• 6 Ways to Stop Anxiety and Stress

    Saying Bye Bye Bye to the Butterflies

    As women, we often feel pressured to “do it all!” Whether it’s the endless to-do lists to get through at work, the pile of household chores waiting at home, or the long list of events we had our hearts set on attending this summer, we manage–or, at the very least, attempt–to accomplish the seemingly impossible.

    Despite our superhuman personas (because really, there’s no denying the existence of our well-deserved, albeit invisible, capes), our drives come at both a physical and physiological price. A result of wearing one too many hats, our stress levels can skyrocket and our bodies can act out.

    I recently discussed five telltale signs of when your nerves may be getting the best of you. The question, however, still remains:

    How do we tackle our anxiety so that we can continue to move forward in a healthy way?

    1. ACCEPT

    When your stress levels are at an all-time high, it is important to educate yourself on the physical and psychological signs of anxiety. It is vital you adopt the “this too shall pass” mentality.

    There’s no denying how uncomfortable and unbearable our body’s reaction to stress is. We can, however, treat that never-ending feeling of anxiety by first accepting it for what it is, and then by acknowledging it as a sign for us to slow down.

    2. SLEEP

    Our sleep patterns are usually disrupted when we become overwhelmed. Know that a fair indication of this can manifest in sleeping more or sleeping less.

    The average human being should be sleeping approximately six to eight hours a night to function productively the next day. You can improve both the amount and quality of your sleep by:

    • Eliminating your caffeine intake after 6 p.m. (or earlier if you are sensitive to caffeine)
    • Using ear plugs or an eye mask to help block out both sound and light
    • Installing blackout blinds
    • Running a warm bath to relax before snoozing
    • Eliminating screen time in bed

    3. EXERCISE

    Ideally, we should be getting 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. That translates to either 150 minutes of moderate aerobic or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. Exercise not only “keeps our bodies young” by reducing our risk of acquiring many diseases, but also helps reduce anxiety.

    Physical activity releases endorphins–chemicals in our brain that act as natural pain killers. Endorphins help alleviate the symptoms caused by stress and nervousness.

    Anxiety

    4. NOURISH

    “We are what we eat” is particularly true when our body translates that into our ability to cope under pressure. When we nourish our bodies with healthy, whole foods, we feel better about ourselves and more energized to deal with our nerves.

    • Limit or avoid caffeine to prevent feeling even more nervous or jittery
    • Stay hydrated! The mildest form of dehydration can severely impact your mood and ability to focus
    • Eat breakfast. It is important not to skimp on the most important meal of the day
    • Limit or avoid alcohol. Even though alcohol may be calming at first, the substance actually interferes with your ability sleep

    5. PREPARE

    When stressed, we are tempted to disengage and put assignments and tasks on the back burner. Instead of doing so, continue tackling whatever it is that you need to do by chipping at it little by little on a daily basis.

    Whether it an upcoming meeting or a family vacation, being prepared for the events ahead can help lower your anxiety levels. On that note, it is equally important to take time for yourself. You can do so by walking your dog, getting a massage, or watching your favorite TV show.

    Remember: You can only tackle so much when you’re not mindful of your own needs.

    6. BREATHE

    When anxious, our heart rates increase. In fact, your heart may seem like it’s about to leap out of your chest. The most effective way to lower your anxiety immediately is to lower your heart rate. You can do this by:

    • Finding a comfortable sitting position
    • Placing one hand over your belly and the other over your chest
    • Taking a deep breath through your nose without moving your chest
    • Breathing out by pursing your lips
    • And, repeating this exercise three to five times while taking time with each breath

     

    *If you or someone you know is suffering from anxiety, please seek or have them seek help from a physician. Know that no one is alone in their journey. 

     

    Feature image via John Shiremans Shattered Flowers series.

  • 5 Signs the Dark Cloud Has yet to Blow Over

    Could it be Depression?

    Wellness Wednesdays with Blare June

    While it would be rather lovely to live a life of only sunshine and rainbows, the thought—albeit an optimistic and hopeful one—is not always a possibility. It is normal and healthy, in fact, to occasionally experience sadness. Think about it this way: how could you truly appreciate the good if you don’t have the bad to compare it with? How could you really celebrate triumph if you don’t experience hardship first?

    That said, there are still times when your lows outweigh your highs—when there are more difficult days then there are easy ones. Prolonged “Down in the Dump” days can be both emotionally draining and harming.

    Here are 5 signs to help you recognize when it might be time to seek professional help.

    gollybard



    “I’m so darn tired.”

    Doctors recommend an average of 6-8 hours of sleep because sleep helps human beings cope with every day stress. When overwhelmed or experiencing a shift in mood, sleep (or the lack of it) is usually the first clue that something is not right. If you start waking up a lot earlier than usual without the help of an alarm clock, seek help. Early morning wakening (EMW) is a symptom of depression that should not be ignored. Other obvious signs include difficulty falling asleep and trouble staying asleep.



    “No, thank you. I’m not hungry.”

    When feeling blue, people often forget to eat or lose their appetites. In order to stay healthy efficient human beings, it is vital to eat nourishing meals throughout the day. If you notice a change in your appetite or are experiencing a drastic and inexplicable weight loss, your mood may be impairing your hunger.



    “Sorry, could you please repeat that?”

    When depression sets in, regardless how hard you may try to fight it, it is often extra difficult to concentrate. Experiencing a change in drive and clarity at school or work or forgetting everyday conversations and events may be good reasons to seek professional help.



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    “Why don’t I love the things I once enjoyed anymore?”

    People experiencing clinal depressive episodes report an inability to derive pleasure from previously pleasurable activities. If playing tennis, hanging out with friends, or watching re-runs of your favorite show on Netflix is no longer your go-to Saturday morning activity, it is important to monitor this change seriously. Anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure) is a symptom of depression and subsequent sign that professional help is needed.



    “Maybe life just isn’t worth it.”

    While people don’t openly talk about suicidal thoughts, they’re more common than you think. Once depression sets in, passive thoughts like, “I wish I didn’t wake up this morning,” or active thoughts that include an intent and plan to die, may present itself for the first time and worsen with frequency. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is vital to seek help immediately. You can seek out your local emergency department, family physician, or help line for assistance. Remember, you are not alone!



  • Your Guide to Essential Oils

    Inhale, Exhale

    A guide to essential oils

    It’s no secret I struggle with anxiety. Whether it from personal relationships, over-stimulation, abrupt changes, living in the city, or too many hours spent on my phone, my anxiety has this uncanny way of creeping up and grabbing hold. And, more often than not, these unpleasant encounters cause me to lose my sense of self.

    That said, I’m so happy mental health is becoming more of a public discourse. I am living proof that everyone, at one point or another, has or will struggle with issues regarding their mental wellbeing. You know the quote, “Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind?” Well, those words ring true. People can be very skilled at hiding their feelings.

    In hopes of helping me combat my anxiety, my mom introduced me to essential oils. I now rarely leave the house without a vial in my purse or a dab behind my ears. I hope that by sharing what I know, I can help you too! It’s important to use public spaces like ours to start and continue these difficult but necessary conversations.

    What are Essential Oils?

    Essential oils are oils extracted from the bark, leaf, root, seed or flower of a plant through processes like cold pressing or stem distillation. The resulting liquid (oil) is highly concentrated. One drop reaps many health benefits. When purchasing essential oils, it is important to only buy the pure therapeutic-grade ones.

    How do they work?

    Because essential oils are made up of smaller molecules, it seeps into the skin easily when topically applied. When used aromatically, the blood vessels in your lungs absorb the oil and your blood circulates it throughout the rest of your body.

    I started using essential oils to reduce my anxiety. After seeing positive results, I started experimenting with different ways to incorporate them into my daily routine. You can say that I’m mildy obsessed. There’s something very fulfilling about conscientiously working towards a healthier me. There is SO much to learn about these oils and about a billion different ways to use them. It really depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re interested in doing more research, this is a great place to start!

    How do you use them?

    You should always read the dilution instructions! Remember, different oils have different uses and those uses are generally non-transferable.

    1. Topically

    • Apply 2-3 drops directly onto your skin and massage.
    • To cover larger surface areas, pair the essential oil of choice with a carrier oil. Note: Not all carrier oils maintain essential oil properties when mixed together. For that reason, I personally recommend pairing with only coconut oil or olive oil. 

    2. Aromatically

    • Rub 2-3 drops between your palms and cup your hands. Place your hands over your nose and take a long, slow inhale.
    • Add 2-3 drops into a bowl of hot water. Place a towel over your head and hover your face over the bowl. The idea is to trap the rising steam with your towel. Again, concentrate on your breath. Inhale in and exhale out.
    • Use a diffuser. My favorite way.
    • Add 2-3 drops to my bubble bath. Hello, at-home spa!

    3. Ingestion

    • Place 2-3 drops into a gelatin capsule and swallow with water.
    • Add 1–2 drops to a glass of water.
    • Cook with 1–2 drops.

    My Favorites

    Lavender

    Lavender essential oil is commonly used to promote balance and relaxation. It can also help with skin irritations. It smells divine. I usually add 3 drops to my diffuser before I go to sleep. The diffuser automatically shuts off when there’s no water left, so it’s totally safe! I’ve also been known to add a drop of it to my night-time moisturizer. Sometimes I dilute it in a spray bottle and spray it on my pillows. Can you tell that this is my favorite scent?

    Stress Away

    This unique oil blend from Young Living was the introductory oil my mom gave me. I use it when I study and when I work. The oil has lime and vanilla notes. It also has lavender and copaiba to help reduce mental rigidity and encourage balance within the body. The cedrol found in cedar wood and the eugenol found in vanilla work together to increase feelings of relaxation and reduce the body’s nervous tension.

    Peppermint

    When applied topically (typically to the back of your neck), peppermint oil instantly cools the skin. When diffused or added to a bath, it awakens all of your senses. I use this oil whenever I need an extra boost!

    Wintergreen & Cypress

    This combination of oils is great for alleviating muscle pain. I use it to ease the carpal tunnel in my right hand. I add 2 drops of both wintergreen and cypress to coconut oil before applying the mixture to my forearm, wrist, and hand. I do this twice a week. The wintergreen works to cool the area of inflammation and relieve  pain. The cypress works to increase the circulation in the affected area.

    Purification & Wild Orange

    Purification is another oil blend from Young Living. It’s a combination of citronella, rosemary, lemongrass, tea tree, lavender, and myrtle oil. They work together to eliminate bad odors from anything and everything. Given the underwhelming square footage of my apartment, this blend comes in handy when cooking. I use it with Wild Orange to spray away lingering smells.

    Frankincense

    Frankincense is said to reconnect you spiritually and encourage you to find your purpose. Many people use it during their yoga or meditation practices to help them find inner peace. You can also add it to your moisturizer to enhance your natural beauty!

    If you’re interested in trying out any oils listed above, I recommend visiting Young Living where I purchased all of mine!

     

    Featured Image via Tumblr.

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