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.

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. 

Do You KNOW Yourself?

When was the last time you let yourself truly relax? No, I don’t mean sit in front of the TV with a bowl of popcorn, binge on Netflix for a day, or lay around the pool for an afternoon. I’m talking about TRUE relaxation, nothingness, complete silence. Have you ever let yourself do that? Just….be. In this day and age most of us haven’t. We’re constantly surrounded by the hustle and bustle of everyday life, living in big cities, surrounded by people all day long, looking for the next big thing to do. Not to mention the biggest player of them all, SOCIAL MEDIA. Even when we do allow ourselves to be alone, are we ever really truly alone? With the advent of social media, not really.

As I have recently taken up a more serious practice of meditation, I have come to realize the benefits of silence, being in the present moment, and simply being. Not worrying about the next thing on my list, not thinking about what everyone around me is doing, and not spending countless hours looking at OTHER people’s lives on instagram/facebook etc. Don’t get me wrong, to-do lists are important, and an active, working lifestyle is a healthy part of life, but from time to time we all need a break. Allowing ourselves to take this time for silence builds stronger character, patience, and a mindful demeanor. It allows us to approach those busy and stressful situations differently. It allows us to become familiar with ourselves, our thoughts, our values and morals. There is something to be said for pure nothingness. We are often so hyper-focused on everything around us and the sensory stimuli overwhelming our lives that we forget to look inward, contemplate our own lives and enjoy time spent with ourselves. What do your thoughts sound like when you’re alone? Do you look at the glass as half full or half empty? Do you talk to yourself in an uplifting, confident way or do you talk down on yourself and belittle your unique beauty? In many cases we are unsure of these answers, we do not allow ourselves enough time spent in silence to become aware of our conscious and subconscious thoughts. Introspection is a gift, you are your own person, unique, beautifully made, and not a carbon copy ANYONE else. I believe the overwhelming stimulation that has been thrusted upon our lives has damaged our sense of independent human beings. We see these images and videos of other people and in turn we try so hard to look like them, be as successful as them, and in extreme cases-to be “them.” Why? Why do we want so badly to mirror the image of another? Why do we want to spend our lives engulfed in the DRAMA of someone else’s life? What would it look like if we spent time with ourselves, connecting to our thoughts and bettering ourselves through quiet introspection.

I’m not saying it’s easy, my own troubles with this sparked me to write this post. At times when I sit down to have time to myself my heart starts racing, my mind wondering. I feel as though this is not right, I shouldn’t be sitting alone in silence. I have a to-do list, I need to be active, I don’t have time. But once I adjust and feel comfortable with myself in the present moment I am able to reach a higher state of consciousness, turning inward and watching my thoughts as they spiral through my mind. Reaching a higher level of consciousness allows for awareness of thoughts, and eventually the ability to cultivate control over the way you think. Introspection is important and for many it is a lost (or never present) art. It doesn’t have to be a guru-yogi experience. It can be as simple as setting your phone down 30 minutes before bed and not touching it for 30 minutes after waking up in the morning, or as extreme as spending a weekend alone, out of the city with no technology or distractions. Do what works for YOU, and maintain a conscious awareness of the types of thoughts and self talk you are feeding yourself.

 

 

STRESS: THE NUMBER 1 KILLER

As a college student I feel as if my whole life is spent worrying and obsessing over my future, particularly my career. That is the point of obtaining a university education, right? I am constantly contemplating where I want to be in my career as I get older, what I need to do to get there and most importantly, what exactly I WANT to do. In all honesty, this chronic reflection and pondering drives me crazy. I will humbly admit, I am extremely dedicated to my future and the aspirations I have for my life, however I do believe there is a bit of an unhealthy cloud of anxiety following me around. I feel as if my whole life depends on my future, if I am not successful everything in my life will fall to pieces. I believe the competitive nature of modern education has implanted these thoughts in my head and left me with a permanent feeling of angst and unease.

My ultimate goal in life is to overwhelmingly depict the powerful benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. I want to shed positive light on everything and anything there is to learn about health, from the food you put into your mouth, to the products you use on your body and the atmosphere of your home. Health encompasses more than just exercise and food. Every single second of our lives has the power to be healthy or unhealthy, and is something I could spend hours, days, even weeks discussing. As I spend a copious amount of time with my head buried in books, and just about every single day stressing over achieving my goals, I lose some of the healthy qualities I so often promote. Constant stress, and anxiety is detrimental to the mind and the body (a very powerful connection) and the costs are monumental. Stress is becoming the number one cause of health problems and has yet to be addressed in conventional medicine. So what? What do we do, just let ourselves become immersed in this whirlwind of stress and say “Oh well, it’ll be worth it, I’ll be successful one day!” NO! We must take control of our health, prioritize cognitive balance, mindfulness, and a healthy mentality. I truly believe everyday is a choice, you can choose to make time for yourself, you can choose to wake up on the “right side of the bed,” and you can CHOOSE to have a healthy lifestyle in the midst of the stress and constant pressure society engulfs us in.

De-stressing looks different for everyone, there is no “ONE SIZE FITS ALL.” Experiment with different approaches-exercise, meditation, reading, cooking, spending time with loved ones, whatever makes you feel you and devoid of the stressors of everyday life. As is the case with everything in life, the first step is to acknowledge the problem, and then make a conscious decision to take action and make changes. When incorporating these habits note that everything takes time and the mind is a powerful tool. While you might not feel the benefits immediately, change IS taking place on both a conscious and subconscious level. Sometimes it takes a few days, sometimes weeks, or even months. Be patient with yourself and mindful of your choices and your thoughts.

“It is not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it”