Listening to your Body

Sometimes the internet can be incredibly overwhelming. There is an abundance of nutritional information out there, not to mention various health advice and sources telling us what we should and shouldn’t be doing. Every week it seems, there is some new fad diet or juice cleanse out to improve your ‘wellbeing”. While the internet does enable us to explore areas of health and access various sources of information rapidly, it also has its downfalls.

If you are like me, and  have an interest in healthy living – then the internet can be an incredibly complex minefield. One day we are reading that coconut oil is the superfood that all humans must consume regularly, and a week later, something else states that consuming coconut oil is actually not good for internal organs and systems. Sound complicated? That’s because it is. With the health industry growing rapidly every single day, there are multiple ‘influential’ people telling us which particular way of eating is best for our health. 

If I am honest, sometimes the more I read… the more confused I get about what information to trust. What techniques will work and what will cause my body more damage than good? Is consuming dairy bad for my insides? Will eating raw kale give me gas? Raw food in general? Is a vegan diet actually healthy? 

To be frank… this issue effects all of us. Whether or not you have an interest in healthy living, the constant talk of ‘how to eat’ and ‘how to live’ surrounds us. But the truth is, and what I have now learnt (and will continue to learn)… is that no one knows what will work for you. There are most definitely sources and facts out there that can give you guidance, however no one knows what will work for you – BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT YOU.

Lately, I have realised just how much I was relying on these online sources to tell me what to do and how to live. I think its become ingrained within girls of our age to think this way. If someone else lives a vegan diet and thrives, then maybe I will too. If someone who counts their macros and gyms 3 times a day is happy, then maybe I will be too. 

Speaking from experience, (in the past), I have suffered through uncomfortable symptoms and body changes – all to ensure I was following the advice of an expert. I developed orthorexia when my drive for healthy living, manifested into a rigid routine and deep-seated fear of food. Sure… everyone will experience these diet changes on different scales, but the point of this post is to realise how extreme this can be, and to raise awareness for how these processes work.

In order to try and figure out what works best for me, I have been working on self-development, and learning to listen to my body. Instead of consistently being frustrated by the challenges and changes that our bodies experience, I now attempt to identify what my body is trying to communicate to me.

These are the techniques I have been using to reconnect with my body and its messages, and I hope that they can help you to indeed – find what works for you.

Listening to your Body

 

Take time to slow down

When we let our minds race around at a million miles an hour EVERYDAY, we experience an inability to hear and recognise what is going on within our bodies. Same goes for consistently being on the move; an inability to realise if we are sore, tired, angry or frustrated. I’m sure you know the feeling – and then it’s too late, arriving home in a shitty mood but unsure why… all because we haven’t taken a moment to breath.

Becoming aware of your bodies messages and signals after eating food, is much easier when you take the time to stop. Pay attention to your signals before, during, and after you eat/exercise. This can often be done by avoiding social media or other activities at meal times, reading a book, and doing breathing exercises.

Keep a food diary

For someone who has had orthorexic tendencies, I was originally against the idea of keeping track of everything I eat/how much exercise I do. Sounds like calorie counting to me… and although its not, making numbers and calories the image of my food, was not something I wanted to delve back into the habit of.

However, when trying to determine what works best for our bodies, I have found it super helpful to keep a note of the food items consumed/exercise done etc. Sometimes it takes a while, even overnight, for our body’s signals and reactions to present themselves, so take the time and make a record – and by doing so, you will notice patterns. 

Be open to trying new things

Anyone who knows me well, will know that I struggle with breaking routines. However, as I said earlier – our body’s signals and changes take time to develop, and we need to give these opportunity in order to uncover what’s really going on. Take a trial and error approach to trying new things, and giving your body time to attempt something new, experience the changes, and make or realise changes – is part of being human.

Remember, our bodies are machines driven by our thoughts and feelings; when we approach new lifestyle plans with a negative mentality, our experiences are affected by our brain and thoughts. Give new things time to develop, give new options the opportunity to occur, and give something new a go!

Get in touch with internal responses to what you’re consuming

How do you feel straight after you drink a coffee? How do you feel after consuming bread? Ask yourself whether after eating – you feel energised, perhaps angry, have an elevated heart rate, the jitters, or need to go to the toilet with an upset stomach. Pay attention to each food and how it makes you feel, both internally, and in our energy output. Obviously it goes without saying, but you should avoid foods, that you know affect your body in negative ways.

To be honest – this is something that I initially struggled with, and after keeping a food diary – I have realised that it does become easier the more often I do it. Sit for five after eating, and record things on your phone to keep an easy and quick record of whats going on.

Avoid the fads and the hype

I love instagram, and I love the internet. The idea that I can not only advance my knowledge about healthy lifestyles further, but also potentially advance my relationship with food… mean that both are great resources we should be utilising. However, there is always going to be some new nutritional information coming out, or some new diet fad that we all must try.

What we must remember however, is that these fads will fade away in time, and what works for someone one week, often won’t work in a months time. As I said earlier, our bodies take time to change and adapt – so when people who are experimenting with their diet publicly announce that something new is working for them, it may not last very long at all.

I guess my point is: to remember that your body is yours, and it is truly incredible. There is no need to try an live in a way that satisfies someones else needs, if it doesn’t satisfy yours. The same goes for your diet choices – and we cannot live in a way that someone else advocates, if its detrimental to our individual health.

If that means eating meat and a variety of foods, then good on you. If it means thriving off a plant based diet, then thats totally awesome too. It might be as simple as eating more protein in the morning rather than at night – because thats just how YOU work best. Whether its paleo, vegan, IIFYM, keto… whatever the fuck you want to call it, just remember that its about balance.

An individual balance. That is yours.

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Instagram & Self Esteem are not Mutually Exclusive

It seems the word ‘social’ in social media, is perhaps not as sociable as it suggests. If you are anything like me, and/or are just someone who likes to engage with their social media frequently, you may (at times), feel even more isolated and lonely than before you popped onto the so called ‘sociable’ outlet.

I was recently talking with a few of my close girlfriends, some of whom are what those my age would consider to be ‘Insta famous’.

‘Whenever I go on my Instagram lately, I just start to feel super shitty and depressed. Like why can’t I be her?”

God she honestly lives the best life ever. Her car. Her boyfriend. Her multiple trips overseas.”

You get my drift.

What was my immediate reaction you may ask? Pretty much: yeah SAME. Instagram is an incredible tool, that allows us to connect with people, explore new and exciting sites and places, and can aid personal development on multiple levels. As we are all very aware as of late, A LOT of people also choose to make a living off of their heavily populated Instagram platform.

So where am I going with this? And doesn’t it seem a bit critical of me to accuse and bash the very social media platform that I love and use daily? Sure, it would be. If that was what I was looking to do. But that ain’t my goal… and the use of social media is an extremely tool in our world today. It is also however, an incredibly manipulative and complicated platform that should be used carefully. And lets be honest: the images that we see are often far from reality.

Speaking from personal experience, it is extremely easy to get sucked into a distorted version of reality when we base daily perceptions and judgements of people – on what we see online. I am sure you have all been there too. An hour and a half goes by, and suddenly you find yourself scrolling through your brothers, wife’s, sisters, boyfriend’s, best friends travel page. WOW!

Falling into this mindless trap, generally starts with a little harmless curiosity (or boredom… or a combination of the two). We scroll through an endless stream of beautiful images, we engage with other peoples versions of their beautiful life – all of which provides momentum for these elongated periods of what I like to call ‘The Insta Stalk’.

So where does the problem lie you may ask? Well, for me personally – the problem begins when this curiosity morphs into jealousy, comparisons and envy. I am only human, and sometimes a little too much time online looking at others lives most definitely makes me question the way I live mine. I want to live where she lives! I wish I could look like that in a crop top! How can I earn enough money to travel as much as she does? I want her bod!

I would be lying is I said that this process didn’t effect me. I would be lying if I was to say that I NEVER compare myself to others online. So yes… here I am, just like a lot of you I’m sure, and I too – sometimes fall into the trap of making Instagram and my self-esteem mutually exclusive. What I have realised however, is that its human nature to produce a cognitive flow of thoughts in our brains, based on things around us. This flow leads to a comparative process, where by our lives become negative, and others becomes seemingly more positive. Ultimately – you end up feeling shit.

Sound like you? You been here too? Well ya know what – thats ok. Because you ain’t alone. And the first step to combat this, is becoming aware of our actions.

Fighting the negative side effects of social media can be achieved when we understand and acknowledge the pattern of how it works. The way I choose to do this, is to begin on a personal level. Step one: understanding and realising how social media works. Realise its strengths and weaknesses. In order to do this… think about the last time that you posted a bad picture of yourself? When was the last time you posted something and thought… shit, I look bad in this one – but oh well! I’m going to take a wild guess and say NEVER.

Instagram is indeed, a highlight reel of our lives. It highlights how happy we are, how many holidays we take a year, who we are currently dating, where we are in the world…. how much fun we are having. The way we carefully construct our image, is based upon the images and themes that we WANT people to see! Therefore, what we must all realise evidently, is that Instagram is not in fact – reality, and can therefore not be used as a source of comparrison.

What you also must know is: Multiple studies have suggested a direct link between Instagram and Mental Illness problems. It has also been suggested, that due to these unregistered comparisons of lifestyle that individuals make online – Instagram has been rated the number one most-problematic application on your smart device in causing depression and anxiety.

But hold up, hold up… its not all negative vibes. I am by no means suggesting that you leave Instagram and segregate yourself from the things you love to see online. I am simply suggesting however, my step two: questioning why you feel the way you do, after seeing a certain image online.

The perspective and approach that we take to viewing images online – heavily impacts our mood before and after viewing the content. Hence, when images are viewed with the relevant understanding that these images represent a visual fantasy of what people ‘want’ us to see, they have much less negative effects on ones mood.

After realising these things, I have also discovered my new found ability to pose personal questions to myself. What is it about this particular image that made me jealous in the first place? Was I jealous of what they have accomplished, what they are being praised for? In realising the root of my comparisons and my jealousy – I have also uncovered my own values and goals (sometimes coming to terms with the things that I REALLY do or don’t want to do).

Try converting your comparrison from anger and self-hate, into a positive self motivator. I like to think of it like this – another persons success can provide clarity for what you want. Personally for me, I see people being super successful in their own self-developed enterprise, and take inspiration from this to better myself. 

If its someone else’s body goals or fitness lifestyle that you choose to compare too – realise that what you are seeing is only a snippet of their reality. You are also, incredibly unique – and you will never be like them or have their lifestyle/fitness regime/body characteristics. This is most definitely something I learnt the hard way. If they have a great body or great abs – thats super awesome. If you want to use this as motivation to get in shape – thats awesome too. All I am suggesting is that you ensure you are true to you – and are not endeavouring to transform into someone else idea of perfection. You won’t be like them, and you most certainly won’t be as perfect as they ‘appear’ to be.

From a personal level, I want you to know that this process isn’t easy. It is however, something that those of our generation have to deal with, and I by no means have completely nailed the whole ‘no comparisons’ way of life. Currently, I am beginning to realise just how manipulative and contrived Instagram can be – and as a result, will always endeavour to be the most honest version of myself online. Times of late, have also shown me just how controlled and contrived images online can be – and have seen that those who seem the most ‘happy’ and ‘carefree’… are often the ones struggling most.

Instagram is not complete reality, no matter how hard you try to believe it is. Sure people can be authentic, and believe me when I say that I try my very best to be real online. In fact, its something I pride my account on. However, the nature of social media outlets mean that what you see will never be completely real, and someone else’s idea of their ‘perfect’ body, fitness regime, lifestyle, career, family dynamic, etc… may very well be the complete opposite of yours. And thats ok. It’s ok to be different and its ok to be you.

I believe that we should all attempt to lead by example, and representing yourself on Instagram should be about being exactly who you are. Its contagious… the more you do it, the more real people you will attract.

Just something to think about… Lotsa Love x

Winter Wellness 101

You may think that this post has arrived a little late… we are already half way through winter right? But as the days continue to exist in a short and often dark manner, the nights remain colder and there are most definitely more germs in the air. At this time of year, our general surroundings, the colder temperatures, and frequent interactions with ‘sick’ others, most definitely presents a greater chance of contracting infectious bacteria or viruses

Don’t get me wrong… there are certainly things to love about the colder winter months. The warming cups of hot chocolate sipped in cosy cafes with friends, curling up into bed while the rain patters lightly on the roof above you… indulging in big bowls of comforting soup and warm home baking fresh out the oven. These are the perks, only to name a few.

Unfortunately however, getting right the way through winter without contracting some form of sickness is rare for most of us. Often, it feels like we have done so well, making it 90% of the way through winter. Yet finally, as the spring air approaches, you somehow manage to come down with a cold or flu. The most horrific, draining virus that feels like you have literally has the shit knocked out of you.  Yeah… I’m sure you know the feeling.

Fortunately for you, below I have constructed a list of steps and precautions that you can take to boost your immune system. Not all of them are ‘medically’ based, some of the tips shared below are simply a result of my personal past experiences. You have probably seen about 1000 of these posts over the past few months, telling you what to do and what not to do, in order to stay healthy. Never the less, I hope that the rest of winter treats all of you well, and if you are beginning to feel slightly off… read below to find out some of my personal tips to avoid the winter slump.

Hydration

Drinking enough water is a habit and ritual super important to maintain all year round. However, if you naturally feel the cold, and the air remains fresh outside, knocking back a big bottle of H20 is going to be the last thing on your mind. If you are struggling to consume enough water during winter, try experimenting with new herbal teas, or whip up your own hot water with lemon, honey and ginger. Another tip: drinking warm coffee, while super pleasant, is not in fact…drinking water. It will dehydrate you, and on top of a lack of water, can leave you feeling very flat (in particular in the afternoon hours).

While drinking water is important, you can also keep up fluids by creating healthy broths and water-based soups. Think asian pho or spicy broths, with noodles and fresh steamed veggies; or create warm and nutritious vegetable based soups blended with water rather than dairy products.

Reduce your Dairy Intake

Recently I have been seeing a nutritionist who has provided me with an amazing insight into dairy and its effects on our bodies. Now don’t go jumping the gun, I still consume dairy products (just not very frequently). However, it is important to note that dairy products have a chemical make up that stimulates the production of histamines within our body, and mucous (yes I am referring to SNOT ewww). Have you ever had that uncomfortable ache in your facial muscles beneath your cheeks when you get sick? This is a result of sinus pressure (mucous). And no one wants that clogged feeling in their face or head. Without eliminating dairy completely (unless this is what you already choose to do), it has been suggested to lay of the dairy slightly more during winter months, as it often contributes to the severity to allergies and inflammation.

Up your Vitamin C Intake.

Consumption of Vitamin C can be an incredibly important tool for our bodies immune system during winter. While studying part time nutrition papers last year, I learnt just how powerful this versatile vitamin can be. It has been suggested that anywhere above 3,000mg of Vitamin C supplementation per day can improve our overall immune function. Not only this, but further studies have suggested that cold symptoms often lessen in severity and duration upon increased intake. Most vitamin C supplements can be found at your local chemist or supermarkets – however I highly suggest talking to your chemist to ensure you are getting a high enough dosage and not just sugary little gummy bears (oh how we love…).

Vitamin C is also found in many natural dietary sources, such as oranges and citrus fruits, capsicums, and dark green leafy veggies. Kiwifruit and grapefruits also have a high content per gram, along with tomatoes, berries and broccoli.

Introduce Magnesium

Magnesium is not only an amazing mineral for aiding muscle relaxation and rehabilitation, but is also highly recommended for those suffering from anxiety and lack of sleep. From previous experience taking magnesium and after a long period of time, I have been lucky enough to notice multiple changes benefiting my mental and physical wellbeing.

I have found that including magnesium into my daily routine has helped me to find more peace, both mentally and physically. Particularly in the evenings, or during winter days when more time is naturally spent inside, our brains are incredibly active beings. Including mineral magnesium can help to diminish this often un-beneficial stress and anxiety to a more maintainable level, and also unlocks stressed muscles.

The notion of cabin fever hits hardest during winter months, and work stress, lack of outside air, and various other jobs that loom over our heads can lead to a very stressed state and lack of motivation. Sometimes even the smallest of tasks seem too much and days seem long. This is probably a sign that your adrenal glands are stressed, glands that control our body’s stress mechanisms and metabolism, and including minerals such as magnesium directly target this process and aid stress maintenance and mood.

Wash Your Hands

Washing your hands throughout the day, wherever and whenever, is super important in order to stay healthy. The act of washing your hands not only stops germs from spreading between individuals, but is also one of the most effective ways to avoid sickness. I sometimes find that keeping an anti-bacterial handy in your bag aids this process, as you really cannot fathom just how many germs you come into contact with on a daily basis, particularly in winter when nasties are everywhere.

Eat the Rainbow

If you are lucky enough to live like I do, and have access to a weekly farmers market full of fresh produce, then this is not the time to quit going! Get ya raincoat on and get out there! Winter is not the season for particular fruits and veggies, but filling up on lots of colourful produce really will do wonders for your body! Plus… if you are anything like me, eating colourful things is way more fun anyway.

During winter there is a lot less sunlight and time spent outside, meaning that our access to natural Vitamin D and minerals is decreased. Due to this, we can often feel sluggish and overtired (from being stuck inside all day). Whether you are buying frozen or fresh produce, including a wide variety of fruit and vegetables ensures that our bodies can get all essential vitamins and minerals necessary for everyday function. Winter is glorious for root vegetables… think carrots, parsnips, beetroot etc. Roasted vegetable salad hallelujah! Farmers markets will also be stocked with kale, broccoli and cauliflower, as well as other essential wintery vegetables such as pumpkin and sweet potato. For fruits, opt for fresh oranges or anything citrus, kiwifruit, apples, and pears.

Keep Moving

During the winter months, it is almost inevitable that we are naturally more sedentary. Therefore, keeping active in winter is incredibly important for your overall wellness and happiness. Creating a regular workout routine will work for some, and is often a prime booster for your immunity (naturally when fitness levels increase, you will feel lighter, more efficient, and ready to take on each task ahead). Exercising and increasing your immunity also reduces the risk of cold and flu, because you are generally getting outside of your comfortable, warm environments; which are a safe haven for germ reproduction and development. And additionally, if you are like me and REALLY feel the cold during these months, exercise is an automatic heat source!

If you struggle to find the motivation to get up on cold mornings, try organising workouts with a buddy or someone who you are accountable. If you really aren’t feeling the outside weather, opt for a workout that leaves you no excuse for weather dependence (indoor activities such as yoga, gym classes, pilates). I have recently been trying to focus on these forms of exercise, and despite only having done a few classes, really do feel a lot more motivated to go out and work out when I know I will feel great afterwards and am learning new things. Plus…you can’t be cold inside right?

Positive Attitude

Lately I have really noticed just how powerful our brains are at controlling our daily outlook. Starting your day in a positive mind frame can do wonders for your entire wellbeing, while being negative and moody thoughts can and WILL do the opposite for you. My dad always reminds me… Seasonal Affective Disorder is a reality, and it can affect a lot more than just your everyday mood. Feeling low from your surroundings can lead to feelings of irritability, depression, fatigue, physical discomfort, and being uncomfortable in your own skin.

Even though it may seem like the last thing on your mind, I have found that the best way to overcome these feelings is to get outside daily, and ensure you are eating foods that make you feel great inside and out. Listening to uplifting music is great, and try include fresh herbs in your diet for a fresh, fun hit of flavour. Focusing on eating and feeling positive can be incredibly tough, particularly if it involves having to get out of a warm bed on a cold, winter day. Opt for high calcium and magnesium foods, which will aid any SAD-related moods, and do things that make you feel good (despite the weather). If its the weather that is preventing you from doing something, LAYER UP! Get on with it! Make it a challenge to see how many layers you can achieve before you look like a marshmallow (believe me I am an expert at this). Overall, find foods that make you feel good, push yourself to get outside and do the things you regularly love, and surround yourself with positive people that keep you healthy and happy.

Kicking old habits

We have all got an annoying habit (or five) that we wouldn’t mind getting rid of. My finger nails are practically non-existent due to biting them, I click my back and neck far too much for any normal human… and yeah, I most certainly have had some pretty horrific habits involving my health and wellbeing. In saying that however, habits can also be aspirational. I’m sure there are multiple habits that you wouldn’t mind picking up. It might be waking up a little earlier in the morning, creating a consistent pattern of eating well and feeling good, or simply taking off your makeup every night (I am the worst…).

Sometimes it can be hard to determine whether our habits are bad or good for us, but of late, my basic technique for deciding this is becoming more and more simple. Even the smallest of habits are CRAZY influential in our lives, and so its important to ask yourself how you feel while doing the task. Ask yourself how you feel straight after the task? Do you feel good? Do you feel guilty (cough cough… fingernails). Did doing that action really improve your wellbeing/health/mood? Whether you are aiming to shed old (bad) habits, or create and shape new ones, this post will hopefully help you to do just that.

Create Realistic Habits

The thought of creating new habits has no doubt got most of the world thinking… eat healthy, do more exercise, spend more time with family, spend less wasting money. The list goes on. Don’t get me wrong, the principle of these habits can be very beneficial. But before you rush into only eating salads for a week, or dedicating every spare moment of your me time with others… let me remind you to check yourself. As yourself if your new habit is actually going to be realistic? Thanks Annie… but what does that actually mean? Well, habits (just like resolutions), are all about how you frame them. If you choose to make your habit focused on eating more healthy, by eating exclusively healthy foods and nothing but healthy foods, then maybe we are asking a little too much of ourselves. We all know… that ain’t gonna happen. Make sure you are choosing habits that are achievable and realistic.

Dreams to reality

Like when creating any aspiration or goal, one of the coolest parts about it is visualising how little changes are going to effect your life. Whether its gaining a new habit, or kicking an old one, make sure that you are able to visualise the positive affect it will have on your daily life. Recently, I realised that my habit of over-exercise was slipping back into my daily schedule. I had minimal energy, lack of motivation for anything, little spark in my personality, and was consistently drained. Bad habit… yes I KNOW so. However, in visualising myself with more energy, and realising how much brighter and bubblier I would be as a person without this habit, I became even more motivated for change.

I sometimes think that habit changing gets a ‘tedious’ and ‘time consuming’ label, and sure, swapping or changing your habits can sometimes leave you feeling a little unmotivated. But never fear… this is exactly the crucial moments I am talking about. Take a moment to look at yourself, and visualise what life would be like with/without your habit. This not only helps to prevent the ‘ah-fuck-it’ moments when we want to give in or give up, but also helps us to become more in touch with the times that we know we may struggle in the future.

Plan your shit

Excuse the informal title, but you are currently talking to the ultimate lover of plans. Sometimes overly pedantic (perhaps a habit I could look into changing…), I am indeed the ultimate planner and organiser. My boyfriend often reminds me to chill while I rave about my 10 different to-do lists, but when creating or ridding new habits, nothing is more helpful than creating a plan. It has recently been proven that it can take anywhere between 21 days to an entire month to pick up or rid habits. Hence, planning out weekly or daily goals towards achieving these habits will almost automatically enable small, but crucial daily progress.

 

Talk about it!

This can sometimes be a difficult one, but talking about your habits is also a very obvious solution to help prevent falling off the bandwagon. Having a chat about the habit you are wanting to change may seem daunting at first, you may feel that telling someone about your goal makes you also accountable to them, as well as yourself. But I promise you that there is no harm there! All you need to do is start by selecting someone close to you on a daily basis… friends or family members, people who you live or work with. Then get chatting, because there’s a damn good chance they might be able to help you out with keeping you on track, or may have previous advice! You might even find a buddy who wants to change similar things to you, and come on… who doesn’t love a habit changing buddy?

Keep yourself in check

Your plan for changing your habits is super important, but as is the process of tracking your progress. Theres something incredibly satisfying for human beings found in achieving our goals, and while you tick off each day with a ‘YES’, you will also become more and more determined to reach the end goal. Personally for me, I also like to keep a list of any bad moments or thoughts, any moments where I realised things, or even moments where I slipped up. These day to day records not only help you to realise and prevent future down falls, but also can help you to realise the moments where you might struggle most, and the moments where you are at your best.

 

REWARD TIME

I’m thinking some new fresh kicks, or maybe a nice massage, mmm no perhaps a fancy dinner out. No matter what you love, there’s gotta be something you’ve been wanting lately. Whether you are making new habits or kicking old ones, make sure to have a reward for when you end your habit-changing process! It doesn’t have to be a big spend up or super flashy… Please don’t go out and rent a boat with champagne to celebrate the end of your habitual ‘big spending’ phase. Instead, focus on having something to look forward to that means a lot to you, and when you occasionally loose a little motivation, remind yourself of your reward and the good things to come!

Keep Up The Good Work

Remember that like anything in life, it’s what you do 90% of the time that matters more than the other 10%. Stick to your habit making/breaking plans, and in no time you will feel great with new routine and structure in your life. Once you have the process down, remember that you might have a few slip ups here and there. We are human after all. And hey, if you are successful the first time, why not reconsider your current habits once again and make more influential changes in your life!!

What ‘should’ we do

You should really go to the gym today. You should go to bed at 9pm. You should most definitely finish off your schooling, go to university and get a degree, and then pursue a career in the work force. 

Expectations and society. They go hand in hand really.

I have recently come to realise that we use the word ‘should’ on ourselves and on others far too often. Sure… we use a lot of words frequently, but the impact of this one can be life changing.

Why do we use it so much? Well that because it works. There is a certain amount of guilt and accountability that comes with what we supposedly should and shouldn’t do. Whatever we should do, is generally good for our wellbeing and lifestyle. The things we shouldn’t do, well those are just out of the question…. don’t you dare try to make your own decision about something.

When we say should, it suggests that someone knows better than our innate instincts, knows better than that gut feeling we get inside us when we know what we want. It also suggests that making a good decision on our own behalf is impossible, and causes guilt and anxiety prohibiting us from achieving decisions or choices that we (as individuals) crave.

What I have recently come to realise however, is that each decision in our lives is generally based upon what we think we should do first. We know what we should  do, and hence, we inadvertently create ideology about the specific choices that we should avoid. We should go to university. We should be skinny. We should have a solid job by the age of 25…. the list goes on and on and on.

What this collective ideology also creates however, is a perceived CORRECT answer to everything. And the sad part is, almost everyone in society knows what that right answer is. Absolutely everyone.

This means that people know when you have selected an option other than the norm. Lets say that you choose skip university entirely and pursue travel overseas. Maybe you pursue a health journey that is outside of the norm and decide to try something that may benefit your body and your soul. Or lets say you decide that quitting your job is for the best, and that you would really be happiest being a ‘stay at home’ mum. Tough luck… but these, along with many other options in life, will inevitably leave someone (who has no relevance to your life or happiness by the way…) disappointed by your actions. You will somehow, in a funny way, be letting someone down.

But the truth is, and what I am slowly coming to terms with in the months of late… is that the answer to life is not universal. There is no universal right answer to how to live. How to be healthy. How to be happy.

By doing what you should and following these universally correct answers, you are letting other (often invisible and unimportant) people, make some of the most crucial decisions about your life.

So how am I changing this you may ask? How do we stop the should expectations from ruling important decisions in life. Well, its a work in progress… but my advice is here:

Firstly, I think it helps if you notice that connotations and reactions to the word should don’t always scream positivity. Listen to others around you, and yourself when using the word, and become in touch with your innate reactions to it. You may sigh, you may feel deflated, you may even feel that sensation in your stomach perk up as if you do not want you to go with these exceptions. The more aware I am becoming of how others around me use the word, the more I notice myself falling into the trap of using it too.

Annie… you should most certainly strive to look this way. You should act this way in order to be liked. You should go to university for at least three years and do this course and take this paper and be friends with this person…. You should eat this for dinner and get a job that pays above this amount. You should exercise and drink a green juice every morning. You should push yourself to stressful limits because everyone likes someone ‘busy’. You should work hard at university to get a degree.

Sound familiar? Yeah… it’s all bullshit.

So we have to question: Why do we consistently say should? Are we looking for someone else to make a difficult decision for us? Are we feeling guilty about going against society, so we are choosing the select the easy option out? Are we seeking permission from our peers to be something they deem to be correct?

Ask yourself: WHAT DO I WANT.

Life is full of choices, and in order to pursue your own health and happiness, these choices need to be based upon what YOU as an individual want. If you feel like you should do something thats fine… but consider the reasons why YOU ought to be doing that. Will you feel good when you do it? Will it benefit your mental, physical and emotional health in doing so? Are you really only doing this action to please those around you?

Unfortunately, we will never be able to escape the should expectations within society. There is always going to be someone out there telling you how to eat, how to exercise, how to love, how to learn, and how to live. However, what we can control, is our awareness and action. I am slowly learning to become more aware of my use of should , and the more aware we can become, the more I can control the choice of decision.

As a 20 year old girl in the midst of multiple societal expectations and rules, this process is by no means easy. I don’t actually think it will get any easier with age. But what I am currently striving to do, is to highlight a way of life that encompasses my individual, rather than socially based happiness. The reason I am sharing this with you is because I have realised that it is by no means selfish to seek happiness for yourself, and to derive from achieving someone else idea of happiness in doing so. Will you be happy living someone else’s ideal lifestyle? No. Will you be healthy living someone else’s ideal lifestyle? Hell no. Will you be satisfied living someone else’s ideal lifestyle? I’ll leave that one up to you. 

Leave the expectations of what we have-to-do, what we have to look like, and how we have to live our lives, in the past. Attempt to make each individual choice because YOU want to, because its the best option for YOU at the moment, and because that overwhelming and exciting sensation in your stomach just feels right.

Do you. Do it well. And forget what society says we should do.

26 Ways To Look After Yourself

For most of us, there is often a point in life when everything feels a little too much. Times when even the smallest of tasks, like making a bowl of cereal, or getting off the couch to get a pen, can seem monstrous. There may be some days, or weeks, even months… and for whatever reason, just getting through the day can feel really really hard.

It may be because you are enduring a long term battle with depression, anxiety, an eating disorder, or some other mental illness. It may be because you have recently been through an emotional or physical trauma. You might have recently lost someone close to you. Maybe you have just had your heart broken. It might be the stress of university weighing you down. Or maybe, for some unknown reason… you just feel a little off.

Believe me, I have these moments and so does almost everyone I know. Would we be human beings if we didn’t? I don’t think so. So whatever the case, I need reading this to help you know that everything will eventually be OK. Whatever is looming ahead is something that you can overcome and achieve, and remember that going through a rough patch never makes you a failure. It does not make you any less loveable or capable. It simply means that you are a human being… and how can we possibly validate making ourselves feel bad for being human right?

At this point in the year, for university students in particular, stress management and practices of self love often fly out the window. Exams are on and you are prioritising your study, you have what seems like five thousand end of trimester assignments due, you may have money, flat, or family troubles… the list goes on. If I am honest, I recently fell victim to being overcome with multiple stresses, and found myself in a tired, overworked and fragile state. I stopped my regular practice of self care and love, I prioritised the wrong things, and I focused my energy in areas by no means more important than prioritising my health.

But I do get it… time management and organisation can be much harder than a regular routine in stressful times. I often feel less inclined to spend time doing the things (I know) will make me happy, because I ‘need’ to put other things in advance. For some reading this, that might be slacking off your regular exercise routine because you just don’t have the time. It might be putting off catching up with a friend or going for a walk… or depriving yourself from your favourite foods or listening to your favourite music. For others, it might even be the seemingly simple task of getting out of bed.

All of these actions are things that we love… yet for some unknown reason, they no longer seem priority right? Our health and wellbeing, our mental state and happiness, our friends and our family, me time… none of which seem to matter anymore.

But I’m going to stop you right there. Because quite frankly, I learnt the hard way that having this approach to stressful times in life does not work. Practices of self love and managing your stress, is crucial to our health and wellbeing.

Because I am personally a huge victim when it comes to letting myself get overtaken by stress, this is most definitely something I am working hard to improve looking ahead. Although I am by no means perfect, I have certainly learnt some helpful things along the way about how to get through these times.

So… if this is you right now, feeling alone, overwhelmed or stressed all ends… please keep reading. Whether it be you, or someone that you love who is going through a bit of a rough patch, here are some simple suggestions for self-care and management to help you through.

 

Self Care 101

 

1. Call a friend or family member and talk everything out. This can be super helpful, especially for people living away from home or travelling for university/work. Sometimes you can feel isolated and alone during stressful times – even when there are so many others around you. Its always nice to know someone cares, even from afar, so give them a call and enable an ability to vent everything out to someone that you trust.

2. Get good quality rest and tuck yourself into bed early. Sleep is vital, and essential. Yes there are times where you need to be pulling an all nighter, but in all honesty – you are generally always better off getting a good nights sleep, and being brighter in the morning to perform at your best.

3. While you are at it on the resting front… change your sheets and pillow cases, get a new duvet too. There is no better feeling than hoping into bed with crisp clean sheets, and a little revamp on your bed always helps you climb into bed after a long day.

4. Take some time to focus on your breath. It sounds silly I know, to just sit there and breathe. But seriously… focus on going in through your nose and out through your mouth slowly and deeply (from your stomach not your throat). When breathing in, you need to be pushing your stomach out (this seems opposite to normal at first). Do this consistently for 2 minutes and I guarantee feel a difference in your state of mind and peace.

5. Hydrate yourself. Ask yourself… have you had enough water today? Stress and worry can often leave us prone to more frequent breakouts or hormonal outbursts, and drinking water most definitely helps prevent this process. In order to combat this, have a big bottle of water alongside you consistently, or if you aren’t into drinking plain water… try infusing it with fruits or teas.

6. Eat something. Another question you need to ask yourself is… have you eaten something healthy and nourishing today? Have you fuelled your body with what it needs to get through? Most likely… the answer will be no. I know for me, if I don’t take the time to sit, take time aside from my work, and eat my meals… my whole days schedule is thrown off. Inevitably, my final work results are always much poorer than anticipated. Fuel your body at consistent times, have a break when eating, and be mindful of the way your body is feeling and reacting to what you are putting in. If it needs more nourishment, then don’t be afraid to give it that. 

7. Have a nice hot shower. Clean your body and get a good scrub on. Take time to wash your face gently and condition your hair, shave the areas that need it too, if you want too. Once done, dry your hair properly, moisturise areas of your skin that are dry, get into comfortable clothing (these need to be warm if in Wellington), and relax.

8. Get some vitamin D and get outside in the sun. During the winter months in particular, getting sunshine can seem a bit of a mission. Even worse, is when you are sitting inside smashing out an assignment while the sun streams in on you. If this is the case, take a 30 minute break from whatever it is you are doing and go outside. Feel the warmth on your skin, feel it warm your body and your soul.

9. While on the topic of getting outside, go ahead and make sure you move that gorgeous body of yours. It doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise, just move it gently in ways that feel good. Aim for 30 minutes everyday. It could be a walk, some yoga, a kick ass bootcamp style workout… whatever it is that makes you feel good. I also guarantee you, that even if you are feeling a bit sluggish at the time, gentle exercise and movement will almost always make you feel more energised.

10. Grab a journal and write it out. Get everything on your mind out and vent to yourself, feelings, emotions, worries or future plans.

11. Write a list and create a plan. This always helps me when I am feeling overwhelmed. List everything that you need to do to address whatever you’re facing, and make this a daily ritual that you can tick off each time. Remember to make it realistic, don’t go setting yourself one million things to do in one day. Seperate your things to do into manageable tasks, and tick them off as you go. Start small, even if your first thing listed is to get up and out of bed.

12. Light a candle or incense and sniff familiar scents and smells that bring you joy. My favourites are my vanilla and caramel candle, or lighting the lime and coconut candle that mum gave me.

13. Clean up your environment, and stay organised. As human beings, we naturally like things to remain in order. Sometimes tidying things up can help calm our minds, so start with your desk, or organising your notes into sections that are going to help you stay on top of things.

14. Change your environment if one isn’t working for you. If you are not happy or being productive where you are, take a break and move somewhere else. I love working in cafes or the public library, and sometimes find staying in one space extremely isolating and unproductive. Move and change, and over time you will find what works for you.

15. Create a playlist of top notch songs that make you feel great and remind you of happier times. If its study that you are needing to prioritise, chuck on a playlist of some chill beats that make the atmosphere a little less boring.

16. Create a list of things you are grateful for in life. I find this helps me a lot when I am stressed, and draws attention to the things I have almost always forgotten when overwhelmed. While you are at it, make a list of things to look forward too, such as plans after exams or the things upcoming that make you excited to be alive!! If you don’t have any… make some!

17. Remember to stay in touch with the present, and remember that your only job right now is to put one foot in front of the other, and keep moving forward. Don’t think about facing entire weeks ahead if that seems too scary, take each moment one step at a time.

18. Put in your earphones or crank the speakers nice and loud, and DANCE. Dance for five or ten minutes like an absolute idiot, get a friend, and sing out the lyrics at the top of your lungs.

19. Seek expert help with whatever you need; if you are struggling mentally – remember you do not have to do it alone. This could be through seeking therapy, psychiatry, seeing a doctor… but remember to let those trained to support you through this. If its health related, work with your doctor, naturopath or nutritionist in order to develop a regime that will support whatever you’re facing right now.

20. Aim to establish a manageable routine and stick to it. Routines bring me a lot of comfort, and in times when I am stressed out, often help me to feel grounded.

21. Recognise your hard work and treat yourself on your achievements. Don’t save special things for special occasions, make the occasion special! Brighten your mood by attempting to make a moment more positive. Go for lunch with a friend, when you finish an assignment go ahead and treat yourself to your favourite chocolate bar, whatever it is that will make you happy.

22. Reach out to family and friends and talk. I said it earlier, but I can almost guarantee you that your friends might be going through a similar phase in life. Even if it isn’t the same reasons you are stressed out or worried, sometimes talking to others helps. Listening to others problems also helps to remind you that you are not alone, so enable yourself the opportunity to interact with others and have human connection. Isolation never helps.

23. Stay centred, and try not to not compare your daily experiences to another’s. Nothing will steal your joy as fast as comparing your journey to someone else’s. Social media can be a terrible influence for this, and can be a terrible way to judge how you are doing (especially when it comes to mental illnesses). Be you, and trust your instincts.

24. Get up early and watch the sunset. Take a friend or go alone, and watch the beautiful earth change in front of you. If mornings are not your thing, try this in the afternoon and watch the sunset. 

25. My favourite… get in the kitchen and experiment with something new. Make yourself a nourishing breakfast/lunch/dinner, or bake up a sweet treat that you have never tried before. There is nothing more satisfying than creating good food, and don’t worry if you fail, at least you will have something to laugh about!!

26. Remember to trust the process, and that what you’re going through right now is only going to be temporary. It may not feel like that right now, but this period shall pass and you will be feeling much better about things if you choose to take things at your own pace, one step at a time. Have faith in yourself and your own abilities.

Much Love, A x

Rough Patch Reminders

As the title states, lately I’ve realised the incredible power that mental illnesses can have. Yes, I guess you call it a rough patch…

I call these periods ‘patches’, because yes it is temporary and yes it can be fixed. It’s all a matter of changing your mentality. However, just because it’s seems only small, doesn’t mean it’s easy to overcome. That doesn’t mean it will just go away.

Recovery is by all means a challenge, but it is most definitely not as challenging as living life with the wrath of an eating disorder. Particularly in times of stress and anxiety – I occasionally choose to let my intuitive eating habits fall through in order to ‘cope’. Lately, this came to my realisation, and the power of mental illness really became obvious.

To ‘deal’ or ‘cope’ with my stress and worries, I have of late, been making subtle little excuses that are not beneficial to my health. I know I know…this seems contradicting right? Surely in times of stress and worry, I should be focusing on whats good for me – getting enough sleep, fuelling and nourishing myself well, and trying to maintain some sort of balance?

But no, sadly thats not always the case. Even though they may only be small actionS, such as pushing my lunch out by an hour or missing breakfast in the morning… I have found myself here. If there is one thing I’ve learnt about mental illnesses over the past 4 years, its that they are relentless. Just when you think you are doing well, and in times where you seem to have beaten it for good, it often manages to creep in. 

Don’t get me wrong… This is NOT a post asking for sympathy.

I am writing this post to start holding myself more accountable for my life. It’s about time I got mad about the last few problems of my eating disorder, and remember the reasons why I can’t let it slip back into my life when times get stressful. It’s time to actually count my blessings in life, the moments of happiness that fill me with joy.

Some of these may seem blunt; others will seem crazy, especially to those reading with little experience in disordered eating thoughts or patterns. But the reality is – being honest with yourself is the only way to realise and achieve changes in life. In writing this – I hope that some of these reminders can help anyone else out there struggling, or help you in moments where you feel slightly weighed down and vulnerable.

Sometimes I forget how far I have come, and when I do… these are the ideas and reminders that I fall back on. These are reminders of choosing recovery is important. These are realisations that I have. And these are the ideas that we must ALL never forget.

Regardless of whether you are embarking on ED recovery, have recovered from a bad relationship with food, or just happen to know someone going through something similar… I hope that these recovery reminders may help you in some way.

Reminders of Why to Choose Recovery

 

I am not that bad yet/ I am not sick enough…
Let go of this stupid idea. Stop just blaming it on having an eating disorder, YOU are sick and YOU are also enough. Thats where the relationship ends. Find and remember your self worth. What satisfaction would you genuinely feel if you were to get as small as the girl next to you? None. Absolutely no satisfaction at all. Remember this.
Remember that making your outsides match your insides does not mean that someone will see the physical and mental pain that you are in. Physical pain will never compare with your emotional and mental suffering, and you have to stop hurting your body to validate this suffering. There is no scale of being sick, and being sick does not changes your worth. You are still worthy of life.

I am the only one hurting.
You know this is never true, so stop using it as an excuse to continue your horrible eating disorder behaviour. Eating disorders are isolating, so yes, sometimes its very easy to fall into the trap seeing only individual damages. But turn around and take a look at mum and dad, your entire family for that matter. Take a look at the friends around you who are concerned for not only your day to day health, but also your life. The girl who reached out to you the other day… she wants you to be happy and it DOES hurt them to see you this way.

Get offline ASAP
Take a break from the online world… and stop comparing yourself to others and their eating patterns. Remember that that is their life not yours, and that way of living must not determine how you choose live yours. Would you jump off a cliff without a cord just because someone else decided to kill themselves? NO. So stop the comparison and get offline. Choose your health every time.

You cannot just eat ‘healthy’ foods right now (for those in recovery)
Accept and allow your body to change. You need to be able to let your body gain weight, eat foods you never thought you could, and gain. Yes you may need to gain. Do the ‘lazy’ thing your mind tells you not too; let yourself lie in bed for the morning if that is what you desire. Remember what YOU want. Ultimately, you want to be able to eat everything without anxiety. You want to have a good relationship with exercise.  You need and want flexibility.

You cannot compare your recovery journey with someone else’s.
You are you, and each recovery journey is individual and unique. Each journey will NEVER be the same as anyone else, despite having similar personality characteristics or body compositions to others who have may have suffered too. This idea also goes for your relapses, and you cannot get caught up in comparing your failures and triumphs to someone else’s. One person may relapse eight times before they finally let go of their disorder. Another, may never go down that path again.
The only commonality between eating disorders that is valid… is that your life is hell. Remember that.

Get your A into G and seek help now (recovery)
Yes.. for those looking to recover, this may mean scheduling yet another therapy session with the person you have convinced yourself to hate. Truth is, therapy is the crucial medicine for helping mental illnesses, and you wouldn’t tell someone with cancer to avoid chemotherapy in order to aid their recovery – so don’t go fooling yourself that you don’t need it. You don’t actually hate them, you only hate the fact that they might cause you to alter your bad behaviours in hope of doing good. Therapy can help to change your thoughts and patterns, and gives you an opportunity to speak your mind and worries. Go. Even if it means stepping outside of your comfort zone.

You pick your friends, so stop picking your disorder.
Its vital to remember that your eating disorder is not your friend. Your eating disorder does not give you anything, all it is does it take. You are in misery and pain because of this stupid thing in your head, convincing you that you are worthless and a waste of space. Would your best friend do that? NO. Well not a good one anyway! So learn to let go of this friendship. It is never going to make you happy, beautiful or content. You will never feel enough. Let go, and focus on what you want in life.

Find and love the friends and family who are trying to support you.
Hold on tight to the people who are choosing to give you love and care. They are super important, just as you are. Also, remember that not everyone is suited to helping you recover. Be prepared to accept that some people do leave throughout the duration of your eating disorder, and new and amazing people will enter. Figure out who are the most important and caring people, and be open with them.
Remember….you are most definitely not a burden. You only become a burden when you choose to avoid recovery, when you choose to lie and cheat. Truth is, they don’t believe one word and they do know what you are doing. When they ask to help and support you, accept it and say yes. Be open and honest, because you need them.

Find Joy
Find joy in things that you truly love, and seek areas of your life that provide distraction from your eating disorder behaviour and thought patterns. This space will fill what might have previously been your exercise addiction, your obsession with weight and scales, or the time you spent endlessly counting calories. Stop fooling yourself into ‘liking’ these things, you most definitely do NOT. Be prepared to try something new and say yes to exciting opportunities, regardless of whether they involve food or not. Take that chance.

Please remember that you are so worthy of life, and that whatever struggle you are currently going through – you NEVER have to get there alone. Seek help, choose recovery. It will be worth it in the end… I promise.