A Natural Approach to SAD

Once you experience something like anxiety or depression it never really goes away. I mean sure, the feelings fade and you feel better, “normal” again. But those feelings of helplessness and complete loss of interest in life tend to leave a mark on you forever. And unfortunately for many, the feelings often come and go. 

Seasonal affective disorder, SAD, is a very real and prevalent issue. Many people have no idea they have it, let alone how to deal with it. For as long as I can remember I’ve felt a little dull, unmotivated, and simply down during the long winter months. Something about the shorter days, lack of warmth, and increased workload makes staying in bed all day seem like a much better option than facing the world. 

 I never really had any idea what it meant and simply chalked it up to, “winter is just depressing.”  

Now, a few years later and after a lot of reading & research, I realize this is a very REAL and valid phenomenon. Many people experience some degree of “winter blues” and for some it can be extremely debilitating. 

Luckily, this year I’m able to spend a full month away from the cold and dark days of St. Louis. And interestingly enough, it has completely removed allllll of these feelings. It probably has something to do with significantly reduced stress in addition to a LOT more sunshine and a low of 70 degrees.     

Through trial and error I’ve attempted to reduce my symptoms as naturally as possible. Not that I don’t believe in conventional medication (I’ve tried that too), but I believe there is often an underlying problem or deficiency that should be addressed directly. Our bodies are constantly working to maintain homeostasis, when we feel off, be it mentally or physically it’s often a sign that something IN is us off.  

If you’re noticing changes in your mind and body as the days get shorter and your workload gets heavier, know that these feelings are normal, valid and it absolutely does not make you crazy, different, or abnormal in any way. 

I’m (obvi) not a doctor or healthcare professional and cannot give medical advice but here are some of the things that have worked for ME:

Vitamin D: This has probably been the biggest game-changer for me. About two years ago I started taking 1000-2000IU a day especially before the winter months it and I have noticed a huge change in my energy levels, and happiness throughout the day. Many people are deficient in Vitamin D (especially if you have darker skin) and without the daily dose of sun in the winter it can be hard to maintain healthy levels. 

 Vitamin B Complex: I’ve been taking a vitamin B complex supplement for about a year now and it is the ONLY supplement I have noticed to markedly improve my stress levels. I actually notice a difference on the days I take it vs. when I don’t. This vitamin is especially important for me because I don’t eat a lot of meat so I am not getting it from my diet as most people are. 

SUNLIGHT: Sometimes 10 minutes of sunlight is all it takes to brighten your mood. I notice a big difference when I get sun exposure during the day vs. when I don’t.  I’ve never tried one, but I hear light therapy lights are extremely effective!

EXERCISE: Endorphins are real!! I feel 1000x better after a workout. In the winter it’s like a cloud has been lifted off my head & I feel new, rejuvenated and ready for the day.  

Nourish properly: sooo many foods have an influence on mood. Everything from a lack of healthy fat to unbalanced blood sugar can influence how we feel. When I’m not properly fueling my body (especially in the winter) I’m not myself and my demeanor absolutely suffers. 


SLEEP: 7-8 hours of sleep each night is life changing, in every way. It’s especially helpful to maintain a regular sleep schedule. Part of the reason our bodies experience mood changes in the winter is due to the change in our circadian rhythm. I notice I feel significantly more motivated and optimistic when I go to bed and wake up with the sun.



Can Alcohol be Part of a Healthy Lifestyle?

Can alcohol be part of a healthy lifestyle? 

I’ve struggled with this question for a long time, and have bounced back and forth between complete restriction and mindless indulgence. I used to think that living a healthy lifestyle encompassed zero carbs, perfectly planned meals, and a strict bedtime of 9pm. The more I learn and experience, the more I realize that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Restriction of any form leads to burnout, frustration and almost always overindulgence. When we restrict ourselves from anything, be it that slice of pizza, a late night, or a missed workout most of us go overboard when we finally DO spoil ourselves with that forbidden thing. That’s not to say that everyone craves alcohol. If it’s not part of YOUR version of health then don’t drink, and that’s ok. But if you’re restricting yourself because you don’t want to miss that 7am workout or you’re scared it’ll expand your waistband then you’re likely depriving yourself of a potential slice of joy in life. When consumed in moderation, alcohol actually does offer health benefits. Some of the healthiest and longest lived communities in the world consume alcohol on a regular basis. 

I’ve missed lots of workouts, stayed up until 4am a few too many times, and oftentimes choose pizza over salad after a night of drinking. I’ve lived to tell about it, and am actually a much happier human because of it. 

You’re not going to look back and remember how many carbs you consumed in a day, or how “bloated” you looked in your outfit that one night. But you will remember the excitement you felt getting ready on a Saturday night, how AMAZING pizza tastes at 2am, and the pure joy of making lifelong memories with your best friends.

Some tips for drinking healthfully:        

  1. Be MINDFUL of what you’re drinking. Not all alcohol is created equal and some drinks will leave you feeling worse the next day than others. A drink full of sugar, syrups and additives, for example will probably contribute to a worse hangover than if you were to drink a few vodka waters.
  2. Hydrate effectively!!!! This is probably the most important tip when it comes to drinking and staying healthy. Being dehydrated at any point in time doesn’t feel good, and when you add alcohol to the mix it’s even worse. Drink a few glasses of water before you go to bed and another one first thing in the morning.
  3. Take advantage of supplements. I am not a huge proponent of taking a multitude of supplements on a daily basis but they can be extremely useful at the right times. After a night of drinking your body will thank you if you replenish lost nutrients. Liquid IV, Oops I did it again, and GEM daily essentials are a few with extremely good reviews. 
  4. REST. Sometimes it’s better to hit the sheets instead of the gym the day after a long night out. This is extremely individual and depends on the person but oftentimes a nap helps tremendously, sleep is one of the absolute best things we can do for our bodies. 
  5. Sweat it out. If you’re feeling up to it go for a run, take a hot yoga class, or sit in the sauna for a while. Sweating always feels SO good and helps to cleanse the body of toxins and boost endorphins. 

Always always always prioritize your body and it’s unique needs. 

Cheers! 

Xx 

Why I Dropped Everything and Left the Country for a Month

If someone told me a year or even six months ago that I would soon leave everything I know and move to a foreign country for a month, I would have laughed in their face and then probably worried about it for MONTHS. It’s 1000% uncharacteristic of me and SO does not fit with my perfectly planned days/weeks/life.

To make a very long story very short- I’m in my gap year between undergrad and graduate school and it’s a very weird adjustment for me. Nobody warns you about the reality that hits when you graduate college. You know the “holy sh*t I’m finally in the real world, what am I going to do with my life” reality. To be fair, I guess I’ve been warned, but experiencing it first-hand is far worse. Working a 9 to 5 job, going through the motions and following the straight and narrow path doesn’t sit well with me, it never has. Maybe that makes me crazy, and maybe I’ll miserably fail, but I will never have the chance if I don’t try to change something.

I’ve always experienced this weird dichotomy between loving routine and comfort, and not wanting to live a normal, mundane life. And as the story goes, I’ve always chosen comfort over change. As a result, I’ve felt very stuck. Stuck in my daily routine, eating the same foods at the same time, doing the same workouts in the same cycle, attending the same social events on weekends. No matter how hard I try to break the cycle, I always come back to it. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, I eat very healthy and It’s important to have a regular exercise routine and some structure in your life. However, there is some truth in the quote “if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” Since I’ve wanted change and growth in my life and haven’t been able to break out of old habits at home I’m hoping that removing myself from everything that is my “normal” for a month will help, or at least offer me some sort of new perspective.

I’ve read all the quotes about living outside your comfort zone, indulged in self-help books, meditated, manifested, prayed. And although these methods have all been very helpful and an important part of the journey, at the end of the day the only person who can change you is YOU and it has to be on your own time. Not that this decision will radically change who I am, but it is a step. A step towards getting comfortable with the uncomfortable and hopefully a step towards a better version of me. If I keep doing what I’m doing I’ll keep getting the same results, and the last thing I want to feel is stuck. So yes, it is very unlike me to up and leave my life, and yes it might be a little crazy but I think it’s a good step for me for now and I’m hoping to learn a few things along the way.

xx


		

Confidence, Comparison and Community

Three seemingly unrelated concepts yet unrecognizably intertwined. First let’s talk confidence. As a 22 year old girl I would be lying if I said It’s not something I have struggled with, continue to struggle with and will likely have to battle the remainder of my time here on earth. In high school (wow, that was another lifetime) I would say confidence was the largest mental battle I fought on a daily basis. I had this weird feeling that everyone was always watching me, judging my every move and just waiting for me to do something….wrong. I mean, this is pretty normal for high school girls right? Trying so hard to fit in, walk the walk, talk the talk, all the while make it appear as effortless as possible. Every time I stood up in class, answered a question, or walked across the room I was careful. All of this stemmed from insecurity of course. My self talk at the time was so negative, I would look in the mirror and pick at every little thing. I would leave a conversation and think of all the things I said wrong. I worried about my hair, makeup, clothes (way too much), voice, the way I walked, I mean just everything. I worried about my face getting too red and THEN I worried about worrying. Needless to say, the list goes on.

Flashforward four years and I’m a freshman in college. This was an interesting time and a little tricky to dissect. I came to this big state school, got involved in greek life, and boy did the comparison game consume my thoughts with a vengeance. EVERYONE, and I mean everyone was gorgeous, skinny, personable, smart just the whole package (or at least I thought). And as a result I held myself to these standards (because I guess I didn’t think I possessed these qualities…mistake #1). This is a story for another time, but I started changing little things about myself try to meet the standards I felt I had to live up to. I stopped eating carbs, sugar, and anything “bad.” I studied for 9+ hours a day, worked out for AT LEAST two hours every morning and partied on the weekends. That’s what college is about, right? Ehhhh, not so much. This image-seeking lifestyle left as quickly as it came. I soon realized the amazing opportunities standing right in front of me. I’m on my own (relatively speaking), living away from home with all the freedom I could ask for, at a major institution with knowledge and new information pouring out of every classroom, and in a town with 30,000 other people my age. This is the last place I should be worried about my ~image~ because I can LITERALLY be anything I want.

So….that’s what I’ve done. I started a blog, created a lifestyle/fitness/food instagram, dove into studying with enthusiasm, started saying yes to things I want to do and no to things I don’t, and for the first time in my life started speaking my mind. I think it takes a “click.” A switch in your head that goes off and says “you are wonderfully and beautifully made, you ARE enough, and you can be whoever or whatever you want.” I’m entitled to my beliefs, my values and my own personal interests. That might not look the same as the majority of people my age, and that’s okay with me.

I don’t enjoy going out all weekend every weekend, I don’t have an interest in partying in Vegas, or drinking on the beach. I enjoy learning, spending my mornings at the gym, and my evenings cooking with a glass of wine, feeling accomplished after a long day. I’m not saying my way is “right,” I’m just saying it’s ME. The second you say yes to something because everyone’s doing it or miss out on an opportunity because it’s not “cool” you’re compromising your self-value and YOUR identity. That might not make some people happy, and you know what? That’s fine, I’ve genuinely accepted the fact that not everyone has to like me. I rather be MYSELF than conform and tirelessly try to go with “the flow.” It’s not about being loved by everyone, it’s not about being perfect, it’s about being YOU.

So where do I stand now? Well, that’s where comparison and community come in. I think I’ve about conquered the battle on confidence (a never ending process I will admit, but I have made monumental steps) however I still find myself playing the comparison game a little too often. I’m in an extremely competitive major in which your worst enemy is your neighbor, I’m on a social media platform in which it feels as though everyone is trying to one-up each other and be the next biggest influencer, and I spend an hour in a gym every morning filled with 100 fit 20-25 year old girls. Bottom line: there’s a devil on my shoulder everyday screaming “COMPARE YOURSELF!” It’s not easy, and as I’ve said it’s something I struggle with but am taking steps to eliminate (or at least control). A lack of comparison comes with confidence, in a sense but sometimes it’s subtle and you don’t even realize you’re doing it. We take in a plethora of sensory stimuli everyday and as humans we mirror the images of others. If we see someone or something we admire we (consciously or not) change our actions to fit theirs. Sometimes this can be good, for instance maybe in the case of studying, but other times it can be draining and damaging to who YOU are. An attitude of acceptance and self-love comes into play here. As I find myself comparing I try to change my thoughts, focus on what I do have and remind myself of the acceptance and love I have for myself. Two things I’ve found to help in my quest for self-love- dancing and looking at myself in the mirror and physically saying “I love you.” Weird, I know but try it and eventually you actually start to internalize it.

Community is vital to…well life. Who do you surround yourself with? Do they lift you up, tell you how much you’re worth, and put your insecurities to rest? Do they challenge you to be better and reassure you when you feel down? Filling your life with meaningful relationships is one of the best things you can do for your mental health (and confidence). If you don’t feel supported, uplifted and worthy in your relationships it’s time to make a change. Building this community for myself has been vital in navigating this chapter of my life. Freshman year, I tried to fill voids. I hung out with people I thought were “cool” and “attractive.” I didn’t look for friends who supported me or even really cared about me, it was about the image. This is so wrong, and so unfulfilling. I have majorly shrunk my circle but I am 100000x happier. Quality not quantity. My relationships are intimate, and deep. They are built on trust, compassion and TRUE care (unfortunately that’s not always easy to find these days). The way people treat you, show you affection, and communicate with you has a major bearing on your self-worth whether you recognize it or not. Choose wisely.

Living in this age of instant gratification, constant connection, and an abundance of technology is not easy to say the least. We can sit here and dream of simpler times, and wish it wasn’t this complicated or we can make changes. We can change our thoughts, change the way we react to unrealistic image expectations, and take this life as an opportunity to grow into our best selves, with the best people by our sides.

Take the High Road

Take the high road. My stomach is churning, my hands are shaking, I want to shout at the top of my lungs in a raging fit. But I will take the high road. You’ve angered me, displeased me, infuriated me. You’ve hurt me, but I will take the high road. I will not succumb to this, this destructive, heinous, conniving way of thinking and living. I feel the rage, the fury, I feel it in full force as if fire-filled blood is rushing through my veins. It’s not fair, it’s not gratifying, it’s not positive or happy and at the moment it doesn’t even feel bearable. But it’s life. This is what we must go through, this is what God has in store for us as we tread through this wearisome life on earth. This is a test, a test of our faith, a test of our character, values and righteousness. Will we succumb to these feelings, these injustices lashed upon us? We say all the right things; “think positive thoughts,” “let the feelings pass,” “spread love, positivity, and cheer,” “be the bigger person.” But in the moment it is SO hard. It feels as though no ounce of my emotion is in my favor. It’s easy. It’s easy to fight back, to yell at the top of my lungs, to dig deeper until I feel that I have conquered. But while easy it is not right. It’s not right to fight back, it’s not right to get the last word, or any combative word for that matter. This is the time, this is when I must use what God has taught me, what I have been practicing, and what I preach to others. This is the time to face the fire head on and fight it with the light, my light, God’s light. So no, I will not fight back. I will not let the burning heat of rage and fury expose itself, and one day I will not let allow this grotesque anger a space in my heart in the first place. But for now, I will learn to cope, I will learn to lead with love, and compassion. I will be the bigger person, not for the gratification of being the bigger person but for the gratification of God, for it is he who is the real judge. I will love until there is nothing left to love, and I will give until I have nothing left to give. I will look you in the eyes and smile, showering you in my thoughtful compassion. Because you deserve it. You deserve to be loved, you deserve to feel important, you deserve my empathy. We all do, no matter how wrong, how nefarious, or atrabilious you are, you deserve respect. So it is respect I will give, and love I will show. I wish the world would be a better place, I wish there were no anger, no combative thoughts, no jealousy. But who am I to wish these discrepancies away? I do not have the power to do so, however, I do have power. I have the power to make my corner of the world a better place, to surround those who wrong me with my utmost respect and patience. To change the tone, change the vibe, and cultivate a space of kindness. I give you my love, I give you my blessing and I hope that one day you can feel the burden lifted off your shoulders, and peace that I have felt in coming to terms with letting go of this anger.

Social Media, For Better or For Worse

Sometimes I get stressed, I lash out at people I love, I talk down on myself, I compare. Sometimes I’m on top of the world, everything is going right, I’m positive and happy 24/7. Sometimes I don’t say what I really think because I’m afraid of what people might think. A lot of times I do things I don’t want to just to please other people. Contrary to many people on this platform, I’m NOT a liberal, NOT a feminist. I believe in working hard, I know I can achieve what I want and I don’t need to protest for that and that’s just what I believe, if you don’t agree that’s fine. That doesn’t mean we don’t have similar interests, hobbies, and viewpoints. And who’s to say that won’t change? I’m a college student, I haven’t lived through enough responsibility to have formulated a real political opinion. I love yoga. I meditate when I can. I need to workout everyday to feel sane. Sometimes I workout too long and study too much. I believe in God. This is who I am, I won’t apologize for that and I don’t believe it’s something I should hide.  Recently I’ve taken a break from social media. I haven’t felt myself, the seasonal depression is kicking in, the anxiety is high. I’ve been thinking a lot about who I want to be and who I want around me. I don’t want this platform to be somewhere I just “show off” my life. I want it to be somewhere I am unapologetically myself. If you don’t agree with my opinions, that’s fine. But we can still be friends. We can agree to disagree and learn from each other. I don’t want to use social media  for followers or to please anyone else. And in all honesty, I don’t want to put off an image of being someone I’m not. Social media is not my job, it’s not where I get my confidence. Sometimes I post everyday, sometimes I go months without it because it’s too much and I have to step away. I can’t promise I’ll only post pictures of food, or yoga, or fitness. Sometimes I go into overly-analyzed deep and thoughtful rants. It’s a work in progress, I’m a work in progress. I’m learning to use social media as a space, a place where I can share my journey, connect with like-minded people, learn and grow from others and share my ideas. I am learning to navigate this form of interaction and find that perfect balance between productivity and enjoyment. Finding community is one of the most important things in life, community lifts us up, gives us a safe place and contributes a great deal to overall wellness. I believe social media can be an amazing means of connecting and finding this community if used in the right way. I’m not saying I have all the answers, and I’m not sure if posting all of this and sharing my journey will even pay off one day. But I believe we can learn something from everything  and if I can help even five people, or connect to a small group of like-minded individuals that make me feel part of a community, that’s enough for me. 

Resolutions.

Another year another bombardment of new years resolutions. Lose weight! Eat healthier! Exercise more! Social media less! Save money! It seems as though everywhere we look we are reminded that everyone around us has these big plans to CHANGE this year. I’ll be honest, I’ve never been one for resolutions…particularly new years resolutions. I’ve always thought of them as…how do I put it, pointless? Not to be transparently blunt but I’ve held the idea that we should always be resolving ourselves, reinventing ourselves, and working towards the best version of ME. And in all seriousness, how many people ACTUALLY stick with their big new year goals? As the story goes, January 1st rolls around, we have high aspirations, maybe even hit the gym for a month or two, and by April the resolutions are out the window. Let’s be honest, half of us don’t even remember those bright eyed and busy tailed intentions we had three months before. 

As much as I’d love to bash on this lacking tradition, this year I’m thinking a little differently. I’m giving this resolution thing a shot, but not in the whole “I’m going to come up with these impractical, overly ambitious goals and forget them in three months” type of way. I’m going to set short, practical, realistic goals and take the steps necessary to ensure that I become a healthier, happier, stronger version of myself in 2019.

Before I jump into my new and improved resolutions I want to address how exactly I plan to follow through with my goals. A few steps to success, if you will. 

Start Small

Instead of coming up with a list of majorly daunting changes, focus on small, attainable goals to slowly work towards a better version of yourself. 

Write it down

Physical documentation is SO important. Even if you never look at your list again, writing it down will help to mold your goals into your mind and make them easier to remember. 

Revisit and Revise 

This might be the most important key to carrying through with our intentions. As we change and work towards achieving our goals it is important to revisit our initial intentions and make the changes necessary to ensure that we are on the right track. We might even achieve our goals faster than we think, giving us the opportunity to add new resolutions to our list. 

Ask Why

Why are you setting the goals that you’ve chosen? Are they for YOUR benefit  or for the benefit of others? Will they make you a better person mentally, physically, and spiritually? 

Keep it Simple  

Don’t set overly ambitious goals. Know your limits, where you are and where you want to be. Try to be realistic with what you can achieve and when you can achieve it. If there are major changes you want to make start with something small and take steps towards change instead of trying to change everything at once. 

Share Share Share

For some of us, it’s hard to talk about ourselves, especially the parts of us that we believe need improvement. Find someone or a group of people with whom you can share your goals. They will help to keep you accountable and saying it out loud helps us remember our intentions. 

RELAX

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Do what you can, but accept where you are. Don’t beat yourself up if it’s not as easy as you thought, or life gets in the way. We’re only human, remember that. 

While these are all great steps towards achieving and maintaining goals, remember you don’t need a new year, a beach vacation, a wedding, or an anticipated date to renew and reinvent yourself. We should constantly be asking ourselves what can I do better? Where am I at the moment and where do I want to be? What is holding me back? Set your mind to CHANGE, commit yourself to you and remember YOU are your best investment. 

For those who are interested or need some goal setting motivation, here are my new years resolutions for 2019:

  • Relax; I’m a type A, there is no doubt about that. I am constantly going, going, going. I love to be productive and stay busy but with that sometimes comes a price. I forget to relax, or even worse, I think I don’t need to relax. This year I want to dedicate time without distractions, without busy work. Time in which I can truly reap the benefits of pure relaxation 
  • Let the small things go; I’ll be honest. I’m a girl, I get emotional, sometimes my emotions get the best of me. This year I want to work on learning when to express emotion and when to keep it to myself. 
  • Be more giving; Remember the golden rule- “treat others how you want to be treated.” I was constantly reminded of this when I was a child, but as I get older I think sometimes we forget the basics. We get so caught up in our life, our futures, our present moment, that we forget to put others before ourselves. 
  • Find community; This is my most sought after goal on my list. It’s tough being a college student who doesn’t love to party, who rather stay in and cook, exercise, and spend long hours on the yoga mat. I’ve prided myself in being independent for as long as I can remember, but I feel that it is time for me to build deeper, more meaningful relationships.  
  • Grow in my faith; I am a christian. I believe in God, I’ve accepted Jesus as my savior, and I am always working on growing and deepening this relationship. This year I want to dive into scripture, find a supportive Christian community and truly learn to lead and love through faith.
  • Stop complaining; This one doesn’t need much of an explanation. I think we all succumb to complaining a little more often than we’d like to admit. It’s everywhere, from social media posts, to the small talk with the person in front of you at the grocery store. It seems as though we are always unsatisfied. I want to be the person pointing out the positives, bringing others up. Part of the solution instead of part of the problem. 
  • Take a chance; Part of change comes with uncertainty. It can be scary to make all these changes to yourself. You might grow out of friendships, grow into new hobbies, and become someone entirely new. There are beautiful things that come with change but we will never experience the beauty if we don’t allow ourselves to step out of our comfort zone and embrace uncertantity.