Why Changing What I Eat is The Best Thing I’ve Ever Done For My Mental Health

*Disclaimer: I am not a healthcare professional and in no way am encouraging others to try any of the products/supplements I mention until they consult with their doctor.

Recently I’ve drastically changed what I’m consuming. Not to say I was eating complete garbage before…but I wasn’t eating what my body needed. I’d fill my body full of carbs when I was stressed or emotional, go hours without eating and then binge out of starvation. I ate tiny meals with little to no fat and not nearly enough protein. I didn’t eat nearly enough vegetables and loaded up on sugary fruits. I’d snack late at night on chips and chocolate and other packaged foods. Wine became a nightly ritual (more than 1 glass). And, water was simply something I showered in.

Not to mention the fact that despite taking Zoloft daily to help me manage my anxiety/depression, I didn’t take any other supplements or medications. I was wary of them, to be honest. I thought the die-hard health nuts who lived on water, supplements, and veggies were insane. I still kind of do. But, I can truly say I have never felt better than I do now.

I visited a naturopath recently who has completely inspired me to change my life from the inside out. Not only did she analyze my eating patterns, mood instability, sleep, emotions, and skin…She got an in-depth, clear view of who I am and what food meant (means) to me.

After spilling my life story to her, including my deep-dark secrets involving binge-eating foods that didn’t serve me, she provided me with a solid plan to help heal the parts of my body that were suffering.

Firstly, she informed me that my adrenal glands were exhausted and overworked which caused symptoms such as carb & sweet cravings, dizziness, poor sleep and fuzzy thinking, to mention a few. She helped me understand how sugar and caffeine (even in tiny amounts) were directly impacting my stress levels and causing my adrenal glands to overproduce cortisol (think fight or flight…all of the time). She prescribed me a supplement used to help combat daily stress using “stress adapting botanicals.”

Next, we focussed on my skin, which was dull and lacking moisture even in the Summer months. She informed me I wasn’t consuming nearly enough (healthy) fats and oils. Simple as that. Along with my habit of only drinking like 1 glass of water daily. She encouraged me to add healthy fats (such as coconut oil and avocado’s) to my meals daily and drink water almost constantly. I have already begun to see improvements in my skin such as less flaky dry skin. She also prescribed a high-grade Omega oil that I now take daily.

We also dove into my panic attacks that have worsened over the last few years (since starting College.) We discovered that my eating habits drastically changed after I started college because convenience trumped healthy and, let’s be honest, I was broke. My caffeine consumption also increased drastically when I started college. The habits I formed in college kind of just stuck with me even after I graduated and began my career.

She also outlined the dangers of eating sugar in excess when you suffer from anxiety/panic and strongly encouraged me to eat as little sugar (especially processed) as possible. She also prescribed an amazing supplement packed with L-Theanine to help combat panic when it comes on. I was super unconvinced when she prescribed it. As someone who has tried Attivan in different doses without any relief, I strongly doubted a supplement would be able to give me any relief. But, during a panic attack, I took one of the prescribed supplements and almost instantly stopped shaking and could feel my nervous system calming. I felt slightly sleepy and my thoughts stopped racing.

When we began talking about my sleep and how it has been disturbed for nearly my entire life and prescription sleep aids never provided much relief, she immediately mentioned my cortisol levels again. She prescribed magnesium which decreases the stress hormone and also helps tense muscles relax. It has provided me more relief than any prescription sleep aid ever has!

Additional supplements she prescribed me include Vitamin D drops and Vitamin B complexes.

As for my “diet” which I’ve started calling my fuel…It’s simple. I eat protein, a lot of it. I also load up on vegetables with each meal instead of carbs. I eat carbs that contain protein such as Quinoa. I consume dairy in moderation and try to buy organic meat to avoid excess hormones. I also add healthy fats to each meal. I’ve also started to incorporate a lot of nuts/nut butter and seeds into my diet.

A daily meal plan looks like:

Morning Smoothie (Supplements= Adrenal Vive, Vitamin B complex)
1 large handful spinach
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp coconut oil
A small handful of berries
1 tbsp ground flax seed
1 tbsp Chia seeds
Ice
1 scoop of protein powder. This one of my ultimate favorite!
*Bonus: 1 tbsp of acai berry powder

Snack
Grapes with walnuts

Lunch
Spinach and Kale salad topped with protein such as salmon or chicken with pumpkin seeds, avocado and any other veggies you like.

Snack
Coconut yogurt topped with a few berries, hemp seeds and a drizzle of agave.

Dinner (Supplement: Vitamin D drops, Omega oil)
Cabbage, onion, garlic and rapini skillet with organic sausage.

Bedtime Snack (Supplements: Magnesium)
Anything I desire as long as it doesn’t have a lot of sugar.

So, in short, I now eat a bunch of vegetables, little sugar, little caffeine, lots of healthy fat and protein and lots of water!

I hope this helps anyone who’s considering visiting a naturopath. I can’t recommend it more!

Additional Readings:

How to Tell If Your Adrenals Are Fatigued (Plus 7 Ways To Support Them)-This website is gold!

What Are The Causes Of Adrenal Fatigue?

11 Steps To Rebuild Your Relationship With Food

Happy Healing Everyone. Hug your body it may not be perfect, but it’s the only one you’ve got.  xo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Top 3 Natural Remedies for Anxiety

I’ve experienced and struggled with anxiety since I was a child. Through lots of research and trial and error, I’ve found strategies and remedies for managing it.

*Note: These remedies aren’t in replacement of medications, they simply may aid in highly anxious times. I use these remedies on top of my medication as “spot treatment.”

  1. Magnesium: I take it twice per day typically. Once when I’m experiencing heightened anxiety and once before I go to sleep. It aids in insomnia relief, anxiety and relieves muscle aches and spasms. I take Magnesium by Pure Lab. They are a bit pricey but so worth the money!
  2. The Relax-O-Ring from Saje Wellness. I use it when I’m feeling anxious or having trouble focussing. The ring stimulates pressure points and feels amazing!
  3. Stress Relief Tension Reducing Remedy From Saje is my daily go-to. I use it on my way to work, during work, when I get home, during yoga- anytime I experience stress. The smell is grounding and now I associate it with calmness. I roll it on my wrists and behind my neck so I can smell it subtly throughout the day.

I hope you all can find these helpful. If I could recommend 1, I’d recommend the Relax-O-Ring. Under $5.00 and so effective!

Have a calm week, everyone.

 

 

 

#BellLetsTalk

I always look forward to #BellLetsTalk day. A day where everyone makes kind posts and offers their support and love for those who struggle with mental illness. Seeing all of the inspiring pictures and glimpses into the lives of friends and acquaintances I didn’t know struggle(d) makes me feel both comfort and heartbreak in knowing I’m not alone.

Though so many people show support for those struggling with mental illness, I believe the stigma surrounding medication is still so strong. I’ve taken medication for over a decade. And, even I have internalized guilt and judgments around medications. Not because I think they don’t help people or because I think people who take them are weak… simply because I wish I didn’t have to take them. I have no problem opening up and talking about my experience with clinical depression and anxiety disorders. But, I seem to have some sort of barrier when it comes to discussing my true experiences with medications to help manage my mental illness.

My Experience With Medication (Anti-Depressants/SSRI’s) 

As of now, I am on 100mg of Zoloft per day. My highest dose was 150mg per day and my lowest was 50 mg per day… At my lowest dose, I spiraled into a depressive episode where I couldn’t leave my house and was afraid to go to work. At my highest dose, I felt like a zombie with no ambition and suicidal thoughts entered my mind again. This is what people don’t think of- that even when on medication, suicidal thoughts may still be present and finding the right dose is excruciating and comes with a handful of side-effects, sometimes almost as bad as the mental illness.

Consider the side effects of any medication. Now consider the effects of a medication that directly affects your brain chemistry. Not to mention how hard it is for some of us to find a medication that actually helps. I tried nearly 10 different combinations of anxiety medications and anti-depressants before finally trying Zoloft. I’ve also been prescribed Ativan for panic attacks and a few different sleeping pills.  Through trial and error, I’ve found what seems to help me. Unfortunately, there’s no handbook to finding the right medication.

Although I truly believe medication has saved my life, I still suffer from side effects such as: dizziness, changes in weight (weight loss when I go to higher doses), shakiness and overall dullness. But, without it, the side effects of my mental illness are far worse.

****This being said, please please please give extra support to those who are sharing their choice to use medication to manage their mental illness. It isn’t easy to admit in a society that promotes all natural remedies. Though those can be helpful for some people/illnesses, they aren’t always enough.

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Gift Ideas For Anxious Friends

The holiday season can be especially overwhelming for people who struggle with anxiety. The financial burdens, social gatherings, disrupt of routine and family dynamics are but a few of the triggers a person with anxiety may struggle with. Throw in some seasonal blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and the struggle can feel completely overwhelming.

If you know someone who struggles with anxiety or SAD, consider gifts that may help them stay present, calm and loved.

Here are 5 gifts to give someone who’s struggling through the holiday season:

  1. Books: Anxiety can cause people to isolate. Give them a book to keep them company during the cold holiday season.Consider these: UNPLUG: A SIMPLE GUIDE TO MEDITATION FOR BUSY SKEPTICS AND MODERN SOUL SEEKERS

    Buy HereF*ck That: An Honest Meditation

    Buy Here

    O’S LITTLE BOOK OF CALM & COMFORT

    Buy Here

  2. Cozy Items: Give them some warm comfort to help them feel comfortable.Consider These:

    Comfort Memory Foam Slippers

    Buy HereAVALANCHE PLAID ROLLED STADIUM THROW – GREYBuy Here
  3. Self-Care Items: These don’t have to be too fancy. Since the holidays can be a lot financially, even just buying them their favourite shampoo and conditioner can take some stress off.Consider These:Aveeno Body Wash

    Buy HereThe Comforter Bubble Bar (Lush)

    Buy Here
  4. Journaling Items: Journaling can be extremely helpful for people who struggle with anxiety. To make this gift extra special, inscribe something hopeful and heartfelt inside.

    Consider These:IT’S GONNA BE OKAY MINI INNER TRUTH JOURNAL

    Buy Here

    HABIT TRACKING JOURNAL

    Buy Here

  5. Art Supplies/Books: I know for me, art brings me back to childhood. It allows me to let go of current worries and just have fun.Consider These:

    LETTERING IN THE WHIMSICAL WOODLANDS

    Buy HerePencil Crayons

    Buy Here

Dual Brush Pens

Buy Here

 

What else would you add?

A letter not sent

I’ve been going through some old writing, from a harder time in my life. A time when I was treading water…trying to stay above water. I’ve been reading the words, remembering how I felt, and being so thankful that I’m not feeling so empty these days.

I’ve decided to post some of my most vulnerable pieces of writing. Not my best pieces, but the pieces that hurt my heart to write, and even more to read years later.

Here is a letter to my grandmother, not sent.

TO MY GRANDMOTHER

“Tonight marks two years. Two years since I graduated high school and two years since your soul let go. I remember that night like yesterday…I knew you were sick, I visited you a few months prior and saw your beautiful white curls fall and saw the light go out in your eyes. That night, I walked onto the stage, I accepted my diploma. I made it. I made it in spite of the depression. in spite of the heartache, the losses and the cruelty of people. I reflected one the four years that I hated so much and for some reason wished they weren’t over yet. I looked into the crowd and saw my mom, her bright eyes full of hope. Hope for me, and you. Hope that I would always remember this night and hope that you would be able to see me succeed in my life. I walked off the stage, sat beside her and held her hand. I thought of you and wished you could be there sitting with us to share that moment. I remember after graduation I went home and had a drink, I sat and took my life in. I felt panicked…as if something bad was happening. I tossed and turned trying to sleep that night, I woke up from a dream of you. You were swimming in the ocean, the sun was shining and so were you. Half asleep I heard the phone ring. I knew you were gone. You went into my dreams to show me you’re happy now, you’re shining now. My mom knocked on my door and my heart sank knowing that the light would now be gone from her eyes too…To lose your mother must be the most difficult thing imaginable. I hugged her and I promised her everything would be okay. I kept that promise, I got my shit together. But most days I miss you so deeply that it numbs my heart and it hurts my soul. You were the single person I felt truly knew me. I hope you’re swimming in the ocean with the sun beaming on your fair skin. I love you more than I ever expressed and I promise I will keep your daughter safe.”

My heart feels heavy and light reading this. To my 17 year old self- you are so strong. To my 17 year old self- you are going to be okay. To my 17 year old self- do not look back. To my 17 year old self- live, live, live.

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How to Survive When You Miss Your Medication

Worst. Feeling. Ever. Am I right?

I don’t often miss my medication but, when I do, I sure do feel it. My head feels like electric shocks are pulsing through my synapses and my stomach feels like it’s being shredded. I feel exhausted no matter how much sleep I get. I’m irritable, angry and impossible to be around. And it’s really, really hard to ground myself and remember this will pass.

So, from my experiences, here are some ways to survive when you miss your medication:

  • Cry: Just allow yourself to cry a good body shaking, lip quivering cry. Personally, the only time I can really cry is when something terrible happens OR when I forget my medication. So, if I miss my medication, I just allow myself to cry. Not all day or anything. But, a half hour cry never killed anyone.
  • Get Creative: I try to use my missed medication day as an excuse to channel my negative energy into something creative. Whether it be writing, drawing or even just listening to music. I try to get in tune with my creative energy. It helps to distract me from how bad I feel, and also helps make me feel accomplished.
  • Organize: When I miss my medication, I feel like I don’t have control over my body and emotions. This very quickly can turn into a negative thought pattern of not having control over anything in my life. What do I do? Find something small I can control. I’ll often organize something in the house that I’ve been wanting to organize. Today I organized my art supplies and it, for some reason, made me feel in control of my day.
  • Rest: This ones important. Your body is going through something. Be kind to it, allow it to rest and try not to feel guilty or “lazy.” Put on your favourite movie (My go-to is Elf) and cuddle up on the couch. Remind yourself that mental illness is equal to physical illness. If you had the flu, you’d allow yourself to rest, right?
  • Try not to push people away: This one is hard for me. I find it extremely difficult to be around people when I haven’t taken my medication. I’m really quick to snap and get angry/sad and usually seclude myself during these times. But, it’s important to allow loved ones to hold you, help you and listen to you. Connecting during these times can really help. Remind yourself that you are loved, and try to be kind to your loved ones and to yourself.
  • Distract: Distracting yourself when you feel physically and mentally ill is one of my favourite strategies because, in my opinion, it’s one of the easiest.

    Here are some of my favourite distractions:

  • Hand Lettering Worksheets
  • Online Magazines 
  • Knitting
  • Yoga with Adrienne 
  • Gratitude Journalling

I hope this is helpful and reassuring to anyone going through the medication madness.

Love

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How to Support People With Mental Illness During The Christmas Season

Christmas, although a cheerful time, can be especially stressful for those struggling with mental illness. It’s a time where there are numerous social expectations, alcohol (depressant) is easily accessible and may be part of family traditions, and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is at a high as the world feels terribly cold and dark.

Loneliness during the Christmas season is also common among people who suffer from mental illness. I know for me, winter is the time where I isolate myself most. I find winter and Christmas to be a lonely time despite the family gatherings.

Not to mention the stress of organizing a schedule of multiple family dinners, buying gifts for loved ones and still finding time to practice self-care and make sure mental health is being taken care of.

Here are some ways to help make the Christmas season more manageable for those who suffer from mental illness:

  • Manage Expectations: For those who struggle with mental illness, getting out of bed may be a struggle in itself, let alone going to multiple Christmas events and dinners. It’s important to understand if someone can’t attend an event or has to cancel. Understand that we are trying our best.
  • Do a secret Santa or a homemade gift exchange: Money is stressful for everyone. But, as someone who struggles with anxiety, I find money can put me straight into a downward spiral. Limiting gift expectations can ease the anxiety associated with gift giving. Side Note: Gifts are nice, but when did Christmas become more about material items than helping those who are truly in need?
  • Ask what they need: Instead of asking what they want for Christmas and insisting on getting them a material gift, ask what they need? Money for counselling? A massage gift card? Grocery money? These gifts may be especially appreciated and help in reducing anxiety surrounding the expensive months leading up to Christmas.
  • Try throwing a sober Christmas party if someone close to you has struggled or currently struggles with addiction. This act of understanding will likely warm their heart and ease their anxiety about temptation.
  • Check in: If you haven’t heard from a loved one who may be struggling, reach out. Or get creative- send them a letter. Small acts of kindness sure do help me get out of depressive states.
  • Support their dietary restrictions: A lot of people who struggle with mental illness have to be especially mindful of their diet. Certain foods trigger depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses. Be mindful of this and if you’re hosting a dinner, have healthy options available and don’t pressure people to indulge if they don’t seem comfortable.

I hope everyone is managing as the days seem darker and colder. Comment ways you survive the Christmas season!

 

My Naturopath Experience

Note: I am in no way trying to disrespect Doctors who work in family practice, I appreciate the work they do and believe there are good doctors.

I saw a naturopathic doctor for the first time a few days ago. I booked the appointment in hopes that she would be able to help me live a life with less anxiety, pain and exhaustion. I had no expectations though. My experience with doctors in general hasn’t been the most pleasant. Although my family doctor has good intentions, she rarely asks what I want in terms of treatment. She’s quick to prescribe and is incredibly busy. Appointments have never lasted more than 20 minutes (that’s if I’m really lucky).

But seeing the naturopathic doctor was as different from traditional medicine as can be. I approached the office (which is a hut outside in the middle of nowhere), and was greeted by a Doctor who genuinely seemed happy to see me. We spent 1.5 hours together. She asked me questions regarding my diet, lifestyle, mental health, sleep, relationships and everything in between. She really tried to get a full picture.

She also took the time to explain every single suggestion she made. She helped me come to realizations about my health and wellness and gave me tips and tricks to combat my concerns. She also reaffirmed my decision to work half time (and volunteer and pick up shifts) instead of working at a place that I didn’t feel fulfilled me.

She is 100% positive that my mental illness stems from both life experiences/trauma AND a hormone imbalance. She informed me that almost all of my cortisol (Primary Stress Hormone) is constantly being used to manage my anxiety Vs. manage my hormones. This would explain why in the most stressful years of my life I went months on end without a period. I have never had a doctor even consider the idea that a hormonal imbalance may be exacerbating my mental health issues.

After the appointment, she sent me her notes, and a list of recommended supplements as well as a full diet plan to help improve my mental health and energy levels. She also offered me the Nutraceuticals at her cost (she literally made no money off of it). She didn’t try to push anything on me, just informed me of the benefits of each recommendation.

Here’s the diet and lifestyle changes I am going to work on changing:

  • More protein. Meat is very important in the treatment/management of depression & anxiety. She recommended I get at least 60g of protein per day (before seeing her I was getting maybe 30g).
  • More root, energy and rainbow vegetables: She stressed the importance of having all 3 of these vegetables at lunch & dinner.
  • Eat protein and fat with EVERY meal
  • Drink 8 cups of water per day minimum
  • Add flax seeds to 1 meal per day to help with hormone balance

She also prescribed these nutraceuticals:

  • B6: helps with neurotransmitter synthesis
  • Omega D3: helps with immune function, hormone production and mood balance
  • Magnesium: helps with stress, anxiety, sleep, hormone production and ovarian function.

Luckily my insurance covers 80% of Naturopathic appointments. I would highly recommend, if it’s affordable, to visit a naturopath. I’m not going off my anti-depressants, I’m just taking her recommendations and pairing them with my anti-depressants in hopes that I may be able to eventually go on a lower dose.

I’m feeling hopeful. Have to stay brave and trust the process.

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How to Make Hard Decisions

Lately, I’ve been making some hard decisions. Decisions, I quite frankly, wish I didn’t have to make. Decisions that I wish the depression could make for me. I mean it takes up my entire body anyways. Making decisions when you have anxiety and depression is light fighting a fight you aren’t even sure you want to win. But god, I know these decisions are important to make.

Growing up, when making decisions usually resulted in making the wrong one, my dad would tell me:

“Life is about choices.”

I didn’t know how right he was until I grew up. Had to make these choices, with no idea of the outcome. Just a strong hope that I was doing the right thing. But what is the right thing? Is it what

  • society wants
  • brain wants
  • my body wants
  • my heart wants
  • my family wants
  • everyone expects from me
  • is stable/safe

Its taken me years of struggling, and doing things that don’t benefit my mental health, that I realize I finally have a definition of what is right (for me).

“Doing what is right means doing what benefits your body, mind and soul. It has to light you up. If it doesn’t, it isn’t right for you.” – Tara Jean

Some hard decisions I’ve been making lately include the following:

  • Go back to therapy (mine went on mat leave, and finding a new one has proved to be difficult)
  • Up my meds
  • Reduce # of hours I’m working to better manage my mental health
  • Eliminate as many things in my life as possible that do not bring me joy

All of these decisions have consequences. But, that doesn’t mean they aren’t good decisions. It just means they may be hard to make. My heart feels heavy knowing that these decisions all have consequences, and that I may never know if the decision was the “right” one to make. All I know right now, is I have to trust my heart and listen to what it needs. I have to block out judgements, and make room for love and understanding.

Here are my 3 steps to help in making hard decisions

  1. Figure out what is driving the decision. Is it fear, money, health, opinions of others, opinion of yourself…
  2. Determine what the pro’s and con’s are. Make a list to help you see it.
  3. Consider the impacts of the decision and decide if the impacts are manageable.

For anyone going through a hard time, or in the process of making hard life choices, you’ve got this. Trust your soul and follow your passion. And most of all, take care of yourself. 

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