A warm hello my friend!
I’m not normally one to publicly share my personal trials and tribulations, or to share troubling times with those who aren’t in my close circle. But sometimes keeping things in, or not being as open as you may like, can be a hindrance on some personal growth that maybe you need to make.
And so this article is for that. For a personal challenge on my part; and for you, maybe some tools that I’ve been using to carry on that you might find of value some day too.
2017 is near an end, and for me, 2017 has been full of energy-shifts and transition. It saw the end of my relationship of 7 years, with a partner and friend I will always care about. It was an amicable end, but tough nonetheless.
Getting used to a new home, new routine, new surroundings - these are things that bring with them their own unique challenges regardless, but when they come with a saddened heart, they are made that much more arduous, as many of you well know.
Shortly after my move, facing new physical (and emotional) landscapes, it came about that my own parents ended their own marriage. Sadly, this breakup was not amicable, and was flooded with heartache and betrayal, with my father leaving my mother for another life.
So I have been spending quite a chunk of time at my childhood home, helping get ducks in order and helping in the ways I know how to. I should shout-out to my Mom at this point - she’s been and continues to be incredibly strong.
Strong as anyone can be through this kind of a process, it’s a draining time. And it’s a fervent reminder of the power of emotion on the human body, the toll it can take just getting through “all the feels”.
SO - with all the the massive energy shifts, with all the “drained” days, how do I (try to) keep from drowning in it? What are the health hacks I’ve been using to get through a tough time? Here are some, and my hope is that you can use a few yourself when times get tough.
Before I start - I should point out that these are wonderful, and have made a world of difference, but there is no magic hack for this process that makes everything better. Time is the healer, but these help soften the hurt and make things more manageable on the way.
Eleven Health Hacks to help Keep Going
1) I’m getting the most proper sleep I can (with these sleep aids to stop the dreaded ‘mind-chatter’)
As difficult as it is to resist staying up late ruminating, getting to sleep at a decent hour and sleeping to maximize your natural circadian rhythm is of utmost importance. Sleeping allows you to subconsciously process your days emotions, reduce the inflammation that stress induces, and allows your body (including your brain) to declutter and detoxify.
The frustrating thing is that for some, myself included, sleeping becomes difficult when the stressors in your life are on the forefront of your mind. Personally, I’ve been taking 4mg of melatonin to help bring me into a deep sleep and stop the mind chatter. Check out my article for a better sleep to find out what other herbs and supplements I’d recommend.
Random cool fact - sleeping directly after a traumatic event can help properly emotional process and minimize the longer-term emotional ‘jarring’ that comes with recalling said traumatic event. (1).
2) I’m supporting my Adrenal Glands
When you're under stress, those stress/sad/anxious emotions wreak havoc on your entire body, including your brain. So it’s crucial to support the organs that help your body cope with stress - your adrenal glands. These glands, of which you have two (each sitting atop your kidneys) are responsible for producing hormones, like cortisol, that help your body deal with stress.
Nutrients I’m supplementing with to support the adrenals:
Magnesium: 400mg/day - this “anti-stress” mineral as it’s known gets eaten up when your body’s stressed, and is involved in over 300 enzyme reactions in your wonderful body.
Vitamin C: 1 - 2g, 3x per day - similar to Magnesium, Vitamin C gets gobbled up by the body under stress and it’s essential that you supplement with it. Take it with breakfast, lunch, and dinner as this is a water soluble vitamin and goes through the body in about 4 hours.
Ortho-Adapt: 2 capsules, 2x per day - This is an adrenal glandular support that I swear by when that melancholic feeling takes over your days, and has become all too stagnant.
3) I have Short Term Panic Remedies on Hand
Hard times come with waves of panic, and I always like to have the following on hand:
4) I say yes when I want to say no (sometimes)
This is a hard one for me. I like to call myself an “extroverted introvert”. I enjoy social situations, but I always need alone time to recharge. During more down-times, I say ‘no’ more often than I should, which leaves me with my own thoughts. Sometimes good, sometimes not.
I’m finding it mentally essential to say YES! Go for a coffee with that friend you’ve been meaning to see, have people over to just chat, and say YES to that dinner invite you might be inclined to say no to. It gets me, and you, out of our own heads.
5) I exercise, even if I don’t always feel like it.
Again, not a huge surprise here, but exercise lowers depressive symptoms, boosts feel good hormones, and makes you feel better about yourself. I may not feel like it, as many don’t, but we all know that satisfied feeling we get after a workout. Use your happier future self to fuel you.
It doesn’t have to be strenuous; yoga, a brisk walk, or some resistant weight training can do wonders.
*NOTE: I am not saying, and would actually advise against, long, super intense workouts when you’re already under a great deal of stress. Exercise is great, but it is another stressor on the body - so overdoing it when you’re load is already high can just lead to further exhaustion and depression. Moderation, always moderation. Find your sweet spot.
6) I meditate for 6 minutes (at least per day)
This is one New Year's Resolution I’ve actually been able to keep, and by golly it’s something that’s worth it.
There’s no “right” way to meditate, a thought that puts some people off of starting a meditation practice. For me, I simply put my timer on my iPhone for 6 minutes, and then sit and breathe deeply. If anxious thoughts come into my head, or any thoughts, I simple surround them with love and allow them not to “take hold”, instead picturing them floating along their way.
7) I practice breath work throughout the day.
The power of breathwork can’t be understated. I do the following breath exercises throughout the day, especially when I feel some sadness coming on. I try to do at least one of these every hour (no joke).
· Diaphragm breathing: deep belly, equal breaths in and out. This helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system, the rest and digest state.
· Alternate nostril breath: this breath is said to unite the right and left sides of the brain. Cover your right nostril with your thumb, breath in, then using your ring finger switch and close the left nostril and breath out. Do this 3 -5 times.
· Lion's Breath: I breathe in as much as I can and then let it out through my mouth, extending my tongue like a lion yawning. Try it! It helps! I do it in the elevator when I’m alone to liven up my day.
8) I get fresh air.
Stagnant air (inside your house or condo) leads to a stagnant inner landscape. So I get outside and take in the air as often as time allows.
9) I eat lots of the 'feel good foods': chocolate & avocado
I don’t deprive myself, especially when times are tougher than normal, but I also don’t eat highly processed, sugar-filled foods that I know will only make my mood worse.
Chocolate (85% or higher - I genuinely enjoy 100% chocolate) is like sex for the brain, and is also high in magnesium, the anti-stress mineral.
Avocado - good fat happy brain! I’m trying to eat half an avocado, a few times a week (not every day as daily consumption of the same food daily can lead to an allergy or sensitivity). Avocados are especially high in B-vitamins, which help you convert the food you eat into energy.
10) I eat to curb inflammation
I know that stress, in addition to making you feel awful, creates a great deal of inflammation in the body. Stress can also actually shrink your brain! So I make sure to eat an anti-inflammatory diet, especially in times of stress.
So in a nutshell:
I avoid foods that trigger inflammation in the body: processed sugars, fried foods (fried = damaged dangerous fats), dairy and gluten.
I include tons of fresh vegetables and fruits, which contain tons of antioxidants that help combat the free radical damage that happens when the body is under stress.
I eat a ton of good fats: 1 tablespoon of potent anti-inflammatory fish oil per day, avocadoes, MCT oil, olive oil, raw nuts and seeds.
I make sure I’m getting adequate protein from poultry, fish, and grass fed meats. 1-2 servings per day.
**BUT, moderation is always key. If I do indulge in inflammatory foods, because, well I'm human - I try not feel guilty about it. As long as my majority is anti-inflammatory, and I'm not showing obvious inflammatory symptoms, I'm content.
11) I smile for a timed 2 minutes a day
This one is huge for me. Smiling helps you recover from stressful events more quickly, and wires your brain to think that maybe things aren’t so bad afterall . . .
A study out of Kansas studied 3 groups of people performing the same stressful task. Everyone had a chopstick in their mouth that forced their face into a neutral position, a standard smile (or what I call a polite smile, where you smile with your mouth and not your eyes), or a genuine smile (smiling with eyes and mouth). Results showed that the heart rates of those who were genuinely smiling fell back to normal levels faster after the stressful situation than the other 2 groups.
So I time a smile for 2 minutes per day, and those 2 minutes are time well spent.
Tough times shape us into the people we are to become. We become stronger, more resilient, and best of all, we become one step closer to being the wise elder - a role I’ve always admired. Who wouldn’t want to be Gandalf?
Thank you for taking the time to read today. My hope is that you can use some of these tools to help steady you through any trials and tribulations in which you might find yourself down the road.
Above all else, I never want to stop believing in magic, and I don’t want to lose the spark that I have when times are great. So I’m doing everything I can to nurture and charge my inner light. And I wish you and your light, the very happiest best.