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


		

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.

One month. No exercise. Here’s what happened

Helloooo everyone,

As some of you might know, recently I decided to take a break from the gym. While to some this might not seem like a big deal and maybe even relieving not to HAVE to workout everyday, it was a much different experience for me. I couldn’t tell you the last time I took a B R E A K. Actually, I can it was when I was obsessively working out, not eating enough and needed to stop before my health went plummeting downhill. I’ll save that story for another time. This time was different, this time was because I simply wanted to experience ME. Not the me that depends on the gym everyday, not the me on a high from working out every morning. Simply me, in all my endorphin-less glory. 

So here’s the story- I started feeling super stressed with school and pressed for time to workout everyday. I took a few days off and decided maybe I’ll keep this up for a while, you know stay up a little later (studying, hanging out with friends, reading) and sleep in (meaning 8am HA). The first week was fun really, I didn’t have to wake up and meet my demanding daily 7am appointment. But then something interesting started to happen, I stopped focusing as much on my body and more on the way I felt. I ate when I was hungry and admittedly, I let myself eat “non-clean” food every once in a while. AKA PIZZA. And to be honest it felt great. I truly felt that I was tuning into my true self and not this person constantly masked by the effects of working out (good and bad). I believe there are positives and negatives to just about everything, working out included. As great as it is for the mind, body, metabolism, heart, etc. there IS a point of diminishing return. Meaning the constant pushing, mental and physical stress is doing more harm than good. While I have not been to this extreme in a few years, a break was fully warranted and FULLY beneficial. 

Fast forward a few weeks and everything began to go downhill. A little back story: when I was in middle school (and a litttttle bit in high school) I used to have SEVERE anxiety in classrooms, only at that time I had no idea what anxiety was. I would be in class and when the teacher closed the door I would feel trapped. I would get myself so worked up to the point where I thought I was going to be sick. I remember having to calm myself down and continually reassure myself that I was fine, and everything was fine. The class would be over before I knew it and I would be able to bask in the fresh air of a crowded middle school hallway (not as appealing now if you ask me). Anyway…the point of this is I haven’t had that feeling in YEARS and honestly I completely forgot about those minor panic attacks until recently. Recently because it happened again. About two weeks ago I was sitting in class, I had gotten up that morning walked to Starbucks and studied for a few hours instead of going to the gym. It must have been a combination of the unmatched strength of Starbuck’s caffeine and a lack of my daily endorphin release that sent me over the edge, but it was happening. I felt a lump in my throat, sweaty palms and a sudden feeling of sickness. I couldn’t stop my thoughts. Over and over I kept thinking what is wrong with me? Why do I feel this way? I’m going to be sick. I couldn’t stop the shaking, discomfort and 100000mph thoughts racing through my head. After a mental battle with myself I got the courage to get up. I walked out of the classroom straight to the bathroom where I looked at myself, took a few deep breaths and told myself I WOULD be fine. Needless to say I didn’t learn much in class that day. What’s even worse? It started happening more. Not just in that class but in all my classes. I was constantly having to leave the room, go to the bathroom and give myself a pep talk to make it through a 50 minute lecture. What was wrong with me? As time went on I noticed various changes in my thought process, the way I felt and most apparent, my attention span. 

After worsening anxiety and some contemplation I decided I needed to get back to the gym. What had changed since now and middle school? Well a lot, but one thing I know for sure is my healthy habits, particularly working out. Just a few days after being back in the gym I noticed a change in my attention span. I was able to concentrate for longer periods of time and I didn’t find myself daydreaming as frequently. Most importantly my mood shifted. I was reminded of the empowering endorphin rush I get just after a workout and how beneficial it is for my mental well-being. Not only that but WOW it feels good to sweat. My body was giving me signs that I needed to be back in the gym. I was craving that rush and quite frankly could use some release to tackle my anxiety. While a break was just what I needed at the time, it had run its course and  served its use. Moral of the story- workout addiction is real. It is a problem and there CAN be too much of a good thing. Taking a break has allowed me to come back with a fresh start, a new outlook and new goals to work towards. It has taught me that there are aspects of my workout routine I need to focus on and improve. One of the most important things I have learned is the importance of a break. Taking more days off than anticipated is okay. Staying up late one night to hangout with the people you love is okay. Eating that piece of pizza and having that extra piece of chocolate is okay. If the mind isn’t healthy there is no use in focusing on the body. Working out provides me with confidence, ease, and release. It gives me something to work for and something to indulge in other than studying. The benifits of exercise are immense, any research article will tell you that. But a little time off is important too. Know your body, listen to the signs and honor yourself with whatever your needs of the day might be. 

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”