • Set a bedtime that allows between 8-9 hours of sleep. Even if you know you're going to lie in bed anyway for an hour before you fall asleep just do it! It takes a while but your body and mind will get used to that being the time you get in bed. 

 

Look, I know it's tempting to follow every second of our ever unfolding drama, but you have to prioritize your sanity for the sake of staying healthy. This is not about ignorant bliss. I'm not telling you to stop watching the news forever, never watch a TV drama or stop listening to sad songs for eternity. This is about listening to your body and knowing when it's time to step away and rejuvenate your energy. You know your energy has been drained this year, and while you can't control what's happening in 2020, you can control how you respond and care for yourself.

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Detoxing From Diet Culture

Be honest with yourself — how many diets have you tried in your lifetime? The answer is probably too many. Diet culture has created a never ending cycle of self loathing scale obsession . It doesn’t matter what size you are chances are you’re dieting at least a few times a year. The truth is, diet culture is more about big business than actual health and wellness. How big? According to MarketResearch.com in 2018 alone the weight loss industry in the United States was worth $72 billion dollars. It’s time we shine a light on the dark side of dieting and refocus our attention on actual wellness.

Defining Diet Culture

 

The Beast of Body Image

None of us are free from the beast of body image that diet culture has laid upon us. We’ve been sold a lie that thinner is healthier, and it’s infected our standards of wellness. As a teenager I struggled with an eating disorder and though I was thin, I was far from healthy. Gas station diet pills, two energy drinks and a pack of sour gummy worms made up my diet most days. Like many young women, diet culture sold me the image that thin is beautiful. Social media was only beginning but that didn’t stop tumblr from being the mecca for eating disorder inspiration. At any time of day you could look up thin-spiration to keep you on the path of turning down meals and dieting. Social media has grown even bigger now and reeking with diet culture in the age of the influencer. What seems like a harmless partnership with a health food company is subliminally toxic. We’re being sold the perfect outfit with a professional grade face of make-up and pristine photo shopped images that are not a real representation of health. We’re now being sold the image of perfection and calling it health — and we are absolutely buying it because these influencers seem like everyday people instead of celebs. 

At 31 I’m at my heaviest, but also my healthiest. When I was thinner I was in optimal health according to diet culture, but I was sick constantly and on multiple prescription medications. Detoxing from diet culture may have made the number on the scale go up, but I’m rarely sick, have an incredible about of energy, and take absolutely no medication other than Tylenol (that’s even rare). It’s time for us to normalize wellness, not a certain weight.

The Alternative

Stop the dieting! We drive ourselves mad counting calories, keeping journals and trying to remember all the things we can’t eat on whatever new diet we’ve selected for this year. Keep it simple and listen to your body. 

One of the best things you can do is to stop dieting and live a healthy lifestyle is to say goodbye to preservatives. Many of these meal plans and diets are pumped with preservatives and chemicals. You’ll likely lose weight while you’re on them but at what expense to your long-term health? Not to mention these meals are created to keep you consuming them indefinitely. These companies know the minute you stop the weight will come back making you vulnerable to consumption again. This doesn’t only apply to pre-made meals, but boxed food in general. Prepared foods, sauces and beverages contain chemicals, excess sugar and high amounts of salt. When you prepare your own fresh food it gives you complete control over your health, not to mention it’s ridiculously satisfying. Another plus I’ve noticed is that my grocery bill went down when I started buying only staples for meals — that’s even including buying mostly organic and free range. There’s a wonderful free course taught by Stanford University about simple health and food prep that I highly recommend. I’m in no way an affiliated with them. I just discovered the course during quarantine and found it valuable.

Try mindful eating and listening to your body instead of counting calories. Your body really knows what it needs — when it’s actually hungry, when it’s satisfied and properly fueled (not stuffed). Try eating without mindless distractions like TV or your phone. It’s harder to hear what your body is telling you when in distraction mode. You might find that you enjoy your food more and have better conversations over meals. 

If you hate going to the gym don’t subjectify yourself to that kind of atmosphere. Going to the gym is not the end all be all to exercise. It’s also important to note that if you hate it, chances are you’re going to quit. Find a form of movement that is enjoyable to you.  Taking a walk, going for a bike ride and any other leisure outdoor activities are actually a double whammy because you’re getting a healthy does of vitamin D while exercising. Your work outs may not look like everyone else’s but it doesn't disqualify them from being exercise. The key is to incorporate some type of regular movement in your life.

I could go on and on about detoxing from diet culture because it’s my favorite soap box to climb atop. But I’ll leave you with this — listen to yourself, mind/body/soul and just keep it simple.

Diet Culture

 

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Ultra Nourishing Mushroom Toast

Mushroom Toast

Put anything on toast and I'm a fan of it instantly. Years ago I worked at this restaurant that had the most incredible toast. It was very VERY far from anything nourishing packed with heavy cream, mound of melted cheese and no veggies other then caramelized onions, but delicious none the less. 

I decided to create my own version of mushroom toast packed with generous amounts of nourishment and the ability to be vegan modified. It's works great as an extremely filling lunch or weekend snack. 

Ingredients:

Coconut Aminos

Cracked Black Pepper

Coconut Creamer

Red Peppers

Spinach

Mushrooms of Choice

Freshly Grated Parmesan (leave out for vegan option)

Multigrain Sourdough (or bread of choice)

Preperation:

Place a few dashes of coconut aminos and chopped red pepper into non-stick pan. Cook on medium-high heat for 10 minutes.

Add chopped mushrooms to pan and cook for 5 minutes. 

Combine cracked black pepper, one tablespoon of freshly grated Parmesan, and a splash of coconut creamer to your mushroom and red peppers. Cook for 5 minutes. Stir often.

Throw a handful of spinach onto your toast of choice and add you cooked mushrooms and peppers. 

Top with Everything But the Bagel seasoning seasoning. Enjoy!

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Be Your Own Life Coach With These 21 Questions

Too many of us are getting caught up in the cycle of self-care on our journey to self-improvement. Self-care is absolutely needed but, bubble baths and face masks will only get you so far. You need a coach and who better for the job than you

When you're living inside your own mind it's hard to acknowledge potential areas of growth. Some of us know exactly what we want. Some of us don't have a freaking clue. Then, there's the group that thinks they know exactly what they want-- only to find out they were completely wrong (guilty). 

A life coach is like a personal trainer that kicks your ass into gear for the sake of achieving personal and professional success. A good life coach can help you resurface happiness, find your purpose, and create a more fulfilling life. They do this by creating space for you to look past your limiting beliefs and asking profound questions that we rarely ever think to ask ourselves. 

I didn't become a wellness coach to make a career. I did it so I could become my own coach. I wanted to put my life in my own hands once and for all. It might be hard initially to get out of your own head and into another perception of yourself, but once you do you'll be a better coach for yourself than anyone else could ever be. There are some truly fantastic coaches out there, but you don't have to spend a small fortune on a coach to get life changing results. 

Just because someone spends money on a personal trainer it doesn't mean they are healthier or more successful than someone who goes it alone. Being your own coach is a lot like working out solo. As long as your approaching it with respect, dedication and a great amount of truth your chances of success are just as likely as the person spending money for a coach. 

The Process

I'm not going to tell you that the process to coaching yourself is easy, but it is completely doable. None of these questions are going to create lasting change in your life without one thing-- being brutally honest with yourself. You have to be truthful for any of these to work. It's hard to accept our truths sometimes and looking at ourselves for who we-- not who we think we are. 

I recommend setting aside time each day to journal or meditate on the questions below. Doing this practice first thing in the morning will generally give you the most honest answers since your ego hasn't had time to completely wake up. If you do this practice mid-day or in the evening you've had a lot of time for your inner dialogue to poison the truth. View this time with yourself as sacred. You owe it to yourself to hold space for a more fulfilling life.

Don’t rush through the questions. Instead really meditate on one a day. At the end of the week go back to what you've answered and hold yourself accountable for the goals you've made. Have you held up your end of the bargain for these goals or forgotten to follow through? Don’t be abusive to yourself if you haven’t followed through. It's important to be honest, but gentle and optimistic at the same time.

Be Your Own Coach

  1. What brings you joy?
  2. Are you living your life to the fullest right now?
  3. What would you do if money were no option?
  4. What is your definition of success?
  5. If you had one year left to live what would you do?
  6. If you stopped caring about the opinions of others what would you do? What would you change?
  7. What habits do you want to incorporate into your life?
  8. When are you most inspired?
  9. How hard are you willing to work for what you want?
  10. What has worked for you in the past? What hasn't worked for you?
  11. How will you know when you've achieved your goal?
  12. Imagine a friend is telling you about their goals. What advice would you give them? In what ways would you encourage them?
  13. Reflect on a time when you felt most fulfilled in life. What was happening?
  14. What do you need most right now?
  15. On a scale of 1-10 where would you rate yourself in regards to achieving your goal?
  16. What is one thing you can do today to bring you closer to your goal?
  17. What are your options?
  18. What can you do to overcome in the way of achieving your goal?
  19. What are you grateful for right now?
  20. How did my past shape who I am today?
  21. What can I do to simplify my life?

Really sit with the answers to these questions. You deserve to hold space for yourself. If you approach coaching half-hearted you're only going to hurt yourself. It's not an easy process, but I have one last question for you. If your last breath was today would you consider your life a fulfilling experience?

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5 Mindfulness Practices That Aren't Meditation

If you came here to learn some sexy new things you can post photos of yourself doing on Instagram or some ground-breaking new age techniques you’re in the wrong place. There’s nothing sexy about what I’m going to say and I wouldn’t classify these practices as new age by a long shot. The truth is you’re already doing all of these things everyday. It’s not the doing that counts —  it’s how you do them and how one very small mindset tweak can rewire your entire life. 

I’ve had a pretty solid meditation practice for the last five years and while it has absolutely changed my life, it’s not what makes up the bulk of my mindfulness practice. When I first started to meditate I had no idea what mindfulness was. I honestly didn’t know much about meditation, but I was desperate to silence a my life-long relationship with anxiety. Little did I know the path to mindfulness was far from merely sitting in silence with my legs crossed.

If you’ve wanted to develop a mindfulness practice but meditation just isn’t your jam, all hope is not lost. I guarantee you are already doing every single one of these things in your life —  just in a mindless manner. Mindfulness isn’t only about being in the moment; it’s knowing you’re in the moment. It’s devoting full attention to what you’re doing right now. You’re not planning next week’s dinner or thinking about that awkward interaction you had earlier at the gas station because you suck at small-talk. You are here doing your thing in this very moment with laser focus. Alright, so what is the magical key to bring mindfulness into these five things you’re already doing? Mantras. No really, it’s just like repeating mantras in meditation to keep you in the moment — but instead of mantras you’re telling yourself what you’re doing in this moment. Eventually you won’t need to repeat to yourself what you’re doing because your mind will learn to stop wondering. Of course, it will wonder during times of stress. That’s just what minds do, but for the most part you will rewire your brain to live in the moment. So behold —  the five extremely average/ kind of boring things that can change you’re life and rewire your brain with a single mindset trick.

The Practice of Conversation

Globally, the art of conversation is dying. If you live in America, like myself, you might often question whether it’s already dead and gone. We are too distracted, too self absorbed and too stressed out to hold a nourishing conversation. Stop! It’s time to relearn and practice the art of conversation. Put your phone down. Turn the TV off. I get it, I hate small talk (remember the gas station interaction earlier) but conversation is different. It’s finding someone you connect with and stepping into their mind and inviting them into yours. It’s what disconnects us from being separate human beings, to what makes us a collective soul. Look around and notice how many people are staring at their phones while talking instead of cherishing the connection of humanity right in front of them. Conversation is sexy and not in any romantic or physical sense, but in the way that someone is inviting you into their life. A mindful conversation is looking someone in the soul and using your words as a form of gratitude for the connection they’ve allowed you to make in this life. 

 

The Practice of Cleaning

Let’s just go ahead and get this one over with. Remember, I warned you that there was nothing exciting about these practices. While battling manic depression and anxiety years ago I realized one of the only things that would help calm my mind was cleaning. Let me just state for the record that I was never a tidy or organized person so this was a shock to me (and everyone else). It took me a long time to make the correlation between the two but apparently it’s a well known mindfulness practice. Buddhist monks clean their monasteries as a daily mindfulness practice. They believed that cleaning ones exterior space clears the interior spaces of the mind. This explains why cleaning was so therapeutic when I was struggling mentally. It’s easy for our minds to wander while cleaning so this is where your mantra will come into play. When wiping a counter tell yourself I am spraying the counter, I am wiping the counter. Yes, it sounds boring but cleaning is already boring so why not make it therapeutic?

 

The Practice of Movement

Not to be confused with exercise. Next time you go for a walk leave your phone at home. Nobody wants to see the photos you post of those trees or your sweaty body. Those photos only get likes because other people are mindlessly scrolling to escape the moment. When was the last time you sat on a bench mid walk without pulling out your phone? Feel the burn of the hot July sun on your skin, look a stranger in the eyes and smile as you pass. Turn off your TV and dance to some music even if it’s all by yourself. Feel the freedom of movement even if it’s spastic. Notice the feeling of your body shifting through the energy of life with every movement. Touch a branch of leaves as you pass them, literally stop and smell the roses. When we stop and notice the little things along the way while moving through life the world begins to actually be magical. The magic is already here — maybe you’re just in the realm of the past or the portal of the future and haven’t noticed yet.

 

The Practice of Food

This one not only clears your mind, but can also create a healthier lifestyle for you in general. There are two facets to the practice of food — preparation and nourishment. Incorporating a whole foods based diet into your life will make it easier to practice mindfulness during food preparation. When you are cutting fresh vegetables and making your own sauces you have to be in the moment. Stay present with every cut of the knife and stir of the spoon. Sink-in to every shake of seasoning. Your food might even turn out better than usual.

Mindfulness while nourishing the body will ensure you’re not over indulging in a meal. This is also where the practice of conversation should come into play. Again, turn your TV off and put your phone away for your meal. Turn on some music to complement your meal and act as a conversation starter. Pay attention to every bite. Give gratitude not only for each nourishing morsel, but for the moment you’re experiencing with someone else. If you’re alone give gratitude for the moment you’re experiencing with the music. 

 

The Practice of Breath

Your breath is the key to placing you in the moment. Generally we go about our day paying little attention to the natural gift of breath, but it actually has the ability to turn any and every moment of life into a mindful experience. Taking a deep breath is the very act of knowing you are here — telling yourself to take a deep breath is the very act of telling yourself to live. When you’re trying to stay mindful in any activity but the hamster has climbed inside your mind’s wheel, tell yourself to take a deep breath. Feel every molecule of that air pulsing through your body to electrically give you life before she leaves your body taking toxicity of all forms with her. 

 

Mindfulness is the key to many things — health, gratitude, quality of life, and experiencing a little magic. Many people get caught up in mixing mindfulness with meditation. If this is what’s stopping you from living mindfully I’m hear to tell you it’s way bigger than meditating. Getting out of the past and escaping the premature future has been the number one thing that finally gave me the freedom was I so desperately seeking in life. Yes it’s ridiculously cliche, but all you really have is right now. 

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