Anxiety Roller Coaster: The Least Fun Ride Ever

When I was 16 years old, I had my first panic attack. Not a feeling of panic, but a full blown, out-of-my-own-reality panic attack. I felt the intense weight of the depersonalization and derealization as the world seemed to slip away from me. I’ve never been the same since. I’ve been struggling with some pretty intense anxiety for the past 10 years. For the most part it would come and go. I’ve had really good weeks, and really bad weeks. On some occasions it’s been so awful that I became agoraphobic. Anxiety has kept me from meeting new people, taking healthy risks, getting the grades in school I was worthy of, and even getting my drivers license.

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More recently the experience has been more akin to waking up on the wrong side of the bed. I feel so wrong and uncomfortable, but I can’t explain why. The little things bother me, the really little things, like having to get cream for my coffee, or not having my clothes hanging in the closet ‘just-so’. When things don’t go ‘according to plan’ – this has also historically been a big trigger for me, as well as being exhausted or hungry. Needless to say, I’ve felt pretty vulnerable.

Anxiety is a slow build up. It’s like the rise before you get to the top of the largest hill on the roller-coaster. You hear the slow clicks as you ascend closer and closer to the top. You know exactly what’s coming. But you can’t stop it. Suddenly it’s that moment before the drop – the beginning of the panic attack – the adrenaline rushing through your veins. Fear takes over, you are in fight or flight mode; feeling like your life is in jeopardy. But it’s not. You’re just walking the dog, or getting bread at the store, washing the dishes, or riding a roller coaster.

It is likely I have some genetic predisposition for anxiety and panic attacks. Of course there are environmental factors at play too. For a long time I felt that it was an inevitable part of life, and the only way to deal with it would be to smother it with alcohol or prescription medication. One day I changed my mind, and I decided that I would figure out how to live life in such a way that my anxiety would always be manageable.

I found a way. Self-care is extremely important when it comes to managing anxiety. I know what gets me in a bad space and I avoid those situations. These are the following changes I have made to better manage my anxiety:

  • Sleep. Specifically, getting more of it. I know that when I’m tired I simply do not function well. I’m not talking about just being a little sleepy. I get complete brain fog, and I can’t think properly. And not thinking properly is a recipe for disaster. I need at least 7 hours a night!
  • Exercise. It’s good for the body and the mind. It gives me a healthy outlet for any of my negative feelings. And exercise releases good endorphins into your body, physically making you feel good!
  • Limiting Refined Carbs. A lot of people with anxiety aren’t aware that there is a long list of foods that can trigger anxiety. I found this out in a very round about way: I cut out refined carbs during my last cut, and I saw a noticeable decrease in my anxiety. In general I had a greater sense of well-being and more balanced moods.
  • Spending time with positive people. It’s the worst to spend hours and hours in a downward spiral of negativity. Energy is contagious. It’s important to be around people who want to talk about hopes, dreams, and possibilities. Not people who will get you thinking about all the difficulties of life.
  • Limiting Alcohol. I don’t go out partying like I did before (I’m getting old now anyways). In the moment I always feel great. It’s the next day when my body is recovering and all out of whack that I struggle with my moods. One night out every one in a while is okay. Binge drinking every weekend is not an option for me.
  • Relaxing, or “me time”. This one has always, always been hard for me. Sometimes I have to force myself to sit down and relax. But I absolutely need to do it. I need to stop and hold time every once in a while, whether that means sitting down for a movie with my significant other or taking a half hour at the coffee shop to read, I take downtime now.

The worst thing about having anxiety is when it disrupts your relationships. Yes, I’ve cancelled plans with friends before because I wasn’t practicing proper self-care and just felt overwhelmed with anxiety. I’ve lashed out at people I love because I didn’t know how to deal with the feelings I was having inside. No one should have to live that way. Anxiety is a cruel monster, and I won’t let it creep up on me anymore. I have daily practices in place to keep my anxiety under control, and when I follow those guidelines to a T I’m at my very best. No panic attacks. This is my way of beating anxiety – the natural way – so I can bring my best foot forward every day and live a happy, healthy, and full life.

Tips for Staying Healthy on Vacation

Hey everyone!

I just had the pleasure of taking a trip to Mexico for my big sister’s wedding, which was absolutely phenomenal.

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Me, enjoying the last day on the beach!

Since hopping on the wellness train, I hadn’t yet taken a vacation like this. All-inclusive resorts are amazing, but they also create certain conditions in which it’s easy to let your healthy habits go right out the window! So in this post, I would like to share with you just a couple tips for keeping on track on your vacation. And I want you, the reader, to know that these tips will not get in the way of fun on your vacation! In fact, they are more likely to to actually enhance your resort vacation experience.

  1. I know you wanna look cute in your ‘kini, but I advise eating breakfast within half an hour of waking up on and off vacation. It is SO important to eat and keep your metabolism going! Don’t be relying on those sugary blended drinks to give you the energy you need to enjoy your vacay.
  2. Give yourself a sand scrub! Not only is it good for your skin, but it also allows you to take a moment to work on your self-care; that means doing something that is solely for you and your well-being. Truly, this is a practice that we should be integrating into our lives daily. But if it isn’t common practice for you yet, integrating this into your resort vacation experience is a great way to start!
  3. Give the resort gym a try. I know what you’re thinking! I thought I might struggle with this too, but was surprised when I didn’t. Around midday when I needed a break from the sun, I would wander into the gym for a super quick workout – I’m talking like 30-45 minutes only. I found the afternoon to be the best time because that’s when the facility was empty, so I could get through my workout quickly. Staying in this routine also helped me keep my morning drinks in check – because I was set on making it for my quick little workout I didn’t get carried away with the pina coladas too early in the day! Plus when I returned to the beach afterwards, I was happy, pumped, and feeling beautiful!
  4. Take a moment to breathe/spend some time alone. We were with a group of 25 people and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but taking a moment just to clear my mind really helped me center myself. This sounds so simple and silly, but being in the moment is definitely more difficult in practice!
  5. Go ahead and eat dessert. Bet you can’t believe I said it. You’re on vacation! You don’t have to demolish the whole dessert buffet, but if you do who cares. Treat yourself. Crazy restrictions will cause you to binge, and in the end will affect you worse than any treat you allow yourself here and there.

IMG_5618My typical breakfast on vacation; a veggie omelette under a mountain of guacamole and salsaIMG_5453

The best part about making my wellness a priority while on vacation was how good I felt waking up every morning. I also found I had a ton more energy than on previous resort vacations. This wellness journey is so much more about feeling good than looking good.

Happy vacationing my friends!

June 2015 Check-in

Hey Everyone!

It’s time for my very first mid-month check-in! Being that this is the first month, my check in is a little late. Future check-ins will be as close to the 15th as possible. Nevertheless, here it is!

IMG_4849 (2)Improvements: Obliques are looking solid, upper body is getting thicker.

Current Focus: On my legs, which have been very stubborn to grow! Focusing on quad growth and booty gains.

Eating: Following the 80/20 rule and taking the 20 part very seriously. Donuts are a part of my balanced lifestyle. Lack of proper prepping has lead me to drink one too many protein shakes, and actual food is always preferred. Will step up my snack game and include those in my next food prep!

Feeling like: I’m not at my leanest and meanest, but I feel good. I leave for a week vacation in Mexico tomorrow and although I love the idea of having ripped abs in my bathing suit, I also like the idea of maintaining the strength that I have. Food= growth, and growing is more important right now. I can say for sure that this is the happiest I have ever been with my body. But I also know what it’s capable of, and I can’t wait to take it further. I especially cannot wait to see leg comparison pics a couple of months down the road.

Personal Training: A Recount of my Experience

I chugged my redbull and squeezed the can with my hand, lazily tossing it into the garbage can outside the gym. I was arriving to meet with my trainer for the first time. When I got in, we said a quick hello and he lead me into a back office. I evaluated him from my chair across the desk from him. He asked me questions about my fitness goals and current routines. I kept thinking about how young he was. I wondered what someone with such limited experience could possibly teach me. I was also nervous as hell. Anxiety-ridden, exhausted from a long day of work, going through a horrific breakup, and that redbull I just crushed was not helping me.

He checked my heart rate. It was apparently not good. He said “I don’t know if we can start today”. “You don’t understand, this is why I am here today. I’m just going through a rough time… and I need to do this”, I said shaking. He took the bait. Our first workout together was nothing mind-blowingly phenomenal, but I felt that he would be able to teach me some things that would take me further than I could go on my own at this point. At the end, we sat on the mats stretching out. He asked if I wanted to move forward in training with him. My response was to ask him he if wanted to train me. “I’m emotional”, I warned “and some days I’m going to come in here going crazy and you are going to have to deal with that”. That’s honestly where I was at the time – feeling lost and truly, kind of unstable. With cool confidence he assured me he could handle it.

What I didn’t know is that he didn’t actually mean he could handle it. What he meant was that he wasn’t going to take it. There were countless sessions to come where I would show up all emotional, and my trainer would simply say that he didn’t want to hear it, and that I was there to work. For some of you, this might sound cruel. For me, it was a technique that actually worked. It changed the way I worked out in the gym. It forced me to live in a different place in my mind during my workouts. It made me realize that no matter what craziness I had going on in my life, that the gym could be a place of solace.

Over time I began to realize that although our personalities were opposite, they were also complimentary. I was a whiner, complainer, excuse maker. But my trainer never let me say “I can’t”. He taught me that I needed to give up a certain amount of control in my life and I had to accept that. I couldn’t change other people or have control over every situation, but I have control over myself. Because I realized that I have control over myself, I was able to do things I never thought I physically or mentally could before.

He surprised me because for a young guy, because he really had a great knowledge-base, enthusiasm, and passion for what he was doing. He didn’t just tell me what to do, he told me why I was doing it. He pushed me hard in the gym and the results showed. He held me accountable for what I said I would do, but always gave me the credit for the work I did. I’m not saying he was perfect and never pissed me off. I’m not saying that he didn’t work me out so hard that I cried (because he did – haha). I’m saying that he helped me get results. Those results gave me confidence; I realized that if I really set my mind to something and worked hard, I could make it real.

When my training ended it was so anticlimactic. I was expecting some big, monumental, life-changing workout followed by a screen shot of that one single tear dropping from my eye as I left the gym. But it was just like any other ordinary workout. This is, of course, because that was only just the beginning. Over the next couple months my own passion and enthusiasm would send me on a journey of pursuing new skills and knowledge that would allow me to take my fitness routine to the next level.

One of my big goals in training was to be able to do pull-ups. I was naive when I started; I didn’t realize how much was going to be involved in making this happen. So, this wasn’t something I was able to accomplish during my training. But just because that phase was over didn’t mean I was going to quit; I kept working on it. A couple of months later, my trainer saw me at the pull-up bar. I saw him at a distance, and with a smile on my face I jumped and made six pull-ups look easy. He came over and congratulated me on my success, and I said “you don’t know how hard I’ve worked for this” ; his response was “yes I do”.

Well, I guess he was right.

 

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My before and after training comparison.

 

I would recommend training to any gym newbie if it is a financial possibility. I learned a lot, not only about working out but also about myself. It was a huge confidence boost and now I don’t think twice about joining the big boys on the heavy end of the dumbells. I really lucked out because I had a trainer who I was able to level with; someone who I wasn’t afraid to fail and fall in front of. So if you are going to find a trainer, find one that is complimentary to you who will make it their purpose to pull you out of your comfort zone and make you WORK. It was an investment I won’t ever regret.

Healthier Food Habits: Do’s and Don’ts

Over the years, I have tried many different diets on my journey to healthier living. You name it, I’ve tried it. Vegan, Low Carb, Raw, Paleo. I even dipped my toe into the Master Cleanse diet for a day. I know that every body is different, and different strategies are going to maximize different results based on the individual person.

 

However, I also think that there are some general do’s and don’ts to live by that can be applied to most of us. So whether you’re lost and you need some tips, or your health A-GAME is ON and you just want some reinforcement, you came to the right place. Buckle in for

5 Healthier Food Habits: Do’s and Don’ts

 

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1. DO eat after 8 PM. We’ve all heard of those diets that give deadlines for when we should stop eating in our day. I get it. It’s not good for anyone to be eating mindlessly in front of a screen. However, if you have been running errands all evening and don’t get in the door until 8:30 PM… eat something! If you ate at 5, but you’ve been scrubbing the house up and down for hours… eat something! Eat when you are hungry –  who cares what time it is. Hunger cues are an important factor in our relationship with our bodies, and I encourage you to honor them. If it’s late and you’ve got to eat – eat – and do your best to go for something nutrient dense and satisfying.

2. DO eat breakfast. Unless you are fasting with purpose and planning in mind, you should be trying to eat or drink a little something. I cannot stress this enough! Think of your body as a machine, and your metabolism is the engine. You wan’t to get that engine fired up! Get it fired up as soon as you can after waking, and continue with small meals throughout the day to keep it burning. Skipping breakfast also might lead you to make poor (very hungry) decisions at lunch time.

3. DON’T drink diet pop – I know trust me, I drive my sister crazy with this one. If you really need to have a sugary-sweet beverage, try something sweetened with cane sugar or stevia. The artificial sweeteners in diet soda may actually make diet pop just as bad for you as regular soda. In fact, they could be even worse given that we don’t yet know the long-term effects. Some studies have shown that artificial sweeteners may disrupt our bodies abilities to metabolize other more natural sugars. Make a swap and enjoy guilt-free.

4. DO prepare your meals a day or days in advance! So many people successful in eating well and maintaining their ‘goal body’ because they have made meal prep a weekly or twice weekly ritual. Bringing lunch, dinner, and/or snacks out with you more often than not IS the recipe for success. If you have healthy snacks with you, you have a reason to skip the drive through when you start to get hungry. Also, meal prep allows you to have more control and knowledge about what exactly is going into your body.  You’ll also save all the money you would have spend eating out. Make yourself something delicious – you deserve it.

5. DON’T punish yourself for eating a crappy meal. Just don’t do it! One bad meal, or even one bad day, is not going to make or break your health. Your health and well-being is a cultivation of the effort you put in day-to-day on a consistent basis, so downing some microwave friendly appetizers on a Friday night isn’t going to kill you. But if you punish yourself, you are going to make yourself feel bad. And if you make yourself feel bad, I can imagine you would be left feeling pretty negatively. Many times, those negative emotions may drive you to eat more junk food to comfort yourself. Don’t feel bad. Simply move forward.

I hope these tips have helped you just a little bit towards becoming a healthier you! Remember – it’s not about being perfect, and a few simple changes can go a long way. You don’t need to restrict yourself. Know that you always have a choice, and perhaps when given the freedom to choose you will find it is easier to make healthy decisions and say  “maybe next time” to the other stuff.

What is “Wellness” ?

It’s my very first post, and I’ve decided to discuss the topic of  WELLNESS !

Wellness can mean different things to different people; what I describe wellness as here is my own perspective. For me, wellness is the integration of healthy components combined within ones lifestyle harmoniously, all of which in combination should cover the three main aspects of wellness: the mind, the body, and the soul. Wellness isn’t just about eating well, or working out, or seeking knowledge, or being mindful and positive. It’s all of those things; it’s taking care of yourself emotionally, physically, and mentally. This is an incredibly delicate balance to achieve. Truly, I believe that wellness requires an almost constant effort in our ever-changing lives. It’s a commitment you make to yourself, to care for and value yourself as a person.

My personal wellness routine includes a mostly healthy diet (about 80/20), working out (weight lifting) 3-5 times per week, taking quiet time for myself every once in a while, 7+ hours of sleep per night, as well as reading books and researching topics of interest. When I’m able to include all of these things in my weekly routine, I operate my very best. And when I’m operating at my very best, I’m able to tackle challenges, find solutions, and organize my time more effectively. Wellness is a way of setting yourself up for success. At any rate, that’s what my wellness looks like. It might not look the same for you and that’s okay. But it is super important to keep these things in mind as we go about our daily lives!