The Project: My Relationship with Food

So the second post in this series is about diet. It may seem logical to most that how and what you eat will effect how you feel both physically and mentally. This is a concept that I have and still continue to struggle with. When I was a child, I was super athletic, a real little tomboy. I loved being outside, running around, playing in the dirt and just getting into whatever mischief I could. We were allowed watch TV but never for long periods and my parents always encouraged us to use our imaginations and find things to do OUTSIDE. We live on a farm so I suppose that makes a lot of sense. I loved running and basketball and we had a very healthy upbringing. My relationship with food became more toxic as I got older. When my bullying first started, I realised the joy that chocolate and junk food in general could bring me. It’s been a slippery slope since then. I’m not obese and I’m quite healthy bar some minor well managed medical problems but I could always be healthier and since that time I have never truly been happy with my physical appearance.

Wow this is tough to write…

I guess what I’m struggling to say is that, my relationship with food has impacted hugely on my mental health over the years. When I felt crap I’d eat, when I was bored I ate, when I was sad or lonely I’d eat to make myself feel better. When I was finished eating, I’d look in the mirror and feel disgusting. It took me up until recently and even during the course of writing this post to truly realise that my relationship with food is unhealthy and makes me feel like shit both physically and mentally. It’s kind of ironic but I really like healthy foods and I have a pretty good diet most of the time. My battle has been with consistency.  I could have a really good day and then ruin it for the following days or weeks by eating crap at night etc… Examining my relationship with food and making it more healthy, certainly won’t and hasn’t cured my anxiety but it certainly helps if you don’t feel sluggish and tired on top of battling everything that comes with anxiety. It’s a key role in my anxiety management and I have been really neglecting it.

So I recently just told myself NO. No more excuses, no more comfort eating and no more feeling like shit. I want to be healthy, I want to feel good in my mind and body and I want to help alleviate my anxiety whatever way I can. This blog isn’t going to become about my new diet but I thought I might share some meals and exercise plans I’ve been making. I’m not on any programme, I’m just committing myself to this. I know I’ll trip up and I’m setting myself realistic goals and for the first time I really think I’ll get there.

So below are some of the meals I’ve eaten over the last week:

Lean turkey mince cooked in coconut oil, with mixed vegetables and a low fat tomato sauce.I always eat wholegrain pasta and sprinkle in some chia seeds during cooking to add extra protein. On the side is a small mixed salad with feta cheese.

Above is a turkey stir fry with dark soy sauce. It’s lean turkey breast with a mixture of mushrooms, sweet peppers and onions. I didn’t have any brown rice so I went with pasta instead.

Chia seeds are something I swear by. There are a great source of good protein, fibre and omega 3. I add it in during my cooking, sprinkle some on salads and it’s always part of my breakfast.

I have always been a lover of herbal teas but as part of a healthier diet I have to eliminate some of my caffeine. I don’t drink coffee but I’m Irish so tea is a big part of my day. I try to swap two cups of regular black tea for a herbal one each day. I drink most herbal teas but this peppermint is a favourite at the moment.

Sleep can be hard to come by when I’m feeling anxious or having a bad day so I always find a cup of this tea with a little honey helps me catch a few hours.

I had to realise that having a healthy diet doesn’t mean you can’t have some of your favourite foods. I think I’ll be successful this time because I realise moderation is a big part of enjoying food. I went out for dinner at a burger restaurant and to keep things healthy I got sweet potato fries and a wholegrain burger bun. It was YUMMY 😉

I try to walk every second day and then do aerobics at home everyday. I increase the intensity nearly every week or when I feel like I need to. There are loads of great apps out there to help you track your exercise. I’m currently using a GPS Tracker App to map my walking route and another one to log my calorie intake each day. I can honestly say I have started to feel the impact already. I feel fresher when I wake up and when I had a bad anxiety episode the last few weeks, it gave me something to focus on. I’ll keep you updated as I progress and I hope you have gained something from this 😀

Until next week,

Dx

(All rights reserved to the featured image owner).

“Forgiveness is me giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me.”

Wow, such a profound thought. I have had to learn to understand how and what forgiveness is. I have never found a way to truly explain it until now. Forgiving someone, especially when they have caused you immeasurable pain, is probably in my opinion, one of the bravest things you can do in life.

A Small Act Of Kindness Can Bring Smile On Million Faces

from: projectforgive.com

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The Project: Breathing

So here it is my first post on my anxiety management. Like I mentioned previously, I have no professional or educational qualifications in this area and these methods are things that currently work for me. They may not work for everyone but I hope that it might lead you to something that will be beneficial. When I first began my counselling for bullying and the consequences of it, my counsellor asked me, “What do you want from these sessions?”. She asked me every session for three years and one thing would always enter my mind; peace. I wanted to find a peaceful place where I could just let it go. That peaceful place is both literal and figurative for me. The figurative will come in a later post but lets first talk about the literal.

My anxiety can often feel like I’m drowning or out of breath. I feel a pressure deep on my chest that leads me to believe I can’t breath and I can sometimes become dizzy from the fear. With my counsellor we discussed how to find a manageable way to counteract this feeling. Of course, my actual sessions with her helped me to work through the jumble in my mind but I found breathing exercises really helped me regain control in a moment of panic. Now this might seem like an obvious thing to do but for me it was truly learning to appreciate and focus on the deep breath entering and leaving my body that helped me to relax. I have found that while my breathing exercises do not cure my anxiety, they do help me to find a moment of peace so that I can try and think. There are many different exercises out there and it’s all about finding what makes you comfortable. I have tried many different kinds suggested by my counsellor, books, articles and even YouTube. For what I need there are two exercises that help to relieve my stress and give me balance in the midst of an anxiety attack.

The Measured Breath

I find standing works best for me but you can sit, kneel, lie down, whatever works for you. It’s all about finding that peaceful place that helps you regain control. When I tried these methods out I had to work at finding a way that was comfortable and easy to do in a public place, so this is why standing worked for me.

  • Soften up your body, Let your hands relax by your sides and loosen your jaw to relieve tension.
  • Drop your shoulders.
  • Now breath in slowly through your nose and count to five, keep your shoulders nice and relaxed and it’s important to allow your stomach to expand with your breath.
  • Hold that breath for a moment and focus on it.
  • Then slowly begin to release that breath, counting to six as you do.
  • I repeat this for as long as I need to but I usually see the benefits after 2-3 mins.

Breathing with your Stomach

I’m not sure if this method has an official name or not but as the title suggests this is all about breathing and your stomach. I learnt from my counsellor that I was actually breathing wrong. As I breathed in I was also sucking in my stomach, instead of letting it expand like it’s meant to. I generally find this a great exercise before bed. It helps me decompress and find that peaceful place before bed.

  • Lie down on your bed or somewhere comfortable, once again try and soften your body and loosen your shoulders by dropping them.
  • Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose. Allow your stomach to expand and your chest should rise slightly. I like to place my hand on my stomach in a relaxed posture so I can really focus on the exercise.
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth, almost releasing the anxiety as you do it. As you release your breath, purse your lips slightly, but keep your tongue and jaw relaxed. This allows you to hear the breath leave your body, focus on that noise to help you relax.
  • Do this for a few minutes and really focus on your outward breath. Try and slowly release and control it. This focus on your breathing is supposed to allow your mind to relax.

I have found real benefits from these exercises. Even as my anxiety episode might continue, focusing on my breathing allows me to make it through a lot of the time, especially in public places. It also brings me the long sought after peace I asked my counsellor for. Breathing alone, as you will discover, does not a bait my anxiety but it certainly helps when combined with other methods of anxiety management. I hope this has helped you in some way. I have definitely found this first post very therapeutic.

Until next week,

Dx

The Project

So the last few weeks have been pretty tough. It’s the longest and hardest anxiety episode I’ve had in a few years. I feel that I am finally starting to get back to my old self. I don’t ever tend to say “normal” because who can really define what that is?! I won’t lie this latest episode scared me a little. It’s been many years since I felt so out of control of my emotions. If this had happened five years ago perhaps, I wouldn’t have been surprised but I have worked extremely hard both physically and mentally to get myself to a healthy and happy place. Don’t get me wrong I have pretty shit days where I feel like disappearing would be so much easier but I find the will to battle through. No wait, I know I have the will to battle through. I love life, I love MY life and I have had to come to terms with the simple fact that anxiety is something I will have to learn to manage. I hope to get to a place where it doesn’t cripple me for hours or even days but instead merely minutes because I will have learnt how to manage and maintain it in a healthy way.

This blog is pat of my journey to that place. I remember from a young age, when the bullying began, my mother in her wisdom told me to: “Write the bad things down and let them go”, that way they no longer hold the power over you. She was right you know. Even in my darkest moments when life felt utterly pointless if it was filled with so much pain, writing my feelings and thoughts down gave me a deep solace and gave me back some hope. Writing or even just rambling helps me to process my thoughts better and a lot of the time helps me to figure out what is wrong. It’s one part of a much larger working machine that helps me manage and cope with my anxiety and at times depression. There are many aspects to this management and they all work well on their own but I have found that a combination of some or all of them work better for me. I realised through my counselling that for me to move forward in my life, these mechanisms needed to be apart of my everyday life. So instead of adding or changing something, I needed to create a positive lifestyle for myself. It’s a continuing work in progress and a lot of determination but it keeps me on the journey to the life I strive everyday to have. Don’t get me wrong there are bumps along the way and they suck but that helps me to adapt my routine and understand my triggers better.

During this past episode, I sought a lot of comfort in other peoples stories and that got me thinking. Thinking led me to what I am calling The Project. The Project will be a series of blog posts regarding different aspects of my anxiety management and how they work for me. I must state that I have no training or professional qualifications in this area but what I do have is experience. Experience of what it feels like to be drowning in anxiety and experience of how to drag myself back from that place. So this will be like a sharing of opinions and stories between me and you. It will both be a therapeutic thing for me and hopefully I may help you in even the smallest way. Like I said these are just things that help me cope and regain balance and control in my life. They may not work for you but might lead you in the direction of what will. All thoughts, opinions, ideas and constructive criticism are welcome because I will be learning from this too. My first post will come the end of this week and I aim to make them weekly from there on.

Until then,

Dx

Are you Okay? 

I have had a particularly troubling few days. I’ve been coping with the basic things each day but in the middle of making lunch today I started to cry. I didn’t know it was coming and I felt pretty good but the tears came nonetheless. It’s happened a few times over the last few days. I’m not sure why I’m anxious, sometimes I never really know but all I do know is that I’m struggling at the moment. College isn’t going that well, my job is very stressful at the moment and as I’ve mentioned before we have some hard things going on in our family.

I guess what I’m trying to illustrate is that anxiety can hit you at any moment for any reason. It can be crippling when the fear overwhelms you. Something as simple to some people as being a little late to an event can make me break out in hives. Or like at lunch I just start crying and it won’t stop. Anxiety can be hard to fathom if you’ve never experienced it.

All I ask is that if you do witness these symptoms in people you know, please have patience and understanding. It can be embarrassing enough when you start shaking in a queue because you’re going to be late without people pointing it out. A large part of my success in dealing with my anxiety is having support from my loved ones.

All it takes sometimes is for someone to ask: “Are you okay?” Or “What can I do?”. There is no shame in asking for help, it actually takes more courage to reach out.

Yes Equality: Irish Referendum 

I’m not sure if you are aware but here in Ireland we have an upcoming referendum on Marriage Equality. It seeks to ask the nation if the constitution should be changed to offer civil marriage to gay and lesbian citizens. The vote takes place on May 22nd. As a politics major, I whole heartedly believe that citizens have and should be given the right to express their opinions about such issues. However, I must admit that I find this question hard to justify.

Why?

The reason is, I don’t believe equality should be something that needs to be questioned in 2015. I am not a lesbian but I know many people in the LGBT community. I have family, friends and colleagues who are gay and lesbians. They are kind, honest, hard-working, genuine and loving citizens of Ireland. There is no difference between them or I. We are all people seeking to live the best life we can. We all hope to find love, health and happiness in this life. Right now however there is one vital difference between us and it is not our sexual orientation or who we choose to love. No, it is the fact that we are not equal in the eyes of the law. I have the option to marry in my future and they do not. They are considered lesser to heterosexual couples and their commitments not as equal.

I don’t know about you but that seems wrong to me. I know that they are the same as me and deserve the same rights in a democratic country. In this age of modernity, it seems rather ridiculous that such a question needs to be posed but I implore you to not only use your vote but to vote for equality. I’m not just voting for my friends but I am voting yes for my future children. I want to be able to say to my future son/daughter that if they are gay or lesbian that I voted so that they are deemed as equals in the eyes of the law. I want to know that I helped to destroy one more obstacle for the LGBT community and I hope you will join me and so many others in voting for what is right.

 #YesEquality