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anxiety

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Are ANTS Stressing You Out?

ANTS. If you’ve ever had an an ant infestation, you’ll know just how pesky and downright yucky those little guys can be. While today’s conversation centers less around the bug-version of the pests, emotional and mental ANTS are just as annoying, persistent and damaging if left to their own devices. If you’re not not familiar with the the acronym, it stands for Automatic Negative Thoughts, and today I want to chat with you guys about why these patterns are so detrimental to our health and how they skyrocket stress levels.

 

First, let’s do a little unpacking of what an ANT is. Like I mentioned before, the name is pretty self-explanatory, but often times we aren’t even aware we’re engaging in ANT activity until we take a purposeful look inside our minds. I remember there being a time when I thought my thoughts were both uncontrollable and coming from somewhere outside of myself. I had negative, sad and pessimistic thoughts all day long, but thought that’s just the way my brain was made and that I was powerless to change it. Then I remember picking up a book called Change Your Brain, Change Your Life (mostly because I was desperate to get rid of my all-consuming anxiety and depression) and in an unexpected turn of events, learned about ANTS. ANTS are just negative thoughts we’ve been thinking so long and so frequently that they are hardly perceptible anymore.

 

For example: If you’re someone who struggles with body image issues, you may think something along the lines of “Ew, look at my love-handles” every time you pass a mirror without thinking twice about it. Your FIRST and most present (read: automatic) thought is to look for what’s wrong on your body, and I’m betting you’d be hard pressed at that point if I asked you to find something positive to note.

 

As another example, perhaps you’re someone who tends to be a worrier. In this instance, you’re probably looking for all that could go wrong in any given situation, event or circumstance rather than what could go right, and you most likely chalk it up to “being safe instead of sorry,” or even pragmatic thinking.

 

But here’s the thing, every time we think a negative thought, our body responds, and it’s not necessarily a good thing. From an evolutionary perspective, negative thoughts turn on the fight-or-flight mechanisms in our body because, essentially, they are signaling that something is wrong and that we should be ready for danger. This sends out stress signals to the brain which then compensate by releasing more signals and stress hormones to deal with the problem. Your body, as brilliant as it is in many ways, doesn’t really know the difference between a real and perceived threat, so whether you are truly in danger, or merely thinking negative thoughts that make you feel threatened, the response is the same.

 

This is why ANTS, which many of us think every day, sometimes all day, are so harmful both physically and emotionally. We are literally our own worst enemy when it comes to the thoughts we think because our thoughts create emotions and emotions create responses, and chronic, long-term exposure to these types of responses has a wearing down effect on the body’s systems. Over time, this exposure leads to stress-related pathologies such as digestive issues, headaches, tension in the jaw and neck, raised blood pressure and heart rate, wonky menstrual cycles, drained energies and much, much more. The human body does an excellent job when acute stress is present (think emergencies), but really isn’t designed to handle the pressure of long-term, low-grade chronic stress day in and day out. When we start to feel these effects, it usually shows up as “just feeling off.”

 

Many, in fact most, of my clients come to me because, while they can’t quite put a finger on what’s wrong, they recognize that they don’t feel alive, vibrant, healthy, and in many cases, happy. That’s when our work begins as we start to uncover and unpack all the ways that stress, in all its many forms, plays a role in our physiology.

 

 

So, now that we know how thoughts impact the body, the question you probably have is, “What should I do about it?

 

I like to tell people, in order to make real, transformative changes, you must first be aware of what it is you’re trying to change. Now, I realize that may seem a bit blatant, but often times we are looking to our immediate problems or issues, rather than the stuff bubbling underneath them. Heading back to our analogy about body image, it would be easy to think that if we could just change our body, we’d be happy. But underneath that desire is really just a wish for more safety and confidence, and those are emotional feelings, not physical ones. By taking a look at the thoughts we’re thinking that are causing us the pain (ie. I hate my body, I’m so ugly, why can’t I look like so-and-so) we can then, and only then, decide to choose again with thoughts that embody those feelings of safety and confidence.

 

 

But first, awareness. In order to become aware, you must bring the idea of ANTS into your immediate presence. I suggest doing this by putting reminders up in the house or on your phone. You can also take a written inventory of your particular ANTS and put that up for you to see somewhere. Get clear on the thoughts you think all day long that are no longer serving you, and then with this awareness, choose new thoughts in their place that feel better every single time they pop up. By doing this, you are re-training your brain to think positively and in a way that actually calms the stress response in your body rather than igniting it. You are your own best soother. You know exactly how to make yourself feel better in a way that no one else can once you tap into that intuition.

 

It’s not always easy to see these – after all, they are small and sneaky and sometimes, we don’t know they are there until we get bit – that’s ok. As with everything, noticing ANTS takes practice and commitment, but if you are truly interested in changing the way you perceive your life, body, job, relationships, health etc… this is a fantastic place to start.

 

 

The human brain is powerful beyond measure, and it’s an area of health that continues to expand as we learn more about the mind-body connection. Learning to tap in and tune in to the underlying current we build our lives upon is one of the most empowering steps we can take when it comes to creating a healthy body and a happy life. I’ve seen countless people get stuck in a space of healing and therapy and darkness, despite eating all the right foods and doing all the right programs, because they are too afraid to do the internal work it requires to be free. And that’s ok. It can be scary, and it can put us out of balance to look inside and get pointed and real about the ways in which we’ve been creating our own unhappiness. That’s quite the responsibility. But I believe we are all not only up for the task, but masters at it. You did NOT come into this world to worry about your body, fret over your job, fight with your family or beat yourself up every single day for not being perfect. You came into this world to thrive, love and experience all that life has to offer in the most delicious way!

 

If ANTS are something that have been infesting the deepest regions of your mind for years now, make today the day that changes. Make today the day you shine some light on those dusty old beliefs and shake out the proverbial rug. Your life is calling. Are you ready to answer it?

 

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Self-Loathing to Self-Love: My Not-So-Pretty Journey from Fear to Happiness

 

 

My journey to self-love was not a beautiful, gentle, existential unfolding that one day manifested magically into happily-ever-after (although some days it feels that way now). No, true to character, I found the steepest, hardest, rockiest and most ragged mountain to self-love I could climb and set forth without the slightest clue where I was going or any rational amount of gear for the trek. Luckily, I lived to tell about it and let me tell you, the view from the top made every stumble, fall and bruise worth it.  

 

You see, I fought my story and I fought it hard.  I struggled against it. I punched it and kicked it and screamed at it until my face turned blue. I cursed it relentlessly… but, like all stoic parents, it stood there calmly until I was done and welcomed me back with open arms as I finally relinquished my fears and found solace in its Being. In fact, before I climbed up on the woo-woo train I live on now, I considered the term self-love to be incredibly annoying – a catchy headline crafted for lame magazine articles or for people in life (myself included) who just had to find a way to feel better about the fact that they didn't measure up and never would. Self-love was bullshit and I didn’t need it. I’d be fine on my own, just like I always had been. Except not really.

 

When I was 5 years old, my parents got in divorced and my father disappeared from our lives for the next 25 years. No phone calls, no visits - not a peep. While I realize that divorced parents certainly aren’t the worst thing a child can go through, it was incredibly difficult for my 5-year old brain to wrap my head around the fact that it wasn’t my fault. I took it hard and developed a story-line that would follow me throughout the rest of my life. It went like this:

 

“He left because you weren’t enough and you’re not lovable. If you were, he would have stayed. Therefore, figure out how to be lovable and perfect and no one will ever leave you again. Oh, and by the way, you NEED others to love you because, without their love, you are nothing and no one.”

 

Ouch.

 

I put those gray, gloomy glasses on, and I never once took them off until my life fell a part so hard that I didn’t have any other choice but to question everything I’d ever known or believed.

 

While it was fairly harmless as a child, as I continued grow, this story line evolved into something bigger. It needed an outlet, somewhere to go other than inside my brain with all it’s swirling, racing thoughts, and so it took on a life of it’s own. At age 12, I had my first panic attack, and my anxiety disorder was born. Fearful and obsessive thoughts became my norm, as did feelings of unworthiness and self-loathing because clearly, I wasn’t normal. When you spend your days working to be perfect, the realization that you are not, in fact, perfect, and even worse, kind of weird, delivers a striking blow to your self-concept. Everything was scary. I developed phobias and fears, obsessive thinking patterns and constant physical manifestations of my stress. I wouldn’t eat in fear of getting sick, I wouldn’t make friends in fear that they’d see how weird I was, I wouldn’t try new hobbies for fear that I’d fail, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t… I remember hiding as much as possible from the world around me in hopes that staying small and unseen would keep me safe. After all, the world was scary and people were even scarier, and if it was me against them, it had to be me. 

 

For better or worse, my family learned to work around my irrational (and exhausting) list of fears, but it never occurred to me that others wouldn’t as well. As I entered into high school, I quickly realized that I’d better learn another way of staying safe because I was getting a lot of attention, and I couldn’t hide anymore. So, being the smart little cookie that I am, I adapted and figured the next best way to hide: I conformed.

 

I studied out exactly what was cool - what was acceptable - how to manipulate and control my appearance, personality and experiences so that they seemed like I was not only normal, but worth liking. But, underneath it all, I was a mess. I was terrified that at any moment I would be exposed and that everyone around me would find out my deep, dark secret. That truly, I was nothing.

 

As I look back on my life, I recognize how many of my choices weren’t my own. Not because other people were making them for me, but because I was basing them off of what I thought others wanted me to do and it was exhausting. This manifested in as many ways you can think of, from pretending to like certain music to giving my body over to boys I never should have. Never once, however, did it occur to me that anything was wrong with this scenario. All I was concerned with was being better than everyone around me so that I didn’t have to face my own fears. Essentially, I wasn’t a very nice girl to be around and this behavior only got worse the older I got. I went from innocently gossiping about other girls in high school to hating every other woman that dared enter into my vortex. I was jealous, insecure and vicious, and it affected not only me but all of my relationships as well. Every one seemed to give me weird vibes, but of course, it was them not me, right?

 

In my early twenties, my anxiety had gotten so bad that I was having a hard time leaving the house. I was ruining simple things like dinners out with my family and would worry about bigger events like vacations months in advance for fear that I’d have a panic attack - which, I invariably then would. They would last for hours and hours, and I’d suck everyone around me into the experience. As much as I hated the anxiety, I hated myself even more for having it. I felt broken and exposed and out of control. And in this lack of control, I began controlling everything and everyone around me in an attempt to make sense of my life. Nothing was left to chance. I became suspicious and fearful of everyone. No motive was left unchecked and no situation was left to chance. There was no room for error or spontaneity in my world. It was too risky.

 

Then, one night, in the middle of an attack, a friend of mine offered me a little blue pill that made all my problems disappear. I had found my new best friend – Xanax. This simple little pill gave me the kind of relief I’d looked for my entire life. For the first time, maybe ever, I sat on the couch without a care in the world and laughed. It felt good, and I was hooked. All I had to do when things got shaky or my nerves acted up was throw back a little pill and I would melt into oblivion.

 

For the next 8 years, anytime life felt hard, or the elephant on my chest got heavy, I had a trusty back up. There was no stopping me now. I could party as hard as I wanted to and mask the effects with my little friend. I could get in an argument and five minutes later not give two shits about it. I could fly across the country and knock myself out for 24 hours if I wanted. Anxiety attacks? What were those? I hadn’t had one in years. I controlled my anxiety. I was finally normal. I had found a band-aide so large that it seemed as if no pain couldn't be conquered.

But, here’s the interesting thing about numbing. It's not a selective beast. When I learned to numb the bad, I unknowingly numbed the good as well.

 

Connection? Out of the question.

Happiness? Seems impossible.

Fulfillment? Not meant for me.

Clarity and peace of mind? A pipedream.

Purpose and passion? Only for special people.

True love? Terrifying.

 

Despite the fact that I was no longer physically having attacks, the fear never left. I covered it, but I didn’t fix it. I was still broken and damaged, and now also a slave. You see, without my side-kick, I was vulnerable, weak and open to attack. Which meant that I had to make sure my protection followed me everywhere. It was an addiction, but if you’d asked me then, I was fine. I had come to believe that I NEEDED those pills to survive. That without them, I wasn’t strong enough, smart enough, normal enough, good enough, courageous enough to be ok. Nothing had changed. I still wasn’t enough – I was just an expert at covering it up.

 

The relationship I called into my life during those years did nothing to prove me wrong either. I know now that we call into our life experiences which will uncover and trigger all our deepest wounds in an attempt to heal them, but at the time, I thought my problems stemmed from the fact that I was defective. My boyfriend at the time had a habit of breaking up with me when things got rough, triggering my deepest, darkest fears of abandonment. But, instead of recognizing these situations for what they were (a call to heal my misperceptions), I took them to mean something else entirely: I had to be even MORE perfect. Each and every time he left (which I don’t blame him for given the circumstances), I beat myself into the ground for not being what he wanted and worked to pretend I was fabulous and happier than ever. Sadly, it worked, and I continued to draw him back into my experience, only to unravel once again into self-hatred, control, jealousy, fear and self-sabotage – which would again, send him running for the hills. It was a vicious cycle that lasted for 7 years and only worked to confirm and deepen my fears rather than heal them.

 

Then something occurred to me that changed me world and uprooted my beliefs in a way that nothing before every had. I don’t know why, what or who led me to my decision, but something inside of me thought, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” I didn’t want to be dependent on something outside of myself anymore for happiness (or what I thought was happiness at the time.) I didn’t want to carry around a bottle of prescription ‘calm’ with me everywhere I went or rely on those pills to get through a day. Something inside of me was desperate to be free, and while I didn’t know it at the time, I was willing to risk everything to get it.

Looking back, I could have done it a much easier way. But, like I said, I chose the hard path, and I refuse now to beat myself up over it. I did the best I could with what I knew to be true in those times. I wish I could say that it was sunshine and roses from that moment on, but in all truth, things got a lot worse before they got better. I quit a powerful drug cold-turkey and had no clue what consequences lay in waiting for me. My mind dissolved almost instantly into complete terror and what had seemed like panic attacks before now looked meek and mild in comparison to the episodes I was having now.

 

I was losing my mind, and I didn’t know what to do about it. Some stubborn ounce of reserve kept me from going back to my drugs, but I was out on an open ledge with no protection and no idea how to talk myself down.

 

I pushed everyone away. I couldn’t hold a job, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t make love, I could barely go to the grocery store… Once again, I couldn’t, and I was pissed.

 

So I did what every sane, average person would do –  I began a healing journey so intense that it would unravel every single thread of my life in order to put it back together in a more authentic way that matched who I really was underneath it all.

 Doesn’t everybody Eat, Pray, Love their way through life like that?

 

Sounds nice, yeah? It was – and it wasn’t – and it was – and it wasn’t – and it was.  It would take me about three years to get to where I am now - happy and free and loving my life. Three years filled with more pain that I thought I could physically bear and more happiness than I ever knew was humanly possible. The journey has not been a linear path of rolling hills and grassy fields, but rather an arduous, sometimes life-threatening adventure filled with peaks and valleys of all depths. There were in fact, many moments in time where I considered ending my life and pictured how sweet of release it would have been. And I don’t say that lightly. But somewhere, in the back of my stubborn mind, there was always a dim light of hope that there WAS something more – something better – something good – even when I couldn't see it.

 

The first two years, I healed many parts of myself, but most of them were physical. Through the use of a real-food diet and meditative tools, my anxiety dissipated into a distant memory. My body changed from frail and sickly to thriving and healthy. I learned new ways of thinking, new patterns of thoughts and new beliefs and ways of interacting with others. But still, one lingering issue remained: I didn’t actually love myself, and I still didn’t believe anyone else could either.

 

It didn’t make sense. Based on how far I’d come and how well my life was going, I should have been happier than I’d ever been, yet I was battling an internal war no one knew about. I was empty, and still numb, and in a last ditch attempt to find out if I was lovable, I self-sabotaged in the most hurtful way I possibly could have. And while I still cringe a bit in sharing this part of myself, it would leave out the most important part of my story so far: My ultimate catalyst to self-acceptance, love and compassion. 

 

In my desperate search for validation and acceptance, I led myself into the arms of someone who was not my boyfriend. It was as if I was 16 years old again, looking for anything and anyone to fill the void – the emptiness and loneliness – the lack of love from the one person who mattered most – myself.

 

While I stubbornly believed that I just needed my boyfriend to love me more... not leave me so much... not dislike my annoying habits so much... in order for me to happy, I failed to realize that it was never about him. It never mattered if he stayed or went. It never mattered if he loved me or not. None of my actions were, or were not, about him. But you bet your ass that’s what I went with. We always search outside ourselves for answers until we no longer have a choice and that is exactly what happened.

After trying to work it out one last time, he left, and he didn’t come back. I was 5 years old once again, and every fear I’d ever had about being unlovable, unworthy and no good to anyone roared through my psyche and threatened to consume me. This was it. I was backed against the wall, living with a shame so deep it left me breathless and unable to cope with the consequences of my actions. You think others have the power to threaten your self-love? Try loving yourself when you've done something very, very hurtful and wrong. To say I was my own worst critic would have been a gross understatement. There was no where to run, no one to blame, no where to hide…There was no choice but the one right in front of me. It was time to heal once and for all.

 

And that is what I did. With no power whatsoever to change my outside circumstances, I had no choice but to turn inward. For me, this looked a lot like reclusiveness. I read, I walked, I wrote in my journal, I cried, I cooked, I listened to books, podcasts and talks, I cried some more, I did yoga, I did energy work, I meditated, I took long, warm baths, I prayed, I cried again, I exercised too much, I exercised too little, I ate too much, I ate too little, I yelled and screamed and cried again until I there were no tears left, but all along I searched. Little by little, I began to learn more about myself and felt the weight lift. I saw glimpses of the woman I was becoming, full of pain but also resolve and integrity, and it felt nice. I began to feel kinder, more loving and more accepting of others. As I started to slowly let myself off the hook, I was able to let others off as well. As I allowed myself to be where I was, it was ok for others to be in their own space too. My relationships began to heal, and I realized that we all feel pain, and that no one feels in control. I learned that change is what keeps life exciting and that I was resilient even in the face of uncertainty. I learned that there is a source much greater than me ALWAYS working for me and my highest good, and that I am safe no matter what. I learned that when I stay committed to tuning in, I don't do or say hurtful things. It's when I veer from my truth that I get scared and lash out. I learned that the world is anything but scary and that it's ok to laugh, and then cry because I'm laughing. I learned that it's ok to feel scared by the depth of my own happiness, and that I can try again tomorrow when I unravel back into old patterns. I learned that I'm not weird for feeling such deep emotions and that my passion is exactly what makes me so beautiful. I learned that the emotions I feared would never sweep me away like I imagined, so I might as well quit running from them. But, then, in the most unexpected and beautiful unfolding of all, I learned the one thing that mattered most…

 

While traveling across the state to visit a friend, I had some good music on in the car and miles of beautiful scenery before me. I was feeling good. I was feeling happy and light and carefree. Feelings that were becoming more and more regular the deeper into my healing I went. Sunshine was warming my skin and my mind felt calm, peaceful and clear. In that moment, as if from somewhere outside of myself I was delivered a thought so clear and beautiful it’s hard to describe in words. I realized for the first time who it was that had gotten me there to that delicious moment of joy. It was as if I was seeing two girls, both myself, but one of which who always known this moment in time would come. She was the one who pulled me off the bathroom floor so many times in the middle of a melt down. She was the one who whispered “there’s a better way” when I was blind to it. She was the one who led me to the books and teachers, who then led me to healing, which led me to happiness. She was the one who, when I felt like I couldn’t possibly go on, grabbed me and threw me on her back to carry me the rest of the way.

 

In that moment, upon realizing that there were no mountains she would not climb for me, nothing she would not do to ensure my happiness and peace, and that this girl was ME, I fell in love. Giddy, star-struck, mouth-open-in-amazement love. And yes, I cried. A lot. I’m a crier, and that’s ok.

 

In that moment, I realized what it meant to become whole. I appreciate and love that girl inside so much, that even if someone came up to me tomorrow spewing hateful comments about her, I wouldn’t believe them. I’ve seen what she’s done for me, and no one can convince me otherwise. I love her unconditionally. I may make mistakes, but she never does. I may choose fear over love, but she never will. I may forget who I am, but she will always know. And her and I are inseparable. She is my new sidekick, and I kinda like her….

 

To me, self-love is about so much more than looking in the mirror and liking what you see looking back. It’s more than enjoying your personality or writing down a list of positive qualities. It’s bigger than all of that. Self-love is the absolute alignment with who you are – It is an energy and love so great that it creates worlds – it’s recognizing that no person, no experience, no place and no thing has the power to separate you from that which you are, which IS LOVE.

 

It would be silly to say that I’ll never experience negative or fearful emotions again. I do all the time. I’m human after all, and that’s ok. It’s more than ok, it’s perfect. We all get triggered and we all want to be loved and accepted. Even the darkest, ugliest parts of ourselves are just searching for love.

 

But, I will never again doubt that there is someone who loves me unconditionally and irrationally, and now I will always know that that person is me.

 

My story may not look like yours, and that’s fine. That’s not really the point. I share this with you today not to relate, but rather to say that no matter what your story is, it’s waiting for you with open arms, ready to love you unconditionally. There is nothing wrong with you or any of us. We are not broken, we do not need fixing and we are certainly not damaged. We may need some polishing from time to time and a little TLC, but hear me when I say this, YOU ARE NOT BROKEN and neither am I. Today I feel happy, beautiful and free. Today I feel empowered beyond belief and able to tackle anything that comes my way with patience, grace and humility. Life is not as simple as one, measly blog post about self-love, but it is as simple as this:

"Decide you want to love yourself and don’t stop until you get there."

 

When we make the decision to heal, we WILL be led to circumstances and experiences that will call it forth. It might not always look pretty, but it will get you there if you trust the process. You don’t have to understand self-love today or tomorrow or even the next day. Just trust that you will someday and look for evidence to support that belief every day until you have your own moment in the car.

 

Signing off with love,

Sy

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How Food Affects Your Mood: Part 1, Anxiety and Nutrition


A Real-Food Approach to Anxiety

Anxiety and mood disorders are huge topics when it comes to health and wellness. In fact, millions of people are currently on prescription anti-anxiety medication and struggle with the effects of their condition daily. As someone who battled chronic anxiety and panic attacks for over 20 years, I understand just how crippling and mind-numbing it can be. Not only does anxiety play a large role in our emotional wellbeing, but more and more research is pointing to the physical effects stress has on our bodies as well. While there are several factors to consider when it comes to managing your anxiety, one of the most influential and foundational facets is nutrition. Generally speaking, our nutrition has either the ability to bring us closer to wellness or closer to disease, depending on how we incorporate it into our lives. My aim in this series is to discuss the ways in which food can restore health and vitality and to give you some simple tips for nutritionally calming down your nervous system.

 

Simply put, your nervous system is directly affected by what you eat. When we eat food, it gets broken down by our digestive system into small nutrients like sugars, amino acids or fatty acids which can then be used by our body for various functions. For example: Amino acids are needed to make neurotransmitters that help our brain to feel happy, alert and energetic, and we get them from protein-containing foods such as meat, fish and eggs. Certain foods are higher in nutrients than others, which is what makes them part of a healthy diet. These nutrients are absorbed in the small intestine, which we’ll refer to from here on out as The Gut.

 

One of the ways we can increase levels of anxiety is by not getting enough of these nutrient building-blocks in our diet. Like we mentioned above, many of the neurotransmitters and hormones that our brain needs to work optimally are made out of nutrients such as amino acids and essential fatty acids. Before we digest them, these are known as proteins and fats, but what we don’t realize it that not all nutrients are created equal. When we eat processed, synthetic foods (mostly found on the shelves of grocery stores), many of the nutrients have been destroyed through the manufacturing line, including vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, proteins and complex carbohydrates. This means we are left with a lifeless food that our bodies aren’t quite sure how to use. As we become more and more deficient in these essential building blocks, we become less and less able to manufacture our feel-good brain chemicals which leads to all kinds of imbalances, including anxiety. While it might seem over-generalized, the statement, “you are what you eat,” couldn’t be more true.

 

Tips for Nutrient Density

Eating a nutrient-dense diet means that our food is coming from real sources which have been minimally processed to retain the most nutrients possible. It also means avoiding foods we call pseudo-foods, or in other words, foods which have been made with ingredients that disrupt our health such as high amounts of sugar, synthetic vitamins and minerals, chemical preservatives and fillers, artificial flavors and colors, sugar substitutes and other hard-to-pronounce items. But, you may be wondering at this point how to determine which foods fall into this category and which foods you should be avoiding? Below, I’ve outlined three easy principles to get you started on the path to real-food living and towards greater health and less anxiety.

 

1.     Shop the perimeter. This advice has been used a lot, but that’s because it still rings true. Most of the foods you should be eating (meats, vegetables, fruits, eggs, etc.) are found on the outside aisles of the grocery store rather than down the middle lanes. There are definitely exceptions to this rule such as with nuts, seeds and some healthy snacks, but as a general rule of thumb, you will do well with shopping the perimeter. To further nourish your body, look for pasture-raised meats and eggs, organic vegetables and fruits and minimally-processed condiments and snacks. If you are eating foods with labels, make sure you check the ingredient list for items you can recognize. If it sounds like a chemical, it probably is, and you’ll be better off looking for another brand or alternative option to drop in your cart. Shopping at local farmer’s markets is also a great way to ensure you’re getting fresh, vibrant and whole foods into your diet.

 

2.     Don’t Fear Fat. Sadly, we’ve spent many years fearing healthy fats and thus created the low-fat/no-fat fad that’s just now starting to get debunked. Healthy fats do many things for our body, but they are particularly nourishing and soothing to our nervous systems because of how they interact with our blood sugar. If you’re currently experiencing anxiety, adding in one source of fat into every meal can greatly reduce low blood sugar episodes which tend to look and feel a lot like anxiety. Healthy sources include: fattier cuts of meat including beef, fish (especially salmon), seafood, whole eggs, organ meats, butter and ghee from grass-fed cows, olive and olive oil, avocado and avocado oil, coconut oil, coconut milk, sprouted or soaked nuts and seeds, nut butters and raw cheeses and milks.

 

3.     Limit Sugar Intake. In part 3 of this series, we’ll dive even deeper into sugar’s effects on the body and brain, but for now, realize that sugar can significantly impact your mood, and usually for the worse. While sugar gives us an instant “high” and makes us feel good temporarily, it’s usually followed by a crash and burn where we feel terrible. This usually shows up as jitteriness, headaches, shakiness, extreme hunger, irritability or racing thoughts, which are eerily similar to anxiety attacks. For the best results, aim to eat no more than 25-30 grams of sugar a day, mostly coming from natural sources or sweeteners like fruit, raw honey or dark chocolate. At first this can be difficult, but as your blood sugar begins to even out and cravings are diminished, you’ll see energy levels increase and anxiety levels decrease.

 

 Navigating the waters of anxiety can be tough, but with a compassionate, curious approach, you can dramatically shift the way you interact with the world and learn to live free from fear, worry and panic. Stay tuned for part two of this series where we’ll talk about how food sensitivities could be triggering an immune response in your body and revving up stress and anxiety. Now go enjoy some yummy, healthy food! 

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The Straw that Broke The Camel's Back


Our blog today has a funny title, and it might not make sense at first glance. Particularly because I’m in a rambling sort of mood, so I wish you the best of luck in making sense of this all! (Insert laughing emoji) My apologies.

What I want to talk about today is an analogy that I use to help women struggling through adrenal or chronic fatigue, or any chronic symptoms for that matter, to understand that the process of healing requires us to find a new relationship to our bodies and lifestyle. I like to compare adrenal fatigue and digestive issues to a yo-yo dieter who loses and gains weight every diet cycle. These people often feel confused when they regain weight upon returning to their old eating habits, but to the outsider it seems very clear. It was the previous habits that led to weight gain once, and it it those same habits that will lead to it again. Similarly, going back to our old lifestyle, habits and diet will, in most cases, plummet us right back to where we started, regardless of their effects on us before.

One of the things I hear a lot when working to figure out the root of someone’s symptoms is: “well I used to be able to do that” or “I used to be able to eat that” and never had any problems. It must not be that or maybe I can go back to that now that I feel better. And just to be clear, I get it. I SOOOO get it. I still to this day wish that I could go Crossfit 4-5 times a week like I used to because I love the mental rush and feeling of empowerment I got from the workouts. I also wish I could go eat a donut every now and again and not worry about losing 4 months of my life. But alas, a couple weeks of intense workouts or too much sugar and my body starts to get pissy. So trust me, I know how tempting it can be to get better and want to jump right back into your life like you never skipped a beat. But, I also know this: You will never, and I repeat never be able to return to your old blueprint for living without ending up right back where you started. That may sound harsh, and it’s really not meant to be but chances are if you return to your old patterns, you will end up, once again, sick and tired of being sick and tired.

This is where the analogy of the straw that broke the camels back comes in. You see, we are all given a set point in our biology that allows us to deal with a certain amount of stressors. When I say stressors, keep in mind that I’m not just talking about mental or emotional stress, but physical too. So include things like food allergies, chronic infections, overtraining, inflammation, etc. in your thoughts about this. I do believe that we can learn to reframe stressful situations and sort of up our tolerance factor, so-to-speak, but nonetheless, there’s only so much your body will handle before it reaches what is called "loss of tolerance," or, in other words, the fingers finally slipped off the cliff. Historically speaking, stressors used to be acute and short lived. Our bodies were able to send out an appropriate stress response and then recalibrate afterward and all was well. More recently, in the past couple hundred years, and particularly during this information age, we are bombarded with stressors, both physical and emotional, almost all day long. These range from our thoughts about our jobs, to cell phone notifications, to traffic, our kids, our health, our spouses and beyond, not even touching on things like death of a loved one, relationship break ups, loss of a job, terminal illnesses or accidents, addictions, etc. We are using a system in our body that was never meant for chronic abuse and we see it failing more often and more rapidly than ever before.

You may have been able to stay out late, drink too much, eat a so-so diet, work too hard, sleep too little, go to the gym every single day, take a million credits in school and hold down a full time job, and so on, in your earlier years - But chances are, your body began whispering to you a while ago and you just may not have heard it. Or, perhaps you did, but you chose to turn the volume wayyyy down, drank another cup of coffee (or 3) and handled it with a glass of wine or some over-the-counter meds. And that’s ok. It’s easy in our world, especially as Americans, to believe that hard work is the answer to everything and if you’re failing at something, your health included, it’s because your weak and lazy. So, why WOULD you take the time to tune in and listen to those subtle messages. Why would you risk being labeled weak or lazy or better yet, no-fun? Certainly none of us want to feel that sort of disconnection with our peers. This post isn’t about blaming you for you not listening, but rather about inviting you, now that your body is screaming and you don’t have another choice, to reframe and rededicate yourself to finding out which kind life actually works best for your individual needs, whatever they may be or however they may look.

Disclaimer: I don’t mean to say that every single person who has a busy life will inevitable end up in adrenal “fatigue” or chronically ill. How you perceive your life is just as much, if not more, important that what your life actually looks like. But the majority of people burning their candle at both ends will at some point begin to get messages from their bodies that they’ve reached those upper limits and need to scale back.

This is what we refer to as the straw. That camel may have had a healthy, well-functioning and sturdy back. But we began to pile more and more loads on top of it until one day we put the final straw on and KABOOM! But here’s the thing about broken backs… they take a while to repair. And sometimes, (not every time) but sometimes, that back may not be able to handle the same type of abuse ever again. - OR - That back may return to normal function and may be stronger in some ways, but piling on the same load and expecting a different result would be, by definition, crazy. You see where I’m going with this?

You’re right. Caffeine was never a problem before for you, but now it is. Staying up past midnight used to be commonplace, but now it’s not. Perhaps you’re even to the point where grocery shopping seems like a hurdle, when before you used to run marathons. Your body has changed and that can be scary and frustrating, but it can also be liberating. Healing through acceptance helps us to move out of depression about the past and into excitement about the future. Essentially, you have the chance to try new things, make new habits and find out things about yourself you might never have known otherwise. It gives you the break your body and mind have been craving and allows you to step back and be present. When we go, go, go, it’s very hard to be, be, be, but the soul needs time to just BE. After all, we are human BEINGS not human DOINGS.

So, there you have it. My ramblings of the day, but also something I think is incredibly important to realize and play with. Instead of beating our bodies and minds up for not being what we want them to be, why don’t we take the time to get to know them and really love them exactly for what they are. Much like a friend, our bodies are so much more willing to open up and flourish when they feel loved and accepted, not in spite of, but because of their uniqueness. TIl next time.

 

Much love,

Sy

 

 

 

 

 

 

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