I'm glad I don't have it all figured out

It always surprises me to hear someone comment on how “together” they think my life is, especially when we’re talking about recovery. The truth is, no one has it all figured out. Not your therapist, not your psychiatrist, and not the world’s most successful coaches. Not any of the bloggers you follow on social media who seem to have the perfect life. Not celebrities and not spiritual gurus. No one. We’re all just as human and we’re all just operating from where we are in our lives, which means that we all still have growing to do. Some of us are using things we’ve learned in our textbooks to guide you, some of us are using our experiences to guide you, and some of us are combining the two. Neither is right or wrong. The world is in desperate need of healers- ALL kinds. of them Educate yourself, but don’t close yourself off to all the people who have the potential to rock your world just because they lack a degree. So much of the deeper aspects of healing depend on YOUR ability to shift your perspective. There is no one-sized fits all approach to recovery. The foundation of my recovery is made up of SO many different elements- mental, physical, emotional, environmental, and spiritual. Just sayin’.

One of the most empowering things I’ve learned throughout my recovery (I like to refer to it as my rediscovery) is that I have the capability to transform and heal any part of myself that I want to. The day I realized that I don’t have to be the “sick girl” is the day that I stopped being the sick girl. The day I stopped using my experiences as a crutch and I stopped making excuses for myself is the day I stopped feeling like a victim. The day I realized that my life is what I choose to make of it was the day I tore everything down and started to rebuild it. The day I realized that the darkest/heaviest parts of me are actually what makes me the most human is the day I stopped seeing those parts of me as a burden. I started seeing them as gifts and insights into all the intricate details that make me who I am without being defined by them. A puzzle isn’t defined by one piece, is it? The darkness actually gave me such deep-rooted compassion and empathy as well as my ability to understand people on such a intimate level without them needing to articulate anything. The day I stopped blaming my parents, the Universe (God), my old friends, ex-boyfriends, my rapist, stopped questioning my possible past-life karma, and my disease/disorder was the day I realized that I am and have always been exactly where I need to be. I wholeheartedly believe in divine timing and I’ve learned that the healing process can and should never be rushed.

My point is, I don’t have it all figured out. My life isn’t perfect…and I don’t want it to be. I want to be challenged because I want to keep growing. I want to be triggered so I can continue healing. I welcome the breakdowns because they lead to the breakthroughs. I want to keep stepping outside of my comfort zone so that my fear keeps shrinking. I want to be uncomfortable so that I can keep learning how to let go and how to be at peace with all the unknown. I don’t have it all figured out, I’ve just learned how stop looking at every challenge/bump in the road/ trigger/ undesirable situation as a burden. I’ve learned how to start looking at each trigger as a lesson and as an opportunity to grow. I literally started saying “ Thank you for this breakthrough” in the middle of my panic attacks. With tears streaming down my face in the depths of my lows, I express gratitude. I’ve learned how to create new patterns rather than reverting back to the old ones. I’ve learned how to get excited about “hitting those walls” in my re(dis)covery and about having to go back to the drawing board. I always picture the cartoon of Wiley Coyote going back to the drawing board (making a new plan) every single time he fails at catching the roadrunner. He never gives up. I’ve learned to look at EVERY experience, trauma, heartbreak, betrayal, trigger, and challenge as a gift…because they are. You just have to choose to see them that way- slowly and intentionally. Also, this does not mean that you don’t give yourself time to process anger or grief for what you may have lost to your disorder or as a result of your experiences. This is essential to your healing process, but it’s different to allow yourself the time and space to feel those things with the intention to heal (and move on) rather than choosing to live in that space for good. Too many of us get stuck there. Think of healing as a journey (because it totally is) and think of those moments of anger or grief as a pit stop on a road trip. You stop to do what you need to do (get snacks, use the restroom, take a nap) but then you keep moving forward using whatever you gained from that pit stop as fuel. There are SO many insights to be had in those dark moments, don’t let the fear of discomfort take that from you. Hopefully that makes sense!

I hope you all have a soft and rejuvenating holiday! Please remember to be kind to yourself and know that you are never alone. Also, Jimmy and I released the fourth and final episode of our holiday series for Healing Hour. We are SO beyond grateful for the amount of support and feedback we’ve received since starting the podcast this summer. This project has been healing for us on so many levels. We wholeheartedly believe that vulnerability, willingness and community make up the rich soil we all need in order to grow from our painful experiences. Thank you for being part of that for us, friends! <3

Mindfully Restored Retreats: Joshua Tree National Park

Let me just start out by saying that I am not an extrovert. I hate public speaking, hosting or doing anything that puts a spotlight over my head. I’m an introvert and my comfort zone is in the back where no one can even make real eye-contact with me. As a leader, and yes, I consider myself a leader, I’ve really had to combat those fears. I’ve had to move out of my comfort zone and take up a permanent residence in an unfamiliar land, known as Growth. It’s just south of Two Super Sweaty Palms, maybe you’ve heard of it? Well, putting together AND co-leading a retreat that was based on authenticity and building community was definitely uncomfy. Mind you, Kerry (co-host for Mindfully Restored Retreats and the Founder of The Obsessive Outsiders) is an INCREDIBLE and eloquent speaker. She naturally has a leadership energy about her…so yeah, I had some nerves that I wouldn’t be able to keep up.

As clear as I was on my intentions for this retreat, I was still nervous. I’m sure I annoyed the heck out of Kerry with all the “what ifs” that were cycling through my mind. What if I couldn’t make an impact with these individuals? What if they didn’t get along with each other? What if I couldn’t hold space for someone and they didn’t feel that support of community? So much uncertainty and trust me, there were multiple moments that I wanted to back out. My fear of failure and the need for perfectionism was close to sabotaging my commitment to this community. A few weeks before the retreat, I was journaling and I remembered something that one of my mentors taught me years ago. She taught me the importance of showing up, especially in the thick of uncertainty. Commitment and presence being two essential practices that I need to be consistent with, in all aspects of my life. Not having attachments to the way things “should go” and having a heart that is open enough to receive the experience that is coming, not the experience that I think “needs” to occur. Not trying to control the outcome of the weekend. Just showing up and allowing it all to come together…or fall apart. Ah, not a comfy process at all!

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Well, the experience ended up being perfect. Beyond perfect, actually! It was better than perfectionism’s expectation because it was organic. A group of real strangers showed up and opened their hearts to each other. And it was PURE magic. Many of us felt resistant throughout the weekend in different ways, but we all managed to walk away from the weekend feeling connected and changed in some way. There were a lot of breakthroughs (EXAMPLE: KERRY CLIMBING THE ROCKS LIKE A BADASS EVEN THOUGH SHE WAS FREAKING OUT) and breakdowns. All of them were sequential though, each one building on the other.

This entire retreat was centered around the invitation to show up exactly as you are. No masks allowed. Yet, this is where my resistance manifested. I found myself wanting to put a mask on. I noticed that I was placing unrealistic expectations on myself to hide away some of the things that were coming up for me. I kept thinking “ I’m a host, I can’t share that I’m feeling triggered. I can’t show my emotions. I need to hold space for them, not ask them to hold space for me!” So, I called myself out to the group and I asked them to hold space for me, which changed the entire experience, not just for me…but for them. Every person’s energy and contribution count.

One of the biggest lessons/insights that I took away from the experience was that I do NOT need to have it all together to be a great coach and mentor. No one has it all figured out and when I really think about the mentors that I seek out personally, it’s always the ones who are most real about who they are, what they’ve gone through and how they navigate their current experiences now.  It’s always the ones who allow themselves to be human and show their human-ness to the world. Unapologetically. I don’t resonate with the picture-perfect people who filter out their reality on social media, I’m drawn to the people who show their messes to their tribe. The people who own their choices and take responsibility for creating the life they want. When it comes to life, especially in recovery, no one has it all figured out. My process doesn’t look like yours and yours doesn’t look like mine. None of the details matter though. What matters is authenticity. What really matters is transparency and vulnerability. This retreat was such validation and confirmation that having a strong community to support you is the most powerful and valuable tool you can have. It’s also something that never loses it’s value. Ever.

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I’m so grateful for the amazing memories, deep connection and friendships we made!

CHEERS TO FOUR DAYS IN THE (TOASTY) DESERT TOGETHER! 

HIBERNATION MODE

Wow. It’s been quite a crazy month for me- both personally and professionally. I got back from a super long vacation, finished up a few different trainings I was involved in, finished lot of last minute preparations for Mindfully Restored Retreats, actually EXPERIENCED our first retreat (September 14-17th) which was beyond what we could have hoped for, started my virtual women’s circle last week with five amazing women and I still managed to keep up with school, family, my relationship and my self-care. It’s been pretty wild, but to be completely transparent with ya’ll, I took on more than I should have. I’ve had a blast and I’ve been really good at stepping away from my responsibilities to take care of myself. To meditate. To practice. To binge watch episodes of Quantico. Did anyone else join that party late? I just started watching it and I kind of can’t stop. I make sure to turn my phone off and go outside often. To work on my book. To drink water and make homemade meals. You get the point!

I expected to come home from the Mindfully Restored Retreat and write about the incredible experience, but I haven’t really been able to put it into words yet. I’m still processing. Still integrating. All I’ve really been able to say is that I’m grateful. Grateful for an amazing partnership with my soul sister Kerry Osborn, the Founder of The Obsessive Outsiders. Grateful for each person that showed up that weekend and trusted us to hold space for them. Grateful for community and vulnerability. For willingness and support. For the opportunity to create and to make my vision come to life.

Grateful. Grateful. Grateful.

I’m full of ideas and inspiration for new projects, but I’m in what I like to call my “hibernation mode” right now. I’m recharging and taking things really slow. I’m integrating all the different lessons I’m learning. I’m reflecting and prioritizing my own growth. I’m catching up with friends and family, but mostly with myself. So many aspects of my life are currently shifting.

I’m preparing to offer my whole heart to this vision of mine and I cannot freaking wait.

ps- thanks for holding space for me to share.

Growing Pains

I've been wanting to talk about something for a long time and I feel like this is the perfect time to do so because I'm in the middle of some really huge transformations in my personal and professional life. I'm in the process of shedding a lot of "layers" of myself and masks that I've been wearing for a really long time. I've been SHOWING UP. Fully expressing myself in the ways that make me feel happy and that feel aligned with who I am at my core. Last week was full of transformation. I literally had one breakthrough after another, a few good cries...and more naps than I can count. I announced the major change in direction for my business and my life purpose. You may have caught that video on Instagram where I bared my soul to my tribe. If you didn't, I announced that I was no longer going to complete my masters degree and would be expanding my coaching and healing practice instead. I've been feeling this pull in my heart for a long time, but I was full of my own self-limiting beliefs. I thought that I needed the degree for my words and my work to be valid. Like, somehow my KNOWING and my experience wasn't enough. Honestly, I was afraid to say it all out loud because then I felt like I couldn't take it back.  What if this is the wrong decision? What I regret it? What if I fail? After I sat with the fear and uncertainty, I got clarity. With that clarity, I got trust. Bone-deep trust that I am exactly where I need to be with this. With that trust, I got confidence to share...and share again. The amount of love, support and encouragement that poured in from family, friends and strangers was such an amazing reminder that people have my back. A LOT of people have my back and when it matters the most, they show up too. 

One of the major lessons I learned last week was that once again, I was faced with fear. The kind of fear that was stopping me from living my life in the way that I wanted to...again. In some ways, I was debilitated just like I was when I was sick and housebound all those years ago. I was stuck and I felt like I couldn't get out of my own way. Mind over fucking matter, right? Here. I. Was. Again. Letting my thoughts run the show. I kept thinking " wow, cool...I thought I was over this." And then it hit me. There will ALWAYS be obstacles. Always be fear and self-doubt.  I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder....so yes, I am going to ruminate over decisions sometimes. There will always be reasons why I shouldn't take risks, but I'm tired of playing it small. I'm tired of feeling like I'm the only one who has these feelings sitting within them. I'm not and neither are you. In treatment, they will tell you that you're doing the work correctly if you're uncomfortable. Eight years later, that has never stopped being relevant. 

CHANGE IS UNCOMFORTABLE. GROWTH IS UNCOMFORTABLE.

Life constantly insists that we grow. We all have work to do, regardless of what chapter we're writing in our own stories. Life has a way of challenging us in ways that we aren't expecting. We all have work to do because the work doesn't stop. Triggers (or challenges) come up and we are GIVEN the opportunities to challenge then. Perception is everything though, friends. Looking at every challenge or obstacle like a burden will only make it a burden. It's rare that anyone gets to where they want to be by taking the easy road OR by avoiding all the hard stuff. We all have to face ourselves at some point if we don't want to spend our lives hiding. 

Mantra: I refuse to hide from my life anymore. I vow to stay true to who I really am and all that I want to contribute to this world. 

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It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.
— E.E Cummings

Sound On! Episode: Nourish Your Minds

A few weeks ago, my dear friend Jimmy Torrejon invited me to record an episode for his podcast series called Sound On!  I was incredibly nervous as you may be able to tell from my shaky voice, but I am SO grateful to have been gifted the opportunity to share my mission with Nourish Your Minds and a big piece of my heart.  This was me stepping outside of my comfort zone and truthfully, I felt REALLY vulnerable despite knowing Jimmy for about 10 years now. There was much that I shared with him on this podcast that I had never shared publicly before and I'm so grateful for the feedback we've received so far.  Jesenya, his co-host, was so graceful and warm as I shared my story with her for the first time. In addition to  listening to this episode, I encourage you to go follow the podcast on Instagram @soundonpodcast as well as Jimmy's AMAZING and inspirational heart project called "This Is Grief." Jimmy opens up about his grieving process after losing his beautiful mother to cancer. The depth of emotion and vulnerability in his words will most likely give you goosebumps, as it does for me.  One (of many) things I honor and enjoy most about Jimmy is his willingness to open up the conversations that need to happen about the reality of what we go through as humans. The downright devastating. The transformational. The beautiful. The growth. The healing. The different layers of our own process. He's truly a gift to this world and I encourage you to follow him on his journey. 

 

Another reminder that we're all in this together.

 

 

FALL WOMEN'S CIRCLE

Hi Sisters, 

I invite YOU to join me for a 6-week virtual women's circle! If you've never participated in a women's circle before, let me tell you a little bit about what you can expect. 

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The first women's circle I ever attended was one of the MOST powerful experiences I've ever had. I just had my heart broken and I had a major falling out with one of my closest girlfriends at the same time. I was completely lost and I was fighting SO hard not to take any steps backwards in my recovery. I just wanted a safe place to go. To be heard. To be supported. To be validated. To be able to support others in a powerful way that wasn't draining. To make an impact for myself and others. To find a community that would embrace me just as I am, the light and the dark. I didn't want to wear a mask anymore in fear of judgement. I wanted to be the most unfiltered and vulnerable version of myself.  I wanted to learn to trust other women again, including myself. I wanted to feel like I belonged and like someone had my back when shit went down. I wanted to feel like I got back what I put into relationships.  I wanted to be visible and I didn't want to keep playing it small in my life. 

 

So, what is a women's circle?

A women’s circle is a safe and sacred space for women to come together, use their voices, be heard and be seen. Throughout history, women have gathered in circle to empower each other. This is about setting time aside each week to connect with yourself and connect with other women.  This is about authenticity, vulnerability, and strengthening your sense of community. This is an opportunity to make connections with other women that could lead to collaboration and co-creation. This is about healing the wounds we have from other women and learning to empower each other, not compete with each other. When we gather together, we grow. Although this group is therapeutic and healing in MANY ways, it is not therapy nor is it treatment-based. We are simply there to hold the space for you to express yourself in your most authentic way. 

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Gimme the details!

We will meet virtually every Thursday for six weeks starting on September 20th from 7:00-8:30 pm PST.  Spaces are very limited as my intention is to keep each group small and intimate. Every week you will have a weekly circle call via Zoom video conference with other participants and I. You will receive an email each week before our circle to let you know what the theme or topic will be and if you need to "bring" anything with you. For example, you may need paper and a pen for one of our activities. I want to make sure that we are all prepared before each circle to avoid any distractions. It is very important that we honor our time together, don't ya think?

After signing up for the series, you will be invited to join our private Facebook group. This group is exclusive to women who participate in circle, even if it's not your specific circle. This is a great way for you to connect with like-minded women around the world in a safe and supportive way. You are encouraged to post in the group and to interact with the other women and I as much as you want!  

Investment

Early Bird: $99 if you sign up before August 30th.

After August 30th, the rate is $120. 

*Registration will close Thursday, September 13th!

NEW MOON, NEW NON-NEGOTIABLES!

This new moon has got me feelin' ALL the feelings! During new moons, I always set new intentions for whatever shifts I feel I need in my life. Lately, I've given a lot of thought to redefining my non-negotiables. If you do not know what a non-negotaible is, they are the things that we commit to NO MATTER WHAT. This can include your beliefs, morals, practices or anything else you feel YOU need to stay balanced, healthy and true to yourself. Truthfully, I haven't been very true to myself when it comes to my non-negotiables lately. I've been sleeping in rather than waking up early to practice and sit with myself before my day starts. I've been sleeping till I HAVE to roll out of bed to avoid being late. I've been grabbing a protein bar as I run out of the house rather than making myself a healthy breakfast (a result of sleeping in) and then my whole day gets thrown off. The rest of my day is all about serving others, but that gets really draining when I don't serve myself first. What do I mean by that? I mean that if I'm not taking care of myself and making sure that all my needs are met- mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually then I'm not able to operate at my full capacity to help others. This is how coaches and healers get burnt out. I LOVE what I do and I wouldn't change my career path for anything, but I do know that I need to make sure that my battery is fully charged before I leave my house without a charger. Does that make sense? I hope so! 

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HOW DO WE SET NON-NEGOTIABLES? 

What I like to do first is journal about whatever my present day life is like, the good and the not so good. Once I get some clarity, I make a list of the things I want to work on then I write 1-2 solutions or desired replacement patterns next to them. For instance, if I write down that I want to work on not constantly feeling overworked, I could write "no work before 9 am and no work after 6 pm" as a non-negotiable for myself. After I journal everything out of my system and I get clear on which things I want to prioritize, I like to practice this simple ritual. 

First, I'll grab a piece of paper and I'll write down some negative/unwanted emotions, behaviors or thoughts that I want to replace with something more healthy. I'll write " I release __________." Examples could include anger, resentment, fear or judgement. After that, I'll write down positive emotions, behaviors or thoughts that I want to bring into my life. I'll write " I plant seeds of ____________." Examples of this could include self-love, self-acccptance, joy, humility and so on. What does it mean to plant seeds? It's all the NEW behaviors or patterns you want to "plant" or begin implementing into your life. Each time you practice these new patterns, it gives your little seeds water to blossom.  Once you are done, you can (safely) burn the piece of paper.

THE DECLARATION OF NON-NEGOTIABLES

Ya'll know I'm believer in the power of accountability. With that said, I'm going to declare my new non-negotaibles to all of you because even coaches need accountability.  Declaring your intention is a VERY powerful practice, especially outloud to your community. To declare your non-negotiables, you can do a few things: 

Set alarm clocks/reminders on your phone

Put up post-it notes around your house as reminders

Tell your friends and loved ones then ask them to hold you accountable by doing check-ins with you

Set up a reward system for yourself for when you meet certain goal

 

SO...HERE IT IS:

 I am committed to waking up no later than 6 am every morning for my sadhana (Sanskrit for daily spiritual practice).  

 I am committed to eating foods that nourish my mind and my body. Yes, this includes chocolate.

I am committed to making sleep a priority.  

I am committed to giving myself permission to say NO when I don't want do so something or when something is not in alignment with my values, vision and heart.

I am committed to spending at least one day a week (all day) in nature without my phone.

I am committed to giving myself time alone to recharge.

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These may seem simple, but these are my essentials. I talk about going back to the basics often because I think it's really important to do when you get sidetracked...and we ALL get sidetracked. Going back to the basics isn't the same as starting at square one, it's just allowing yourself to come back to center and recharge before you burn out. Recovery is built on consistency and it's built on the willingness to try different things until you find what works for you. Most of us will not make big and uncomfortable changes without the encouragement and accountability of our peers. It can even feel really challenging to admit that something even needs to change in the first place, right? I know I've been humbled by that experience more times than I'd like to admit.

Want to declare your non-negotiables? Let me know!

Accountability is powerful. 

MEDITATION

Meditation is a hot topic in the mental health field right now. I'm hearing about more and more clinicians that are suggesting meditation to their patients as a compliment to their treatment. If any of you have a steady meditation practice, you can understand my passion for this topic, right? My meditation practice is one of the things I value most in my recovery. I started meditating back in 2010 when I was struggling with agoraphobia and hadn't left my apartment in a year. I hadn't started treatment...so my mind was basically an on-going stampede of intrusive and obsessive thoughts.

Let me start off by saying that meditation was EXTREMELY difficult for me. At this point in my life, I was (severely) impacted by every thought and emotion I experienced. I would get into these awful spirals over and over again throughout the day. I literally never felt relief because the only time I'd stop obsessing about one thing is when I'd start obsessing about another thing. I'd sit in my room chewing the inside of my lip (nervous habit) and I'd analyze all my thoughts relentlessly. I'd sit and do compulsion after compulsion after compulsion in an effort to find relief, but we all know that is NOT how the cycle works. At first, I found meditation really annoying because I felt like I couldn't do it "the right way." I was housebound so, I spent a lot of time researching about different practices. I felt resentful of people in the videos because they all looked so peaceful and made it seem like meditation came easy to them. Meanwhile, I was over here like "What do I do with my hands? Do I just clear my mind and try to think of nothing? That's impossible for me. What if I'm never able to meditate? What will happen if I do finally slow my mind down? Will I lose control? They keep saying to surrender, but I cant. How can I sit still and breathe when I'm about to have my 7th panic attack in the last in the last couple of days? How long do I need to sit here before I feel better? Ugh, I shouldn't be thinking. Stop thinking, Anna! Just focus on your breath. What if...no. Stop. Just. Stop. Thinking. Ugh, I'm hungry." Then I'd usually just burst into tears or get so frustrated that I'd walk away.  Of course, this was before I knew about the different ways to practice meditation... and before I learned that meditation was not based on clearing your mind of everything. The practice is about learning how to intentionally focus on something, an inner focal point called a "drishti." The way I've incorporated this into my personal practice is by choosing a word or a mantra to meditate on.  For example, this could look like INTENTIONALLY thinking of words like "peace" as you inhale and "love" as you exhale. This helps to keep your mind focused which is the point of meditation and is a great practice for beginners. You can choose other words if these don't resonate with you. You can also choose affirmations such as " I am peaceful" or "I am full of love." You can say word or affirmations quietly to yourself, or you can say them out loud. Another thing that helps me tremendously is listening to music or guided meditations and I use my headphones quite often to drown out background noise. Mindfulness is a great tool to have in your back pocket when it comes to recovery because it is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment and learning to accept it without judgment or resistance. Think about it. How much BETTER could we all feel if we learned how to make the decision to sit still and focus on something despite all the other thoughts or emotions flowing through our bodies? A lot better, right?!

So, what are some of the known benefits of a meditation practice?

  • Reduces stress
  • Improves concentration
  • Increases self-awareness
  • Increases positive emotions
  • Decreases the need to stay in fight-or-flight mode
  • Lowers blood pressure and heart-rate
  • Reduces anxiety and depression
  • Promotes mindfulness

One thing that you'll hear often in yoga/meditation classes is this idea of practicing wholeheartedly and consistently. For me, the consistency part wasn't difficult, but the idea of practicing wholeheartedly was. I was really baffled about how people did anything wholeheartedly because I had spent the last couple of years struggling to find a solid reason to keep moving forward. I was resentful of everything that I felt life had robbed me of. I wasn't even doing things halfheartedly, but I was intrigued by the idea. My best friend recommended a book called "How Yoga Works", by C. S. McNally and Michael Roach that planted a pretty powerful seed in my mind. It was this idea of dedicating my practice to someone so that I felt passion and inspiration for my daily practice. THIS. CHANGED. EVERYTHING. To be honest, I wasn't going to show up for myself but when it meant showing up for someone else, I was in! I actually started dedicating my practice to my younger brother who was greatly impacted by years of struggle and has fought his own battles with mental illness as well. To this day, he's still the person I dedicate my practice to most of the time. This specific way of practicing really promotes a sense of selflessness. Plus, what you gain from your practice can send a ripple through your life. When we are balanced and in alignment with who we are or who we want to be, the people around us can really benefit from that. 

A few of my tips for meditation:

  • Try setting an alarm for 3-5 minutes at first then gradually practice longer. Most people can't meditate successfully for 30 minutes straight. Stop judging yourself!
  • It's called a PRACTICE and not a perfect for a reason. 
  • If you find yourself struggling with silent practices, try guided meditations or listening to music. If you choose music, pick something calming with no lyrics and focus on the rhythm. 
  • Journal about your experience after each session.
  • It is OK to not have great meditation sessions. Notice what is coming up for you and allow it to teach you something.
  • Don't allow a few difficult or frustrating sessions discourage you from showing up again the next day.
  • Find what makes you feel the most connected. Is it using aromatherapy (read previous blog post)? Is it listening to music or  complete silence? Is it sitting or laying down? Is it wearing socks and being bundled up? Do you want candles to be lit around you? Outside or inside? Is it saying your words or mantras out loud or to yourself? Is it focusing just focusing on your breath? 
  • SHOW UP EVERYDAY. Even if it's for a few minutes. Sometimes the short ones are the best! 
  • If you need recommendations for guided meditation apps, check out Headspace and Calm. You can download these on your phones and listen to them anytime!

Okay ya'll, I've given you a bunch of information and hopefully this helps you start a meditation practice (if you don't already have one) or adds a little somethin' extra to your existing practice!

I'd love to hear about your practices. Just leave a comment below!

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AROMA...WHAT?

Life is full of constant unexpected and uncontrollable change. Whether you suffer from a mental health condition or not, we all experience heavy energies in our minds and bodies from time to time. Even if your anxiety or depression is situational, it can still be difficult to navigate through the heaviness. If I've learned anything over the years of working in this field, it's how important it is to have the proper toolset to cope with the unavoidable ups and downs that we will all encounter during our lifetime. When I was housebound in 2010, I started practicing yoga and studying various holistic modalities. I was desperate to find anything and everything I could incorporate into my daily routine to find relief from the unbearable anxiety I had. I was having multiple panic attacks a day that were being triggered by my intrusive thoughts. I had recently experienced a sexual assault, I was in an abusive relationship with an addict and I was consumed by an eating disorder that manifested when I was 14. I actually felt the need to take a deep breath for you after reading those last two sentences. Yes, they were extremely dark times, but I wouldn't change a thing because I turned all those experiences into passion and purpose. So, last week I went over the importance of basic self-care practices and it's interesting because I was NOT practicing them to the best of my ability towards the end of the week. I took on way too much at once and guess what? I woke up on sick on Sunday and I've been in bed since.  Although this cold/flu is awful, it's a total blessing in disguise because I was desperate to have a few days to myself to recharge from the craziness of my current life. 

Anyways, I'm really excited to talk about aromatherapy this week because it's something that I started incorporating into my daily routine back in 2011 while I was in treatment. For those who do not know, aromatherapy is also known as essential oil therapy and has been around for about 6,000 years. It can be defined as the science of utilizing naturally extracted essences from plants to harmonize our mental, physical, and emotional health. How does this apply to mental health? Inhaling the essential oil stimulates the olfactory system, the part of the brain connected to smell. As the molecules reach the brain, they affect the limbic system, which is linked to the emotions, the heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress, and hormone balance. The coolest part (in my opinion) is that each oil has it's own healing properties and like everything else in recovery, what works for you may not work for and what works for me may not work for you. A certain scent may be calming to me, but not so calming to you. With that being said, let's talk about some of the oils that I've found to be helpful when it comes to coping with my mental illness. Here are the 6 most common oils that are used for anxiety and depression: 

1) Lavender is the most common oil used for anxiety. It has a calming and relaxing effect on the nervous system. It also helps with sleep, feelings of peacefulness, panic attacks and general tension in the mind as well as in the body.

2) Rose is the second most common and is known for relieving for anxiety, depression and grief. Many find the floral scent to be comforting and calming.

3) Vetiver has a tranquil and grounding scent to it. This oil is often used to help ground and support individuals dealing with trauma looking to gain self-awareness and calmness. *I don't personally like the smell of this oil so I blend it with other oils in a diffuser. 

4) Ylang ylang is another scent that I'm not fond of, but it's calming effects are pretty amazing! This oil is used for depression because of it's ability to make you feel uplifted and more cheerful. This oil helps with agitation and has been known to serve as a sedative for people with insomnia. Again, I usually blend this oil with others in a diffuser.

5) Bergamont is great for depression because it's stimulating and it has been known to create feelings of joy and alertness. If you are feeling anxious, an oil with a more stimulating aroma could cause your anxiety to increase. Perhaps blending this with a calming oil could do the trick if you are looking to combat both anxiety and depression.

6) Chamomile is one of the best medicinal plants out there to combat stress. You have probably heard of this herb being in candles and teas, right? Well, that's because it's amazing! This herb promotes relaxation and soothes the nervous system. This is my personal go-to for anxiety on a daily basis. Not only do I put this oil in my diffuser, but I also drink chamomile tea or tea blends with chamomile in it daily. I've noticed a SIGNIFICANT decrease in my overall levels of anxiety since I replace chamomile with caffeine. I know, how dare I suggest the idea of giving up caffeine. Sorry, not sorry! Some people don't feel that their high levels of anxiety are related to their caffeine intake and that may be true for them, but I've noticed a major difference since the day I broke up with caffeine. Again, what works for me may not work for you!

So, how do you use the oils? Well, there are two main ways and they are quite simple! 

First, you can buy an oil diffuser like one of these. It's extremely easy, all you need is water and whichever oil(s) you choose. Each diffuser requires a different amount of water so, make sure to confirm how much yours needs beforehand. All you need is a few drops of oil. If you are going to make your own little blend of various scents in the diffuser, I usually do 2-3 drops per oil. For example, 2 chamomile, 3 lavender and 2 rose.  You can also find other types of oil diffusers that require tea light candles are the cheaper option. Even though I have one like this, I done use it often because I've found that the scent is a lot stronger than the other diffuser; however, it's still a great option for a beginner. 

Secondly, you can put your oil directly on your skin and allow them to absorb into your bloodstream to have the same results as a diffuser would. I just put a drop or two of my oil on my wrists, temples, chest and/or center of my forehead. Sometimes I'll put a few drops on my palms, rub them together and then put my hands over my face to inhale the scent. Trust me, this can have a really powerful impact on our overall wellbeing. Doing this before or after working with clients really helps me to shift my energy back into balance! Please note that some oils do need to be diluted with water before going directly on the skin. There are some blends that are specifically for topical use and do not need to be diluted before using them.

You can buy your oils online or at local stores. Two brands I highly recommend include Young Living and DoTerra , but they can be a little pricey. Aura Cacia is another one that is really great and affordable for someone just starting out with this practice. 

As you can tell, I have become really passionate about using oils in approaching whole body wellness because of my personal success with them. If you give the oils listed above a try and find some relief with them, you can also start doing some of your own research to discover other oils that you find helpful. There are oils for when you have a cold, an upset stomach, menstrual cramps, headaches and pretty much anything else you can think of. It's amazing when you think of all the amazing things that earth provides for us, don't ya think?

See you next week for my talk about how my meditation practice was a complete game-changer for me in my recovery!

With gratitude,

Anna

TAKIN' IT BACK TO THE BASICS!

Let's get this 6-week series started! I am SO excited to do this series because as most of you know, I am extremely passionate about holistic health and how it can be incorporated into our everyday routines to aid us in coping with the ups and downs of mental illness. The great thing about these practices is that you can practice many of them anytime, anywhere and you and practice them as a compliment to medications if you're on them! There is no cookie-cutter recovery and there is not just one book on the subject either. We all have our own paths. What works for me might not work for you and what works for you might not work for me, but we learn by keeping our hearts and our minds open. For the first week, I'm not going to talk about a fancy-shamcy breathing technique for anxiety. I'm going to start at the basics because we ALL forget their importance.  I'll be the first to admit that I practically had to tape my eyelids open this morning because I binge-watched Netflix till 2 am last night. Do I regret it? Not really, but I do feel more antsy than I normally do which is never fun. Anxiety throws our entire system off. My appetite, my immune system ( woke up with a sore throat) and my ability to concentrate are totally outta whack today.

So, let's talk about the benefits of sleep first and it's impact on our overall mental health. A lack of sleep wrecks havoc on our brains. When we sleep, our brains and bodies repair themselves. We process information and studies have shown that we're less likely to be able to process new information without adequate sleep.  When reading these studies, I immediately thought about all my past clients who consistently needed me to repeat myself and it dawned on me that they all had issues with disrupted sleep at the time. For the most part, I'm a sound sleeper, but I did struggle quite a bit when I was really unwell. Without sleep, we're unable to regulate our emotions and that's already difficult to do when you have a chemical imbalance, am I right? I remember someone telling me all this when I was really sick years ago and I remember thinking to myself "COOL... BUT IS IT GOING TO FIX MY BRAIN?" It's sure going to help! So, what natural things can aid you when you have difficulty sleeping?

  1. Create structure in your life. This is a HUGE contributing factor that many people do not think of. For me, this looks like waking up and going to sleep at the same time everyday. The intention isn't to be rigid, but you want to hold yourself accountable to doing it more often than not. Even if this is just your routine during the week while you're in school and/or at work, it helps. When our sleep schedules are erratic, it's difficult to tell our brains to go to sleep at a reasonable time when that's not our normal.
  2. Listening to guided meditations before bed. There are a lot of really great apps you can download on your phone such as Headspace or Calm. One of my personal favorite things to do if I don't listen to a guided meditation is to play sounds of nature on my laptop. This is so grounding to me, especially if my mind is running wild at night. Spotify has a great playlist called "Gentle Rains" that I highly suggest you check out!
  3. Do some restorative yoga before bed. Let me just start by saying that you do NOT need to be flexible to do any of these poses. You want to do poses that help you transition out of the sympathetic (fight-or-flight) nervous system and into the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). These are gentle poses such as forward folds, child's pose and leg's up the wall. Leg's up the wall can even be done while laying in bed if you're near a wall. Just lay on your back and scoot your bum as close to the wall as you can. You can put a micro bend in your knees if you need to and you use pillows or blankets to get comfy. Yes, you can frequently find me in this position around 9:30 pm at night. It looks a little weird, but it's pretty delicious. 

Next, let's talk a littttttle bit about nutrients. Since we are a recovery community and many of us have a history of Eating Disorders, I want to stay away from saying too much on this topic. I'm NOT a nutritionist and I've only found what works for me, not for others. The only thing I will say is that nutrition plays a essential role in our overall ability to function. I am only speaking from my experience, but I noticed an immediate difference in my moods and energy levels when I went into recovery. There is an abundance of information out there that shows the relationship between nutrients and our nervous systems. How can we expect to function properly if we are not giving ourselves the appropriate fuel? Just sayin'. Keeping your blood sugar stable helps with mood swings. If ya didn't know, now ya do! If you are still struggling with an Eating Disorder, my heart is with you and I encourage you to seek help. As a recovering anorexic, I can promise you that it's worth it. I worked in ED treatment for years and I know some good resources if you ever need them! Ya'll know that water is included in the topic of nutrients, right? If I'm going to be honest, I don't really like water that much. It's honestly such a daily struggle for me to motivate myself to stay hydrated that my boyfriend calls me a lizard. I add elixirs to my water, but I'll get more into those in upcoming weeks!

The last of the basics that I'm going to cover for week one is exercise.  About a year ago, I set an intention to spend more time outdoors because I was going through a really difficult transition in my life and naturally I wanted to isolate. I made myself a deal that I was allowed to be alone as long as I was outside. I bought myself a National Parks pass and started hiking every weekend with my dog. I've always been active, but it was never consistent. You've all heard the speech about exercise triggering endorphins, right? These are the happy hormones that are released when you exercise that act as a natural anti-depressant.  Exercise can look like dancing around your living room to an embarrassing playlist, going for a walk, yoga, going to the gym or anything else. Moving your body, getting your circulation flowing and burning off energy (not weight) is essential in anyone's wellbeing whether they are in recovery or not. Having a diagnosis can make doing these things more difficult sometimes, but the day I stopped waiting to wake up feeling motivated to do these things is the day I realized that doing these things regardless of how I feel is what fuels my motivation.

If you don't practice these things consistently, maybe this can serve as a reminder to take better care of yourself because you're amazing and you deserve it. If you already do these things, let this serve as a acknowledgment of your dedication to your well-being. Either way, you are worthy and supported.

The second series will be posted next Monday, May 14th! I will be covering aromatherapy and how I incorporate it into my everyday life. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments you have. 

With Gratitude,

Anna

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