Let’s talk MORE about mental health…

Let’s talk MORE about mental health…

In honor of this past Saturday being World Mental Health Day, I wanted to send a big shout out to anyone and everyone who may need to hear this, it is ok not to be ok. And not only is ok not to be ok, it is also more than ok to admit it and talk about it! Mental health is such a strangely absent topic of conversation when we speak about getting healthy and taking care of ourselves even though it is just as important to be healthy on the inside as it is to be healthy on the outside. So, let’s talk about it right now. Let’s make it more ok not to be ok all the time. We live in this culture where so often all you see is a filtered version of the happiest-looking, most social, most out-going, most successful people around you which unfortunately I think is contributing to more and more people covering up how they may truly be feeling on the inside. 

I know I am guilty of this myself to some extent. While I do try to talk about my own struggles with mental health occasionally, I probably don’t do it enough mostly because I very much want this space to be as positive, motivational, and encouraging as I can make it. And while I have gotten my own mental health substantially more under control since I started taking better care of my physical self, I still struggle. I still have anxiety. I still have days I don’t feel as happy and motivated as others. So, part of why I am here today is to make a promise to all of you right here and right now, I will talk start to talk about my struggles just as much as I talk about my triumphs.

Another reason I am here talking about this today stems from a really interesting conversation I had just the other day. I happened to have the TV on while I was cooking dinner and a commercial came on for a drug to treat schizophrenia. A friend of mine who was over. heard the commercial and was astonished and maybe even a little disturbed (he is slightly older than me) that they had put that ad on TV because as he put it, “you never would have seen that or talked about that openly back in the day”. I found myself getting just the tiniest bit heated, not at him, but at the fact that there was even a time when talking about having a mental health issue or disease was frowned upon to that degree. I think for males in particular but even females as well, mental health issues have long been something we have been encouraged just to sweep under the rug and deal with ourselves.

So, in the spirit of being open and honest, I myself, have suffered from anxiety and panic attacks for years now. I have talked about this on this blog before so I won’t go into a ton of details but I wanted to emphasize that for a long time having these panic attacks and living with higher than normal levels of anxiety made me feel inadequate. I was ashamed that I wasn’t able to control my mind better so I could be more “normal” which led me to suffer by myself and not seek out the help that I honestly really needed. I finally got to the point though that I started opening up to a few people in my life because I just couldn’t handle it on my own anymore and while it is very hard for someone who doesn’t suffer with the same thing that you do to understand exactly what you may be going through, I was lucky enough to have people who didn’t for one-second judge me.  Instead, they just listened and were there when I needed them.

Having been on the receiving end of the kind of support and compassion that finally led me to get a handle on my own issues, I wanted to share a few do’s and don’ts today you might want to be mindful of if someone in your own life seems to be having a hard time or is brave enough to come to you and share what is going on with them:


Speak up.  Like I mentioned above, so often people who are suffering might be too afraid to say anything. Often, however, if you are close enough with a person you might see signs that something is going on with them before they are able to articulate anything to you. Sit down with that person, gently explain what you have been noticing, ask them if they are ok or if they would like to talk. Let them know they matter to you and even if they don’t choose to open up right away, oftentimes just letting them know you are there if they want to can make the biggest difference.    

Offer to just be there and listen.  The first time I got up the courage to call someone when I was having a panic attack, I called my mom. She came and got me and we sat down at the kitchen table over a cup of hot tea and I told her what I was experiencing. We talked about it for as long as I wanted to, with her mostly sitting there just listening. The most important thing that came out of that conversation, however, was that I put my embarrassment aside, finally spoke up, and now had people who knew what was going on with me and were in my corner. I was reassured I could call them day or night if/when another attack happened and that put my mind so much at ease that I only wish I would have spoken up sooner.

Educate yourself. Having a greater understanding of what someone you care about might be going through can only aid in your being as empathetic as possible to their situation. While you will probably never totally understand what another person is experiencing exactly, being as tuned in and knowledgeable as you can be might assist you in not only knowing how you should handle the situation when they come to you but also can help in steering them in the right direction as far as getting the professional help they might need.   

Offer to explore options for getting help together. Having someone on your side, assisting you with looking into seeking out professional help to deal with your issues can make the whole process seem much less scary and overwhelming. Someone in the midst of dealing with mental health issues might already be overwhelmed just trying to keep their head above water, so offering to take their hand and start exploring ways to get them outside help could be just the encouragement they need to begin the process. Again, the value of not feeling alone to deal with everything on one’s own is so huge to someone who just might need that little extra push to begin the healing process.


Try to diagnose or fix the person yourself.  While being educated is great, unless maybe you are a clinical psychologist, better to just be there in a supportive role rather than to try to give advice to “fix” the problem.  Mental health issues are often much more complex than how they manifest outwardly, so again just being there to listen and offer support is your best bet when someone opens up to you. Be a friend, a shoulder to cry on, a safe space where someone can come and talk about what is going on with them, but steer clear of asking too many questions or trying to diagnose that person yourself.  

Offer up a story about how you went through something similar.  While this may seem like a helpful way to try to relate and make the person seem less alone, oftentimes it comes across like you are trying to shift the focus onto yourself and may not truly be listening to what the person who is opening up is really saying. Again, while it may be coming from a good place, you don’t want to seem like you are just waiting to have your turn to talk. Make every effort you can just to listen.

Say “this will pass”. Saying something like “this will pass” or “this feeling is only temporary” can sound very diminishing and often make the person on the receiving end feel ashamed for even bringing the issue up. While some mental health issues can get better with time and treatment, when the person is in the midst of suffering hearing something of this nature can sound very dismissive and like the person, they chose to confide in is just brushing off the problem. These are big issues no matter how temporary or permanent they end up being so if someone chooses you to confide in please take them very seriously because they may have already been suffering in silence for some time.  

While I do think recently the climate has started to slowly change to where it is more acceptable and less taboo to talk about mental health struggles, it really shouldn’t be something anyone is ever ashamed to share or admit to. Given all that we have been living through this year, it is especially important right now to speak up if you even think there might be something going on with you that is out of the ordinary or you are having trouble dealing with yourself. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all talk about what is really going on with us and maybe find a way to work through it together? There are so many people out there who might also be struggling with something very similar to what you are so let’s work on ending the stigma and make this conversation one it is perfectly ok to have!



Taking back some control….

Taking back some control….

Right now more than ever, we may be struggling with feeling like we are out of control.  At least where I live, we have been under stay-at-home orders for a while now.  I haven’t been able to see my family, friends or my co-workers for almost 6 weeks. I am working from home, eating at home, spending my weekends at home, remaining six feet away from most other humans, and even limiting how much I am going out to the few places we can still go like grocery stores just to minimize any risk.  Most of the time, honestly though, I am pretty ok.  I am staying plenty busy with work throughout the week and on the weekends, I have really tried to be productive by cleaning, organizing and fixing up my house, studying for my upcoming exam and of course I am staying consistent with my workouts and nutrition.  But I have had moments where the isolation does gets to me.  There are times it just seems too quiet around here and almost like the walls are closing in.  In those moments, I quickly remind myself that while I can’t control everything that is happening around me, I still do have the power to control a whole heck of a lot.

So today I wanted to share some of things I focus on when the uncertainty of these times and maybe a little claustrophobia starts to creep.  I make a conscious effort to shift my focus from dwelling on what I don’t have the power to dictate to what I do, such as:

My attitude

I can decide to be positive or negative. I remind myself this too shall pass and life will get back to normal.  Dwelling on all the things we can’t do right now doesn’t make anything better.  I am busy making plans for when we are able to roam around freely again which gives me positive goals to focus on and steps to take right now to achieve those goals. I made a pact with myself when this all started that I was going to remain positive, focused, and driven.  Having a positive mindset allows my energy levels and confidence to stay highly, helps me to be more productive at work and makes me an easier and more pleasant person to deal with in all of my relationships…besides being negative in my opinion can just be flat out draining! SMILE you guys, the world needs as much positivity and joy as we can radiate right now!

My physical health

I decide every single day to move my body. I either do my home workouts, go for a long walk with my pups or a run in my neighborhood, or a combo of all the above. Staying healthy has never been more important you guys. Help your immune system out and try to be active for at least 30 minutes a day (for more info on helping out our immune systems, check out my recent post, “Staying Healthy…How can we help our immune systems right now?” If you can get outside, even better! Get some steps in, your heart rate up and as a bonus get a healthy dose of Vitamin D while you are at it!  Not only is this so important for your physical well-being, but I find the positive effects it has on my mental well-being might be even more valuable right now! Just the change of scenery alone does wonders for my frame of mind each day!

What I eat

I have made a conscious decision to stock my fridge, freezer and pantry with 90% healthy food and 10% treat food. I find if I set myself up for success by limiting how much junk food I have access to I am far more successful in meeting my nutritional goals.  Plus, I continue to make it a point to have my daily Superfood Shake which again goes a long was in supporting my immune system and filing in all those nutritional holes I might be otherwise lacking in my every day diet. One of the silver linings to this time at home is I have been exploring a lot of new recipes (I am working on getting the good ones them up on this site shortly!) and have really been enjoying the process of cooking.  I am exploring yummy new ways to cook with some of my favorite healthy ingredients, like the lasagna I made with cauliflower yesterday,  and as a bonus I am finding cooking to be a really great stress-relieving activity for me and something that brings a really nice sense of calm into my life right now.  I would call that a WIN WIN!

My effort levels

This could be effort that I am putting into taking care of myself, or effort I am putting into my job, my relationships, or a many number of other things.  What is important to focus on is knowing I have complete control over how much of my energy I am delegating and to what I am putting it into.  I am a firm believer that life gives you back what you give it.  If you give it 100% you will see amazing results.  If you give it less, you really can’t be disappointed when you get less back.  I am continuing to focus my efforts as much as possible on bettering myself during this time so again when we come out the other side, I am stronger and in a better place than when we went into it.

My mental health

While I know we can’t always control how our brains react to things, there are ways I can try to promote a healthy mental state. I have been making it a point to practice at least 15-20 minutes of yoga or Pilates each day which has really been helping me to slow down my mind and stay present in the moment more.  I also know when I start to feel overwhelmed or anxiety creeping in it is a good time to pickup the phone and talk to a family member or friend.  Getting outside each day for about an hour has also done wonders to keep my head clear and in a good place. Besides, it always makes me happy and puts an actual smile on my face to see how much my dogs are loving our new, longer daily walks!

How often I practice self-care 

Supporting my mental health also means indulging in some self care every so often. I have made it a point to take a much-needed Epsom salt bath at least once a week these days which does wonders not only to relax me but also to help my sore muscles recover after the workouts I am subjecting them to.  I also have been de-cluttering and organizing my house a lot which may sound weird for a self-care practice but has made me feel a ton better about my surroundings and also happy that I am using my time productively. Self-care isn’t selfish you guys.  You need to take care of yourself before you can even begin to think about taking care of others.  That old saying really is true, you cannot pour from an empty cup!

How thankful I am

I remind myself constantly about how thankful I am for things like my health and the health of my friends and family, but I also make it a point to tell other people that I am thankful for them. I usually am pretty good with “Please” and “Thanks You’s” but I am particularly aware of some of the sacrifices people are making right now to keep things going for us.  I am talking about the store clerks, delivery drivers and especially the healthcare workers who are going above and beyond right now and are on the front lines of this pandemic.  I am trying to say an extra loud THANK YOU to all these people when I do interact with them as their sacrifice is not lost on me at all.

My breath 

My anxiety has improved dramatically over the last two years since I committed to staying on top of my fitness and nutrition, but it is only natural that in the crazy times we are living through right now anxiety levels would be slightly more elevated than normal. I have really come to rely on controlling my breath when anxiety starts to creep in these days. As soon as I feel even a little twinge of being overwhelmed, I make a conscious effort to stop what I am doing and take a few deep, cleansing breaths.  Almost instantly, I feel much calmer and more centered.  Breathe in, breathe out and focus on just being in the moment until your mind calms down.

What I put my time into

I made a very deliberate decision that while I was spending so much time at home, I would seriously limit screen time. While I am normally not a big TV watcher, I knew with the extra time on my hands it would be easy to fall into a bad habit of turning it on and losing hours of my life in front of it.  Instead I made up my mind to put my energy into doing things that would get me close to my goals once this whole thing is over.  I am studying, writing, reading even doing puzzles instead of watching TV and of course staying as physically active as possible.

What I do if at first I don’t succeed

Failure is part of life you all. No one is perfect and honestly it would be a little boring if we were.  I fail constantly. I failed a million times before I found a workout program that clicked for me. I failed a bunch of times trying to find a healthy relationship with food.  I have failed in my inner-personal relationships, at work, in school but my mindset has really grown to accept these failures as learning experiences. If I can come out the other side of a failure having grown as a person, it really isn’t a failure at all.  Now I put my all into everything I attempt and if I succeed great, if I don’t, I learn.  Just fail forward you guys, don’t beat yourselves up too much and keep on trucking towards whatever goal you have in sight!

Who and what influences me 

Unfortunately not everyone is going to be your cheerleader. I have definitely come across people since I have started on my health and fitness journey that just don’t understand what I’m doing or why I am doing it. They haven’t necessarily been working against me, just not exactly for me.  These are the people I try to encourage to join me in some fashion, either in doing a virtual workout with me or trying one of my healthy recipes that have become a staple of my meal plan or even by giving them a packet of my superfood shake to try for themselves.  If they don’t bite, I smile, tell them I am always here if they change their minds and go about chasing after my own goals.  After all, I am not doing this for anyone else.  This journey is about me and for me.  I hope to be able to inspire others along the way but I don’t take it personally if I can’t reach everyone!

How open I am to learning

A big part of growing up, is learning that you really never stop learning. Over the past couple years especially, I have been so open to learning as much as I can about as many things as I can, and I have been loving every second of it!  I don’t know about you all, but as a teenager and really well into my twenties…ok ok, maybe even my 30’s, I was pretty convinced I had everything all figured out.  I was going to do things my way no matter how many people, facts, or signs life was giving me telling me I was wrong. But since I humbled myself enough about two years ago to realize I needed to do a ton of research to figure out how to best live a healthy lifestyle, I have fallen back in love with learning and take every opportunity I can to expand my mind.  One of the mantras I now live by is, never stop learning!

How often I ask for and accept help 

We all need it sometimes. And there is no shame in that at all.  This was also another hard lesson I had to learn probably because I am too stubborn for my own good most of the time and like to be able to do everything myself, but that is just not real life.  Whether it’s that we just need some emotional support, someone to talk to, a helping hand with a work problem, or a relationship issue, or something more tangible like help moving or changing a tire, there is no shame in being a little vulnerable every now and then.  Instead of seeing this as a sign of weakness like many of us for some reason might, we should see this as the incredible sign of strength that it is.  Be open to both giving and receiving help and I bet you will find fulfillment in both!

One other thing I am controlling these days is how much I watch/listen to the news.  I find it to be pretty negative if not down right scary a lot of the time so I choose to tune most of it out because I know if there is something major I need to find out a friend or family member will let me know what’s going on anyway.  Along with limiting exposure to potentially alarming information and the things I already listed above, there are a ton of other things I can also control such as how neat my home is, how many times I call my family and friends to check in on them, how honest I am with myself and others, how many times a day I smile 😊, how I am spending my money, how open and non-judgmental I am, and that’s just to name a few!  Things happen you guys. We can’t always avoid bad situations or prevent negative events from occurring but where our control lies is in how we react to these things.  Do we give negative feelings, emotions, events and even people our time and energy, or do we shift our focus to either learning from these negative sources and growing because of them or ignoring them altogether and finding instead something positive to focus on.  Take control where you can, use it to improve your own life and keep looking and moving forward…after all that is this the direction life is taking us so lets make it the best, happiest and most fulfilling ride possible!

Keep staying healthy and safe you guys!!



The secret to losing weight and getting healthy is…

The secret to losing weight and getting healthy is…

JUST STAND UP!  Ok, I just heard you roll your eyes but stay with me here!! The good news is losing weight and getting healthy isn’t all that complicated.  You really just need to burn more calories than you are taking in and make sure that you are taking in calories that nourish your body and help it to thrive.  The not so good news, you have to do this like a lot.  Not just once a year around January 1st. Not for a few weeks before your beach vacation rolls around.  Not when the latest fad diet comes out and you go all in for like a month.  Your results will depend on what you do the majority of the time, day in and day out, consistently. Period.  End of story. This goes for both working out and eating healthy.

But before we can become consistent with either of those two things we just have to start.  And to stand up and take that first step I really recommend you have a solid reason to do so or a “why”.  My “why” was I found myself ten pounds heavier than I had been ever in my life about two years ago.  I was uncomfortable in my own skin.  I was chronically sick with sinus infections, colds, flus, you name it.  I was missing work. I was eating like crap, hardly ever working out and I think most debilitating of all was my anxiety was through the roof.  I went from having maybe a few panic attacks a year to having a few every single week!!  My “why” started out with just wanting to lose the weight but it very quickly morphed into wanting to be as strong and healthy physically and mentally as possible.

So why is the “why” so important?  Because without it the motivation to stick to our guns and go after our goals when the struggle gets really real isn’t there.  As much as I have grown to love working out and eating right, I still struggle on some days to find the motivation to do so.  Sometimes I would much rather sit on the couch and binge on Friends reruns than pick up those weights and press play. And for sure there are a lot of days I would much rather eat that extra-large sundae with all the toppings instead of my small cup of plain fro-yo.  On days when my motivation is pretty low I always think back to my “why”. I think about the person I was two years ago. How crappy I felt all the time.  How out of control of my own life I felt.  How I wasn’t happy with myself at all.  It really was a dark period in my life and these days when working out and/or eating right is the last thing I want to do all I have to do is think back to how I felt two years ago and my butt gets right off the couch and in motion because I don’t ever want to be that person again!

No matter what your “why” is once you have found it the first step to achieving your goals is simply to just stand up.  Decide. Commit. Don’t look back!  If you are at home, get up off the couch and move around for 30 minutes.  Take a walk, clean your room, bust out some crunches while you are watching you favorite TV show.  If you are at work, same thing.  Take a 30-minute walk at lunch time.  Get up and stretch every hour. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.  Just start moving!  Being active for even just 30 minutes a day can do wonders for your health! For instance, 30 minutes of heart-rate raising activity can:

  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Help shed some pounds
  • Ease stress and anxiety
  • Improve cardiovascular health
  • Improves sleep quality
  • Boost your immune system

Just to name a few benefits!  So what are some other ways to get off to a good start when you have made that all important decision to get healthy?  Well a few ways I recommend are:

  • Get a baseline physical: It is important to get clearance from your doctor before you really dive into an exercise program just to make sure everything is in good working order. You want to make sure you are healthy enough to start putting extra stress on your body for one and your doctor may even be able to guide you in terms of what exercise might be right to meet your fitness/health goals.  I also recommend getting your labs done to make sure you are hitting the mark nutritionally and getting all the vitamins and minerals you need through your current diet.  For example, in my case my last physical showed my cholesterol was borderline high so I have made some efforts to change my diet in order to naturally lower it.  Fingers crossed it works!
  • Focus on whole foods: The basic idea behind eating more “whole foods” is that you are eating more natural foods instead of pre-packaged, processed foods. Examples of whole foods include fruits, veggies, nuts, fish, poultry and eggs.  Examples of not-so-healthy foods to stay away from are chips, cookies, snack mixes, white breads, basically anything that comes in a convenient, ready-to-eat package.  Usually processed foods are very nutrient poor, have a lot of added salt and/or sugar and just often contain artificial ingredients that aren’t doing our bodies any good.  On the flip side, whole or non-processed foods are usually full of nutrients, are heart-healthy and can even reduce the risk of some diseases.  Start by switching out a few of those pre-packaged snack foods you keep around for when that afternoon craving hits for better choices like apples and peanut butter or carrots and hummus.
  • Up that water intake: I am such a huge proponent of drinking enough water you guys!  I even wrote a whole separate post (Drink up! H20 that is!) on it if you want more details but in the meantime making a conscious effort to up your water intake is a great way to start getting healthy. Water does so many important things for our bodies including improving brain function, upping energy levels and even boosting our immune system.  Plus, a tall glass of water before meals can fill us up a bit so we don’t eat quite as much.  Start by replacing a sugary soft-drink, iced tea or fruit juice with a glass of water once or twice a day.  Also, I find it helpful to keep track of how many glasses I have had a day to make sure I am hitting the mark  Trust me, the more water you drink the healthier you will feel and be!!
  •  Find what works for you: Find something that appeals to you when you are just starting out, whether it be a quick walk around your neighborhood, a short hike at the local park, a Pilates or yoga class or maybe go swim a few laps at your local pool.  Choosing something that you enjoy doing will only increase the likelihood of you sticking with it and in turn hitting your goals.  Physical activity in just about any form has so many benefits and there is no reason you can’t make it fun as well!  I also personally believe that mixing up your workouts and trying new ways of being active goes a long way in helping you stick to your goals.  One of the reasons I think I have been successful thus far in my own journey is that I found a program that includes over 700+ different workouts that I can do from just about anywhere. I am never bored and can find a workout to fit whatever mood I am in that day. As they say, the only bad workout is one that you didn’t do! 

So find your “why”, stand your newly determined butt up and take that first step towards a more active, healthy future!  Make small changes in the beginning that will ultimately become the foundation for your new lifestyle moving forward.  Don’t beat yourself up over setbacks.  Remember to celebrate your successes and on those especially challenging days where you can’t find your motivation anywhere, think back to your “why” and remember why you started in the first place.  You’ve got this and if ever you need that extra kick in the butt you know where to find me!!

Also guys if you want to take a minute and check out my poll below…I would love to get your feedback on what you would like to see more of on this site!  Your opinion is so important to me and I want to make sure I am putting stuff up that you find helpful!!

Thanks so much and happy Monday y’all…let’s make this a great week!!



Who me? A Runner?

Who me? A Runner?

In the wise words of Charles Dickens, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”.  In this case the times are when I am running and indeed they are both the best and worst times of my week.  Ok that may be a little dramatic as it is not really the worst of times but running for me is definitely both extremely challenging and very rewarding all at the same time.   I want to quit about a half dozen times before I even start, but then I get going and the love affair is back on!  I have had this sort of tumultuous relationship with running for as long as I can remember but the start of it definitely dates back to my time on my high school cross country team.    I am not sure what even possessed me to join the team but I subjected myself to two seasons of ten plus mile practices every day of the week until I ended up with a gnarly case of shin splints at the end of my second year and decided to hang up my Nikes.

I think part of my motivation way back in those days and even today is that I have always wanted to be able to say, “I am a runner!”. You know, those people who wake up at the ass crack of dawn to get their easy breezy eight miles in before work and run races every Saturday morning just to continue to challenge themselves even on the weekends.  Alas, I have not yet become that person but I have started to make the attempt again and this time I am happy to report it is going much better than it has previously.  I have dabbled in trying to become a runner many times over the years since my “glory days” of the cross-country team but with each attempt came pretty quick failure.  It always seems like such a cool thing to do and the people in my life who are true runners even make it seem so easy but when you get down to it running (at least for me) can be just plain hard.

In this most recent attempt to transform myself into one of those enviable runner-types I think I realized something that may just be the key to actually allowing me to stick with it this time.  I realized that the truly difficult part of running is convincing your mind that you can do it.   While of course there is a physical element to being able to run any prolonged distance, it is really your mind you have to convince not to give up when your body starts telling you it is uncomfortable.  Our bodies are really amazingly durable machines and can withstand quite a bit of stress when asked to, our minds, however, are a bit more temperamental.  As soon as they sense any bit of pain, strain or fatigue they have the tendency to say….” Hey there chick, stop what you are doing because it is making me feel a tad but unpleasant”.

This revelation came to me about a month into my most recent attempt at running when I was on the treadmill and hit the two-mile mark.  This is where I would normally throw in the towel due to those unpleasant sensations starting to manifest themselves.  By unpleasant sensations I mean you know the burning lungs, leg soreness and that really painful side cramping.  I typically would start to experience one or all of these things and immediately reach for the cool down button thinking my body was telling me it was time to stop.  This particular day for whatever reason I decided to try to push myself through the pain and I kept right on running.  Low and behold I made it 2 more miles for a total of 4 miles before I actually had to stop, due to needing to get ready and go to work.  I was shocked!  I hadn’t run four miles in years and I did it more easily than I would have even thought possible!  Don’t get me wrong, it was challenging as it is every time I set out for a run, but my body yet again surprised me and I was able to achieve something I hadn’t thought I was capable of up until that point.

Now to be fair, I had been working out consistently for about a year and a half at this point so it wasn’t like I was in terrible shape but I certainly hadn’t been running or really doing any amount of cardio at all on a regular basis.  I had been mostly doing strength training and HIIT workouts (following the at-home workout programs I still swear by) with only a smidgen of cardio mixed in, usually in the form of 30 minutes on the elliptical every so often when the mood struck.  So to make it four miles not only gave me a gigantic confidence boost but also renewed my interest in transforming myself into a runner. Since that morning I have been consistently running about 3 or so days a week and have been progressively increasing my speed and distance slowly but surely.  This coming weekend is my next actual 5k race and then I am eyeing another 4-5 races before the season is over.

So why run anyway?  Well I am glad you asked! 😊  As dramatic as I was being earlier in this post about how hard it is for me, running is an amazing workout that can really do wonders for your mind and body.  Below are some of the top reasons I continue to lace up my running shoes and get those miles under my belt as well a few suggestions for when you are just starting out:

How to (safely) get started:

  • Make sure you invest in good running shoes: You guys this is so important to being successful not only when first starting out but even if you’re a seasoned runner. You want to get shoes that are specific to running because they are designed to cushion your foot (midsole and arch support is key), make your feet feel lighter as you run, they will help you avoid blisters and other running related injuries, and can even improve your overall performance.  My go-to’s are usually Asics or New Balance.  It’s always a good idea to get fitted as well to make sure you are getting shoes that work with your feet.  Happy Feet = Happy Run!
  • Start Gradually!! – If you are attempting your very first run or your first run in like a gazillion years don’t go out and expect to make it ten miles right off the bat. Much like with any other sport you have to give your body time to adjust and condition itself to the new stress you are putting it under.  I started with a mile, then made it to two and after hovering right around the two-mile mark for several weeks eventually was able to start upping my mileage to between 3-5 on any given day. Easing into a new running routine is key to avoiding injury, sticking with your goals and avoiding the too much too soon scenario which almost always leads to burnout and you throwing in the towel prematurely.  A great tool to help you structure your running program is a Couch to 5k plan.  You can find a variety of these programs online which help you to map out exactly what distances to run each day to safely increase your running stamina.  Also, great if one of your goals is to actually run a 5K!
  • Incorporate Strength Training: I think this is one of the reasons I have (so far) been more successful in my attempt at being a runner this time around.  I was consistently strength training for over a year before I began running again so my legs were stronger, my core was stronger, and I was in overall better shape than I had been at the start of any previous attempts.  Despite the sometimes thought that running and strength training are mutually exclusive, strength training can greatly increase your running performance in my opinion.  If your muscles are stronger you can run longer distances before getting fatigued and your chances of getting injured go way down. So hit those weights, preferably on days you don’t run, and experience the benefits of cross-training for both your body goals as well as your running goals.
  • Listen to your body: I know I have said this a million times, but your body will really tell you what it needs and when it needs it.  A great way to make sure you are not over-taxing your body when you are just starting a running routine is to run one day and then take the next off.  This rest day from running might be a good opportunity to hit those weights I was just talking about as well as give your body time to recover from the run you did the day before.  Also a good idea when first starting out to use a combo of walking and running during your workouts.  Run for a few minutes, walk for a few minutes until you build up your stamina and can run for longer duration’s.  Again, the main thing here is to listen to your body and act accordingly.  If you are sore, take a day off.  If you start cramping mid-way through a run, walk for a few minutes.  Just give your body time to do its thing and it will allow you to push it further in the long run (no pun intended).

Why Run?

  • Amazing for Cardiovascular Health – This one seems pretty obvious but besides being a great way to strengthen your heart, running also does wonders for your lung function, can help lower cholesterol, gives your immune system a boost and of course can even help you lose weight! What else can you ask for in one exercise?!
  • Great Stress Reliever – Ever heard of the Runners High? Oh man, it’s a real thing and let me tell you it’s pretty glorious when it kicks in.  This phenomenon is brought to you by those great little endorphins your brain produces after you have been doing some moderate exercise for a sustained amount of time.  Usually about 25-30 minutes into my run I start to experience the feeling that I could run forever, that I don’t have a care in the world and that I just feel like a million bucks.  The release of endorphins while running has also been shown to be an effective way to treat/manage things like depression and anxiety…especially when running outside!
  • Confidence Booster – Along with the stress relieving benefits of running, it can also make you feel good in a different sort of way…it can make you proud of yourself! I think for me this is one of the biggest appeals of running.  Because it has always been such a challenge for me, when I complete a run, I just feel like I really accomplished something.  Running is far harder for me than weight training or any other kind of cardio so when I successfully meet one of my running goals, I am that much prouder of myself and eager to do it again or meet an even loftier goal.
  • Hey it’s free! – You can literally run just about anywhere!  Throw on some shoes, open your front door and go!  There is no real cost to running other than those all-important shoes it is wise to invest in, but again you can pretty much do it anywhere anytime.  It’s a great way to explore a new place, easy to do if you are away on vacation and getting fresh air everyday does wonders for not only your mind but also has been shown to lower blood pressure, raise your self-esteem, and burns a bunch of calories all at the same time!

So who’s ready to go for a run??  With all the benefits that you can reap even just running one or two days a week (lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, ward off stroke and arthritis, even potentially prevent some cancers, not to mention shed some weight) why not give it a shot?!  I’m a few months into my own attempt at becoming that runner I have always aspired to be so stay tuned to see how that goes! I think I have a real shot at it this time and seeing as how by body has surprised me countless times since I have started on this health and fitness journey I am feeling pretty confident I can meet this goal as well!   Wish me luck on my upcoming 5k this weekend and if anyone out there has any tips at how to improve as a runner or what has worked for you I would love to hear it!



Reducing Stress and Anxiety…

Reducing Stress and Anxiety…

Because let’s face it, stress is an inevitable part of life no matter how much I would like to tell you otherwise. We all have to deal with it at some point, right? Whether it be that traffic jam that is making you late for an important appointment. Trying to meet an impossible deadline at work. Exams, relationship issues or just simply trying to balance all the different parts of our lives and give 100% to everyone and everything. Earlier today I read that May is National Mental Health Awareness Month which made me stop and think about just how unbelievably better my own mental health has become since starting on my “get Beth healthy” journey a year ago. I wanted to share this part of my story with you all because sometimes with health and fitness it is all about the results you can see on the outside but for me the results you can’t see that have become just as if not more important to me!

I am the definition of a Type A personality. I am also a borderline perfectionist as my fifth-grade teacher first pointed out to me and my parents at a back-to-school night so many moons ago. If I am not early I am late. If I have a big deadline in front of me I will work 24/7 to get it done as quickly as possible. If I don’t get 100% on a test I beat myself up just a little bit (or maybe more than a little bit) for the one or two questions I did get wrong. Sometimes those traits work to my advantage and sometimes they cause me to develop ulcers. I also tend to be a worrier.  My mind likes to lead me to the worst-case scenario a lot of times, keeps me up obsessing about a decision that lays in front of me and sometimes causes me to hyperventilate just sitting in my car for no good reason at all. I have been like this ever since I can remember which again sometimes enables me to excel in certain situations but also makes me very highly prone to the effects of stress and anxiety in others.

Since I have started really paying attention to what I am eating and dedicating consistent time to working out my mental health has improved so much I almost can’t believe it myself! The best way I can describe the difference in the way I feel today versus a year ago is I feel lighter. A LOT lighter. I honestly feel (as cliché as it sounds) like a 100lb weight has been lifted off my chest. I’d always hear people say that, but I never truly understood what it meant prior to starting on my own journey. It really is like I can breathe for the first time in many, many years and it feels phenomenal you guys.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I have suffered from panic attacks for a long time. When I first started getting them, it would be a handful a year. Several years ago it started getting worse. I am talking 3-4 attacks a week worse! The problem became so debilitating it was scary for me to leave the house because I was so worried about having one in public where people would see it. Since I decided to get healthy, this issue for me has gotten so much better I can’t even remember the last time I had an attack! It’s been at least 6-8 months and maybe even longer! I can’t tell you what a huge milestone that is for me!

The other part of my mental health story and why I am excited to share it today has to do with those above mentioned panic attacks and medication.  I am not someone who typically runs to the doctor to seek medication for all that ails me. In fact, I hate taking medication of any kind really. I have to be pretty much on my death bed to even take something like an over the counter pain reliever or cough and cold medicine. But when my anxiety and panic attacks got really bad a few years back I had no choice but to seek medical help and ended up being prescribed something to help me deal with the situation. Even with that prescription in hand, I resisted taking it unless I was paralyzed in the midst of an attack and felt I had no other option. Right before I started on this journey, I was having to take that damn pill about 3 times a week and I was angry with myself each and every time I did for not being strong enough to fight off the panic on my own.

Here comes another one of those fun disclaimers I feel the need to throw in every once in a while….this is just how I feel about medication. I just don’t like taking it. Anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications, heck medications of any kind do work very well for a lot of people and I am not discouraging anyone who does take them or is considering taking them. I honestly have nothing bad at all to say about my experience using what I was prescribed. It helped me many times and I still carry it with me just about every where I go “just in case”. For me though, getting off it was a goal of mine from the time I was prescribed it!

Fast forward to today, my anxiety is all but gone and I have achieved the goal of getting off those meds as well! I can’t remember the last time I had to take a pill for my anxiety. I still have everyday stresses like we all do but I am so much naturally calmer overall that when things do come up I can usually handle it in stride. I don’t freak out over little things anymore. I don’t automatically assume the worst. I haven’t had a panic attack in I don’t even know how long and that sense of impending doom that was always right around the corner is definitely gone! So what big change did I make to get all these positive results? The crazy thing is the only change I really made was deciding to place value on my health. I got fed up with being out of shape and not liking the person I saw in the mirror and just made that one all important decision to do something about it.

So how exactly can mental health be helped by exercise and proper nutrition? Well here are a couple of the big ways:

  • Feeling and looking better can boost your confidence and improve self-image
  • Enables you to get better sleep
  • Exercise increases the levels of endorphins in your brain. Endorphins are those magical little neurotransmitters that trigger a positive feeling in the body. Think “Runners High”!
  • This one is a big one for me: Exercising gets you out of your own head and focuses you on your body. By focusing on the repetitive movements of exercise I especially notice a sense of calm and an almost meditative-like state that is a huge stress relief for me even when I am just working out for 30 minutes during the day.
  • The better shape you are in physically the less you have to worry about health-related issues. Exercise and proper eating obviously keep you in better shape and ward off all kinds of diseases which in both the long and short run will give you less to worry about. And let me tell you, if you think being healthy is expensive, try being sick! Investing in your physical health now will save you all kinds of stress later!

Truth be told, this whole journey really started out with just a goal of losing ten pounds. My mental health wasn’t even really a factor at all in the beginning. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have lost the weight, but it’s what I gained in its place that I think is even more valuable. I gained my peace of mind back. I wake up every day feeling calm and ready to take on whatever the day is going to bring. More importantly still, I wake up every day feeling grateful for all the wonderful things that I do have in my life and even thankful for the challenges that come along because they are just opportunities to continue to learn and grow.

Getting in shape and taking care of my physical health led to such a huge shift in the way I look at the world which in turn did wonders for my mental health. I am so optimistic about the future now because I know if I can accomplish what I already have in just the last twelve months there really isn’t anything out there I can’t achieve if I put my mind to it. Guys, if you are struggling with your mental health in any way shape or form like I was, try giving exercise and eating properly a try if you are not already.  The benefits I have experienced have been amazing and honestly life-changing!  Besides, what do you have to lose?? If anyone out there would like more info about my experience, my workouts or how I have improved my nutrition please feel free to reach out!!  Happy Monday y’all! Let’s have a great week!  🙂



What to do when you get a food allergy diagnosis…

What to do when you get a food allergy diagnosis…

Step 1: Don’t Panic!!

Easier said than done …I know from personal experience.  Panicking is exactly what I did immediately after I hung up the phone with my doctor and received my allergy diagnosis almost ten years ago. I then proceeded to spend several weeks in a tailspin debating whether I would actually be able to continue living without my beloved bagles, pancakes and pizza in my life!  I wish I could say I was exaggerating that reaction or being dramatic to make this post more interesting to read but I actually had thoughts that I may not be able to or want to survive without being able to eat my favorite foods for the rest of my life.  Now I was diagnosed just about ten years ago when living a gluten free life was just starting to become a thing.  Nowadays it seems like we all know someone who has one food allergy or the other or simply chooses to go gluten-free, or dairy-free or soy-free…I could go on and on with the frees.  But a decade ago it wasn’t so commonplace and I myself knew nothing about what it meant to have to give up whole food groups, let alone the food group I loved the most.

Hence, the panic.  I spent a few days in shock.  Then the anger set in.  Then my body reacted.  After spending almost 29 years inhaling all the carbs I could get my hands on, to go cold-turkey all of a sudden sent my system into some kind of shock. I spent another 3 days on my parents couch in some sort of fog where I barely knew my name and don’t think I even ate or drank anything at all.  By about the third day my mom force fed me something she had carefully researched to make sure it was safe and I started to come around.  I knew I wasn’t serious about ending it so the only other choice I was left with was to figure out what my new life would be like post-wheat, rice, barley, oats, malt and rye. In hindsight, I probably, definitely, overreacted a tad but I am here to tell you I have lived a full and happy life since then so tryyyyy not to panic too much. You will get through this, I promise!  This is why Step 2 is so important….

Step 2: Research the Heck Out of Your Diagnosis!

Listen to you doctor first off but then go home, take your diagnosis into your own hands, and do some research.  These days there is tons of information out there to help guide you through your new reality.  The more knowledge you have the more in control of your situation you will feel.  There are so many great products, recipes, substitutes, tips and tricks out there to help you make the best of your new dietary restrictions. You may even be able to continue eating many of your favorite dishes with just a few minor tweaks to the ingredient list!  I mean they make pizza out of cauliflower now!  What a great time to be alive!

In all serious, do your own research and make sure you read food labels and menu descriptions carefully.  Ask the waiter questions about what is in a dish at restaurants if you have any doubt something might be safe.  Heck, if the waiter doesn’t know, ask to speak to the chef.  Read every ingreadient in new products you are trying out because sometimes off-limit allergens are toward the middle or end of an ingredient list.  Thankully these days both food labels and menus tend to point out if something contains a common allergy trigger such as nuts, soy and wheat, which makes shopping and eating out a lot easier and safer than it used to be.

Do beware of cross-contamination though, especially when eating out or if you live with a S/O or roommate(s) who doesn’t share your same restrictions.  Make sure you thoroughly wash/sanitize shared kitchen surfaces, plates, pots, pans, silverware at home and check with restaurant staff to see if they have a separate area in which they prepare the allergy-safe dishes on their menu when dining out.  Another little tip that worked well for me especially in the beginning was I would keep a little allergy card on me that listed my allergies which I could hand to waiters/waitresses so they could double check with the chef just to make sure the dish I chose was safe.

Now one of the things that did trip me up in the beginning was how many sneaky food items actually contained wheat that I never would have guessed would have been a danger.  For example, soy sauce has wheat in it.  Gravy is made with wheat as is a lot of other sauces because it is used as a thickening agent.  What I usually do as a rule is order any sauce that may come on a dish on the side just to be sure.  Even meatballs, deli meats and some of the faux-meat products like veggie burgers are made with wheat so they are a no-go.  Oh and one that made me really sad…licorice is a wheat-containing product!  For a former Twizzler-a-holic this one was pretty upsetting to learn!  But this is why doing your due-diligence is important you guys!  Just take some time to educate yourself so you make smart choices and keep yourself safe.

While all the seemingly endless information and great allergy-friendly products makes life a lot easier for us allergy suffers these days, there is still an emotional element to being diagnosed that is not always addressed by your doctors or even your most well-intentioned family member or friend who don’t share the same limitations.  So that brings me to step 3…

Step 3:  Be Prepared but Not Consumed…

These days I still have to put more thought into what I am eating than most people I know but I don’t let my allergies consume or define me.  For a while after my initial diagnosis I felt like my life revolved around each meal I was going to eat and being afraid of what would happen if I ate the wrong thing.  My anxiety increased, my health suffered because I wasn’t putting enough effort into eating a well-balanced diet only strictly avoiding anything and everything I thought might send me back to the ER and I was constantly consumed with the worst-case scenario every time I ate, well, ANYTHING!

Again, back then having a food allergy or five wasn’t nearly as commonplace as it is now so I not only felt despondent and anxious but also very alone.  I didn’t know anyone else with the same limitations as I now had and that was an added emotional challenge.  I found myself constantly having to explain why I could no longer go out for pizza or eat the stuffing at Thanksgiving.  I felt embarrassed a lot, hated having the attention on me when I had to bring up why I had to pass on certain dishes, felt bad when my friends or family had to pick or change restaurants to accommodate my restrictions and generally just felt like a werido because no one else I knew could relate.  These days with more people being properly diagnosed and the increased awareness this brings the dialog on the subject is much more open and I myself feel much less embarrassed to bring up my food limitations when the situatoion calls for it.

On top of a plethora of information there are also a lot of great support pages, blogs, networks etc. that you can connect with to find people who share your diagnosis.  Knowing you are not alone and it is possible to live a full, happy and healthy life is so important when you are first diagnosed. Share your diagnosis with those closest to you as well, even though they may not be able to fully understand or relate.  When I first was diagnosed I was given an epi-pen and a video on how to use it in case of emergency and was urged by my allergist to educate those who I spend a lot of time with on how to use it as well.  Having those closest to me in the know and prepared to help if I ever needed it lessened my anxiety and gave me more peace of mind that if the worst should happen I was covered.

Being prepared still to this day helps to lessen my anxiety and the amount of time I waste worrying about what may happen if I was to eat the wrong thing.  I know the early signs of an allergic reaction, the tingling and/or swelling in my mouth or lips, the rash and hives that I sometimes get, the flushing and warm sensation that starts in my face and goes down my neck and chest.  I know if these things start to happen because I accidently eat something I shouldn’t that I can reach for the Benadryl that I always carry with me and if that doesn’t work I know my epi-pen is always on me as well.  I am prepared and diligent but not obsessed.

My allergies are a part of my life but they don’t consume it.  They don’t define me because I don’t let them.  I’ve learned to adapt to and embrace what my body needs and most importantly I am thankful for being as healthy as I am and what amazing things my body does for me each and every day.  We all have our things that challenge us, try us at times, make us feel different from everyone else but staying grateful for all the good and positive things you do have in your life will go along way in dealing with any adversity that may present itself.  Now, that cauliflower pizza is calling my name so as always thank you for taking the time to read this post if anyone out there has any questions about food allergies or anything else feel free to reach out!!



** Disclaimer:  These are just suggestions based on my own experiences.  Please do consult throughly with your doctors/allergiests if you receive a food allergy diagnosis! **



Another trip around the sun…

Another trip around the sun…

and what a trip it was!  🌞 While every year has its ups and downs, I can genuinely look back on this past year of my life and smile! 😊  38 was a GOOD year for me and my feelings of excitement and optimism going into my 39th year of life have more than pleasantly surprised me.  For someone who has been operating with a higher than normal level of anxiety for years now, I have this new found sense of calm that is both a little foreign and very refreshing at the same time!  Not to be cliche, but I feel like a weight has been lifted off me.  Like I can take a deep breath for the first time in a very long time.  Like I am no longer just surviving, I am starting to thrive!

Is this was “normal” people feel like?  I don’t know if there is such a thing as normal these days, but I wonder if this is what not living under the veil of anxiety and imminent panic everyday feels like?  Coming out the other side of being mentally and physically unhealthy for many years now, I don’t even think I truly realized how weighed down I had been feeling and for just how long.  A year into getting healthy and I kinda feel like my teenage self again!  Remember being a teenager?  Being filled with a cocky sense of invincibility that you could do or be anything you wanted.  That feeling of having the world at your fingertips….yep that is the feeling that is coming over me as I think about all the things I want to accomplish this year!

Being optimistic going into a new year is in itself a new sensation for me!  I wouldn’t say that I am pessimistic by nature, more of a realist if I had to label myself, but this is the first year that I am really excited to see what the next twelve months are going to hold.  I feel like I am back in control of my life and there really is no limit to what I can do now and what direction I can take it.  I wanted to talk about these new feelings because this is yet another great example of how getting myself physically back in shape has done wonders for so much more than just my waist line!

In sitting down to write this post it dawned on me that it has been many, many weeks if not months (long enough that I can’t even remember when the last time was exactly) since I had a panic attack!  😮  That is pretty amazing considering last year at this time I was having several a week!!  This journey never ceases to amaze me guys!  The past couple months I was so focused on the physical progress I was making that I hadn’t been paying much attention to how much better mentally I was doing.  Coming into the new year as well as celebrating my birthday yesterday has naturally led me to reflect back on the past year as well as look forward to the new one and you know what?  Looking in both directions fills me with excitement…a kid in a candy store kinda excitement!  I am both proud of what I have accomplished and excited to see how much more I can achieve.

You guys, getting in shape, starting on a health and wellness journey, deciding to eat better, and/or even just starting to prioritize yourself a little more is so worth it.  I physically lost some weight over the past year but I think even more remarkable is what I have gained.  I gained my confidence back.  I am proud of myself for the first time in a long time.  I am more optimistic than I have been in years.  I found my breath.  I feel like I am in control of my life for the first time in a long, long time.  Things are not just happening to me anymore, I am making them happen the way I want them to and this is all because I made one decision a year ago to get my butt back into shape.  I had no idea then what that decision would mean, or just how significant it would become, but I am so thankful that I got tired enough of myself and my own excuses to commit to making it happen.

It started out for me with just a simple desire to lose a few pounds.  That was all I made up my mind to do a year ago.  It has since transformed into an entirely new lifestyle that I am so, so in love with.  I have taken back control of both my body and mind.  I can’t think of one aspect of my life that has not been improved by being on this journey. I wake up every day now looking forward to continuing on this path and making more and more progress.  I have been amazed at how my body has responded thus far and possibly even more astonished at how much my mental health has improved.

So in the spirit of the new year, and new beginnings and the blank book we have in front of us,  lets write the best chapters yet!  Make one decision today that you will look back on this time next year and be abundantly thankful to yourself for making.  Start small, swap out that soda you drink at lunch for a glass of water, incorporate a 30 minute walk into your daily routine a few times a week, go get that physical you have been putting off to get a baseline idea of your overall health.  Just pick one thing and build on it over the course of this year.  Take a few baby steps today that your future self with thank you for.  You are worth it!!!

Happy New Year to all of you! 😘 Lets make it a great one!!  Some pics below from how I spent my day yesterday. Spoiler alert: I ate a lot!! 🍟🌮🎂





Lets talk about mental health….

Lets talk about mental health….

after all we talk so much about how we take care of our physical bodies, why don’t we feel as free to talk about how we nourish our mental selves as well?  I was thinking about this issue today as I was driving into work.  I am not really sure why….it was just one of those random thoughts that popped into my head but I realized it has been quite a while since I had to take any Xanax.  And yes, I do have a prescription for it,  have been to therapy in the past and take it under the supervision of a doctor.   Even as I am writing this though I am a little hesitant to talk about it for some reason.  Maybe it is because I know there is a stigma attached to having a mental health issue.  Maybe I am afraid of being judged or misunderstood.  Maybe I am afraid that I will be perceived as weak.  Maybe all of those things and more.  But maybe, just maybe talking about it is exactly what needs to happen.  Maybe if we all were a little more vulnerable we would realize exactly how common these problems really are and that we are not as alone as we maybe sometimes feel.

While I have touched on my own issues with anxiety in previous blog posts, I don’t know that I ever mentioned that I was prescribed medication as part of my treatment.  I have dealt with anxiety, and more specifically panic attacks, for over fifteen years now.  I resisted getting any form of help at first because I told myself I could handle it (whatever “it” was).  It wasn’t until I landed in the ER twice thinking I was having a heart attack I decided this might be more than I can face alone.  A couple years of therapy later, a bunch of self-help books, and finally a long conversation with my primary care doctor and I ended up with a prescription for Xanax and a diagnosis of a panic disorder.

At fist my doctor wanted me to take something stronger that I could use everyday to keep the anxiety at bay.  I flat out refused.  I didn’t want to take any medication at all let alone something everyday that I thought would make me feel numb to the world.  I compromised though and accepted the prescription for a low dose of Xanax that I could take as needed.  You guys, again, this is just my story and my experiences.  There are so many different degrees of mental health issues, different types of problems people face, some on a daily basis some just in certain situations like me.  What I feel is right for me may be vastly different from what someone else needs.  That being said, I walked out of the doctors office that day feeling a little defeated because I had accepted medication but also hopeful that this might be a useful tool in fighting some of the really bad attacks I was having.

That was about five years ago.  I have to admit that I am very glad I finally relented and gave the medication a try because it has helped me more than a few times avoid a full on panic attack or lessen one that snuck up on me.  I don’t today nor have I ever taken it on a daily basis (I maybe go through two to three bottles of it a year, depending on how the year is going!)  but I carry it with me all the time just in case I need it….kinda like a security blanket I guess! 🙂 It does make me feel better knowing I have it if I need it and maybe that in and of itself is therapeutic for me.

The whole reason I brought this up today is because I realized suddenly this morning just how long it had been since I had to reach for a pill.  I am talking probably months you guys.  Which means it has been that long since I have felt an anxiety attack coming on or was actually having one.  That’s pretty amazing given that last year (2017) I was having several attacks a week!!  Now nothing in my life has changed in any major way other than well, for me!  I have the same job, same relationships, same everything (I am sad to report I did not win the lottery this week) other than the unwanted weight and low self-esteem that I was carrying around last year.  It really hit me this morning just how much our physical and mental health is connected.  I feel like I lost the weight and a bunch of anxiety right along with it!  I wish I could put into words exactly what it feels like, but the closest I can come to describing it is I feel like a weight have been lifted not only off my physical body but also my mental self.  I just feel lighter.

Now don’t get me wrong, I know this is an issue I will probably always struggle with to some degree.  But if I can lessen that degree significantly by taking better care of myself, exercising properly and eating right, well that is a huge win in my book!!  I also want to make it a point to talk more about my mental health as my journey progresses as well.  I talk so much here about what I eat and how I take care of my physical being but I realized today that I don’t spend enough time addressing the other part of me that you can’t see from the outside.  I don’t feel like I am doing this journey or the mighty kind few of you that read this justice by leaving that part out.  I hope that by talking about my own issues and how I deal with them that maybe someone else out there struggling will know it is not hopeless and that they are not alone.  After all, if we can talk about not eating gluten and where we get our protein from and what supplements we use to build strong muscles, why can’t we talk about the things we use and do to be mentally strong as well?

More to come on this topic but for now I hope you all have a great Thursday and as always thank you so much for reading!!








Anxiety, Endorphins & Me…

Anxiety, Endorphins & Me…

Another part of the puzzle that started me on this journey to improving my overall health and wellness is wanting to conquer (or at least get in check) my anxiety.  I know the term anxiety is thrown around quite a bit and if you don’t suffer from it I can imagine it is easy to dismiss it as a “fake” disease but for people who do suffer from it it’s very REAL!  I unfortunately am one of those people who has been struggling a long time and in my case it comes in the form of panic attacks.

I have always been a Type A personality, I mean to a tee!  If I am not early, I am late.  If I didn’t get an A on an exam I would beat myself up.  I believe my 5th grade teacher even told my parents I was a perfectionist.  I am competitive to a fault.  I hold myself to very high standards and am easily frustrated when I don’t accomplish something I feel that I should have.  I have tried to go easier on myself as I have gotten older and have had some success in doing so but for the most part that is just my personality and I have largely accepted it.

Where things took a turn was back when I was in college.  It was my senior year at the University of Maryland and in the fall of 2001 I was caught in what I would later learn to be an F3 tornado that demolished a large part of the campus and killed two girls in a car right behind mine.  I remember vividly looking in my rear view mirror as I sat at a traffic light heading to my apartment after class and saw a very large, very angry funnel cloud coming straight at me.  If you have never had the pleasure of being up close and personal to an actual tornado it looks exactly like what you see in movies. My flight-or-fight response immediately kicked in and all I could think was I need to get out of the direct path of it.  I ended up driving off the road to the shoulder of the highway and as the dark grayish brown funnel cloud passed over me I just remember thinking about how my poor parents will be devastated that I am not going to survive this.

It really is very interesting what you think about when you think you are about to die which I absolutely thought what was going to happen when I got sucked up in the chaos around me.  By some miracle, the funnel passed over me and I realized I was alive and physically totally unscathed.  My car windshield had been shattered and when I got the two blocks to my apartment I found that my windows had all been sucked out along with my computer and all the contents of my desk which had been right next to the window, but I was alive!

Later on I heard the news that 2 sisters who had been two cars behind me at the light had been sucked up by the funnel, thrown over an 8 story building and instantly killed when they hit another building right behind it.  At the time, and honestly still a bit today, I can’t really comprehend the randomness of why they died and all the rest of us didn’t, but it goes without saying that it is a day that I will never forget.

What does this have to do with endorphins you may be thinking at this point? And let me just stop here and apologize for such a long post today, but this is a major part of my life that I don’t talk about all that much but I feel is important to get out there in hopes others can relate.  Right after the tornado happened, my parents urged me to see a therapist so I could talk about what had happened, my feelings, etc. to make sure I was dealing with it appropriately.  Of course me being 20 or so years old and knowing everything about everything I laughed that off as completely unnecessary and pretty much got back to living life as I always had.

Fast forward to a few years out of college, I was taking a trip up to Philly to see my boyfriends family and about 20 minutes into the ride started hyperventilating and feeling like I was going to die just completely out of the blue.  One trip to the ER later and about a year or so subsequently of seeing different specialists, everyone’s best guess was some sort of asthma. A bunch of different prescriptions were of course then thrown at me, none of which really did anything.    Over the following several years I continued to have these “asthma” attacks but only strangely when I was in the car.  Super frustrated, tired of going to the doctors, and more tired of hyperventilating in the car, I started trying to figure out what was really going on.

Eventually I came across some articles that explained how similar anxiety/panic attacks feel to having an actual heart attack and how many times people who have anxiety attacks think they are actually having a cardiac event and land in ER’s.  It all started to make sense at this point.  All the symptoms I had while in the midst of a panic attack matched the descriptions of them in all the articles I was reading.  I realized these attacks were probably happening as a result of that damn tornado and feeling like I was trapped in my car.  I have to stop here to painfully acknowledge that my parents were of course right about this all along.  UGH.  Anyway, somewhat relieved it was all in my head and not something physically wrong with me, I thought I can get a handle on this.  I am mentally strong enough now that I know what’s wrong with me to deal with these things.  Oh boy, was I wrong.

15+ years later and I still get those nasty little attacks just as feverishly as I did back then.  They do come and go, and sometimes I can go months without having one, but the fear of having one come on is always with me.  I’ve also noticed that when my overall life is more stressful they tend to come on more often (sometimes daily) as was the case back at the end of last year and beginning of this year.  I was having almost daily attacks while driving both to and from work (I have the pleasure of about an hour and a half commute each way in basically standstill traffic daily) which was so exhausting by the end of each week I was in tears making the drive.  I realized not only was my physical health suffering from me being out of shape and not taking care of myself, but my mental health was suffering greatly as well.

Exercise has always been a HUGE stress reliever for me and the difference in my mental health when I am getting to the gym and when I slack off is staggering!  Desperately wanting to get these panic attacks under control was a huge reason I got my lazy butt back into working out.  Since I have lost some weight, changed my diet up and just generally started prioritizing my overall health, my anxiety attacks have lessened significantly.  I don’t think they will ever go away completely and I still get them about once a week or so now but my overall stress levels have gone down tremendously and my quality of life has only gotten better.

So go workout! Take a walk!  Hit the gym!  Take a yoga or pilates class!  Get those endorphins flowing!  If your body feels better I promise your mind will too.  There is light at the end of even the darkest tunnel if you just get up and get moving.  IMG_6239