Living with Anxiety

It always makes me smile when people refer to me as Zen. I often hear “you’re always so calm” (and no, you will not hear these words coming from my husband!). But to the outside world, I appear calm and fast forward to today, I am calm, most of the time. But this was not the case 15 years ago.

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From as early as primary school I battled some scary demons. I wanted to be perfect. I wanted to please everybody. I didn’t want to upset anybody. Confrontation terrified me. My anxiety got to a point where it was debilitating. The worst moment I recall was when in a bookstore and was having trouble breathing, felt hot and sweaty and lightheaded and couldn’t get out of there fast enough to get some air. When it became unbearable on a regular basis (to the point of losing sleep and not being able to concentrate at work), I chose to get some help because living like that, for me, was not an option, and I knew there had to be a solution. I wanted to change and do something about it. That is the most important realization.

I went through cognitive-behavioral therapy for several months. Basically, the goal of this type of therapy is to change negative thinking patterns or behavior into positive ones or at least ones that don’t generate a negative emotion. I would say that moment in my life opened my eyes to a whole new world. I am now able to see things more clearly. I know that I will never fully get rid of my anxiety, in fact, it is actually normal to have anxiety at some point in our lives, it is a human emotion. But instead of fearing it, and trying to run away from it, I acknowledge it, let it in and let it go (as I channel my inner Elsa). If you are suffering from anxiety, there are some tricks that have come in pretty handy for me:

Caffeine, excess sugar and processed foods are the devil:

Some physical sensations mimic the feeling of a panic attack or feeling anxious such as rapid heartbeat, sweating or feeling hot (hot flashes), clammy hands, feeling lightheaded or dizzy. These sensations are physical and can be controlled to some extent by making changes in your diet. In my case I realize that caffeine and excess sugar was creating the same sensation I would feel when I was having an anxiety attack. Before, I used to associate the situation to the anxiety but then I realized that it was my diet the culprit and not, say my job creating the anxiety! To this day, if I drink a can of Coke in the afternoon, I won’t be able to sleep the night.

Instead a healthy, balanced diet and particularly protein (almonds were my savior) and eating every 3-4 hours are crucial.

Drink more water, stay hydrated!

Dehydration can also induce anxiety-like symptoms. It is important to drink at least 8 glasses of water per day. A simple action such as drinking water can help with anxiety-like symptoms. If you are not a fan of plain water, you can have herbal teas or flavored water (mint leaves and strawberries for example).

drink-water

Sleep is the best medicine

Make sure you get between 7 & 9 hours of sleep per night. Sleep disrupts your internal clock like it’s nobody’s business. When we lack sleep our body functions, hormones and regulating systems get out of whack and that’s where we tend to make bad food choices and emotions run high. Sleep, get the rest you need and you will get a handle on your anxiety.

Read more: How to fall asleep fast and easy for a complete night sleep?

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Crank up the endorphins with Exercise

Yoga helped me quiet the mind and maintain focus. It’s a soft, gentle and kind practice that helped me center my thoughts. Up until recently, yoga and walking were the only forms of exercise I practiced. I find that my cardio and weight workouts provide another kind of serenity. Getting your heart rate up ups your endorphins (feel good hormones up!) which works wonders on anxiety. We often just want to roll up in a ball when we are stressed or anxious but pushing ourselves to work out can actually be helpful and bring our focus elsewhere.

Also, it is important to know that you will be ok, accept the discomfort of the feeling and know that it will go away but don’t force it out the door. Be gentle with yourself and realize that it takes practice.

Read more: How to Cope with Anxiety

If you are still struggling, do yourself a favor, get over yourself and seek professional help. This is your Life, make it the best, happiest life you can.

Follow me on facebook @fabmindfitbody or join my email list for more tips on how to control and manage your anxiety.

zen and relax

No Time: No Worries

Hey you! Yes, you. The one running around juggling ten million things at once, the one trying to find some time to unwind when you have an endless to-do lists … Doing all that you are doing, you must have some time-saving hacks in your back pocket? Anything that helps you cut corners yet get the task done? Here are some of mine…

  • Stop washing your hair as often. I truly dislike washing my hair and styling it. I say this and I also refuse to cut my long hair. If you really wanna save time, cut it! If you’re stubborn like me and loooooove having long hair, then I learned to get it washed and braided professionally once a week. No need to go to a high end salon for this, you would be surprise at the prices. Usually my braids last me 4 to 5 days and I just put hair spray to upkeep and voilà! Dry shampoo is also a fav when I leave my hair loose, you can go on 3 days without washing with dry shampoo. Magic stuff!
Hair collage (1)
I found an amazing hair stylist named Natalia and she works in my office building!
  • Become a weekend chef! On Saturday, I start preparing a grocery list of what I will need for my meals in the coming week. On Sunday, I meal prep. It used to take all day… now I can get it done in 90 minutes (there will be another post on this I swear)! Usually I prepare a large batch of a recipe on Sunday (it lasts for supper that night and another meal during the week), then I make another batch of a second recipe that can be eaten twice). I buy salmon (that’s easily prepared) and no need to worry about cooking time during the week.
  • We used to throw out so much food and leftovers. I realized how many things you can actually freeze. After 2-3 days in the fridge, I will freeze any leftovers. When my bananas (or any type of berries) are starting to ripen, I freeze them and use them for my morning Shake. You can even freeze cheese!

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Read: 7 Tips on healthy habits for women for a better living

  • Don’t pick up after your kids. It is POINTLESS! Limit toys to one area of the house and only pick them up when you know guests are coming over. Just kidding, if they are old enough, get them to help. In my case, when they help, it seems worse. I learned to stop trying to keep pieces of puzzles in the same box or dressing up half naked dolls. Channel your inner Elsa and LET IT GO!

mom mess

  • Get someone to clean your house every 2 weeks. That being said, get someone else to pick up the mess (haha!). I was reluctant to do this at first. I insisted I could do it all. I finally gave in once I was pregnant with my second daughter and I must say that it is a blessing. I hired someone to clean and do all the things I don’t have time for as a full-time working mom. It is a good investment… until my daughters are old enough and get them to help… right now they are in training.

What are your time-saving hacks? I am always looking for more…

Expo Yoga Montreal Kicked Asanas!

Last Sunday (February 12th, 2017) I had the joy of being part of the first ever Expo Yoga organized in Montreal cofounded by two incredible, inspiring women: Katrina Besner and Mélanie Brunet. An event which reunited yoga enthusiasts from all backgrounds and brought yoga to the people. I myself first fell in love with yoga when I was going through a burn out at the age of 26; I had just gotten my Master’s degree in psychology (how ironic!) and started my first full-time job. At the time, my mind was constantly racing and filled with anxiety and I didn’t know how to take care of myself and my mind. Yoga became a way to center myself and calm my mind and body. That being said, I am in no way an expert at poses nor am I even able to touch my toes after 14 years of on and off practice, flexibility just ain’t my thing! But it has taught me to be ok with that and reminds me to just BE and do what feels right.

I saw the ad for the Expo Yoga a little late so many classes were already filling up quickly, there were so many to choose from. The variety was overwhelming! I narrowed my choice to three classes: an Asana Class featuring the Bali Method, the iRest Yoga Nidra class and a Yoga Tune Up Flow class.

Asana Class: I met a 92-year-old yoda, I mean yogi!

The session starts with an Om chant led by a seated “old man” (which I find out later is quite the Mick Jagger of the yoga world: Dr. Madan Bali) and two women dressed in white from head to toe and I’m thinking, oh crap! what the heck have I gotten myself into? But then I listen to this man speak in his relaxed yet stern voice, I start hearing the foundations of all yoga practice: to calm the mind and be mindful of the sensations in our bodies. Then he mentions that he’s freakin’ 92 years old and that’s when I start paying attention for real… maybe he’s on to something! The premise of the Bali Method consists of tools to calm the mind (how appropriate for me!). As said by Dr. Bali himself “Too much thinking causes a brain drain where our minds are being literally fried with stress”, eeeeeshhhh scary since it’s something we are all guilty of at some point! But true, ‘cause our thoughts guide every other thoughts but also our actions and reactions to the world. The session was a series of poses which helped a lot, of course I stayed in Savasana (a.k.a, corpse pose or rather in layman’s terms: just lying on the floor) maybe a lot more than others (hey, I stayed up all night with a sick 4-year-old, I was just listening to my body and that was fine!)

Asana Class

iRest Yoga Nidra: No it’s not an app as I originally thought!
I guess I am biased in saying that this was my favourite session because Bram Levinson (yoga teacher at Luna Yoga but also gives yoga classes at Cogeco on Wednesdays and so much more) himself gave this session. His no BS style and honesty comes true very naturally. In this particular classe he presented the iRest Yoga Nidra which was developed by Richard Miller a clinical psychologist who initially used his technique in the US military among soldiers helping them recover from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but is an amazing technique to shed our fearful thoughts and relax the mind. This class brought me a better understanding of the true meaning of our lives by sorting through the suffering and mending the negatives encountered. It is easy to get bogged down in our every day stresses and forget to appreciate every second of this life and meet each moment with curiosity. We are more than these bodies yet these bodies is what allow us to experience and take in everything this life has to offer. The session consisted of being guided into different phases of relaxation, and when you give in without resistance you might actually konk out. As it happened to me and wake up wondering where the heck I was! But after a sleepless night it felt soooo good.

Yoga Tune Up Flow: Got me some balls!
The last class I registered for was given by the funny, sweet and awesome Dawn Mauricio. I used to take her yoga classes about 8 years ago and loved her easy going style. In Yoga Tune Up it is more about dynamic stretches and variations of the traditional poses, oh yeah and we played with balls, therapy balls that is. Yoga Tune Up Flow is complementary to a yoga practice and can only enhance the traditional poses. I didn’t fall asleep on this one but can tell you that after my day I was way more relaxed when I got back home.

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Expo Yoga 2017

All in all it was a pretty educational and fun event. Loved the energy, and oh yeah the kiosks were full of cool products, wouldn’t be complete for me without some shopping… Am hoping there will be another edition next year (or sooner) and maybe you can join in the fun if you missed it this year. Namaste

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Yoga Swag: Sweatshirt by Inner Fire, A Year in the Light by Bram Levinson and a mala necklace by Creations La Fleur

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Started!

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started” – Mark Twain

Ever had an amazing idea and didn’t know where to start? Or better yet, wanted to apply for a new job, start a new sport, try a new recipe, start a weight loss program, change a bad habit, start a thing with that guy or girl you’ve been eyeing and then once you decide “Today is the day!”, all these anxiety provoking thoughts start fluttering and multiplying in your head. You feel paralyzed and finally decide it ain’t worth the trouble? What if I fail? What if I’m not good enough? What if people think I’m stupid or tacky or cheesy for doing this? What if this leads to the total collapse of the human species? Ok so maybe that last one is far-fetched but I’m Italian so my drama comes out of me once in a while! This was exactly what was going through my mind when I decided to launch my blog. And the irony in all of this was that getting over your fears and taking action was the exact reason I decided to launch my blog in the first place!

First, all the running, swirling thoughts in your brain before undertaking a new action is normal. The more the action is out of our normal routine, the greater anxiety it will generate. We, as humans, are programmed to dislike change. For the most part, we like what is familiar, what we know, what we can predict. Have you ever stayed in a bad relationship/job/apartment longer than you should have simply because doing something about it would require too much energy? Change is uncomfortable, we don’t know where it leads and we fear we will be worse off than when we began. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it right? But sometimes, there is a spark inside of us to do something and action ignites this spark into something we can learn and grow from.

So, if like me, you’re caught wondering whether to go for it or stay with your current, perfectly content, situation, ask yourself these 3 questions…

“What if” I don’t take action…

What if I didn’t accept the job offer? What if I didn’t go on that trip? More importantly ask yourself: how will it make you feel if you don’t do it? Several years ago, when I went back to work after taking a yearlong maternity leave with my first baby, I knew I wanted a second child right away (clock was tickin’ on this 37-year-old mama!). I was content going back to my old job as a senior marketing research consultant and getting back to my routine. However, less than a month later, I got a call from a head hunter, who offered me a great opportunity and instinctively I was interested. Then the thoughts started: What if I don’t like it? What if I don’t get along with my new colleagues? What will my boss think if I leave after only one month after my return? What will it look like on my CV that I have changed jobs after only a couple of years? But then I asked myself THE crucial question: What if I don’t go for it? How would it make me feel? And my answer was that I would feel like I missed out on an opportunity. Heck, I may not even get the job, but if I don’t at least try, I will never know and I would regret not having tried because another part of me strongly believed this was a good thing and that I was the right person for this job.

Trusting your gut!

Our gut is truly our second brain. It can tell us when certain things make us uncomfortable in a bad way and when things scare us but excite us at the same time. But you have to be in tune with the subtle difference between the two. This is what happened when I got the call telling me I got the job. I was a week late in my period (sorry if TMI but that’s how I roll) and told myself that if I was in fact pregnant I wouldn’t take the job because it would not be fair to start a job and leave after less than a year to go on mat leave. How would it look? What would people say? So I took the pregnancy test and it was…. arkkkkk POSITIVE! My first thought: Shoot! I really want that job! So I listened to my gut and signed the contract anyway and crossed my fingers that I would have an understanding boss. Well, turned out I ended up miscarrying a few weeks later. I was sad but even more crushing would have been that I would’ve made my decision based on another premise I didn’t know the outcome to. Trusting my gut was the best thing I could’ve done for myself.

Envision yourself succeeding

Imagine yourself in the new job position, with the ideal weight, in a relationship with the person you’ve been eyeing. How will it make you feel? Without over thinking it, what will you feel you gained? How can your life be improved? After having my two kids (yes got pregnant, about a year later), I had an extra 15 pounds of post pregnancy weight to lose. It wasn’t a big deal, clothes still fit me but I didn’t feel like myself and it was bugging me the crap out of me. Yet it wasn’t bugging me enough to actually do something. Until one day I got fed up of hearing myself complain that I only had 15 pounds to lose and how cool it would be to actually go back to my pre-preggo weight. I was tired of wearing my spanx one piece bathing suit at the kiddie pool and finally decided to contact an old colleague who was starting a challenge group with a Beachbody program. The first thing she told me was to picture myself with the weight off and ask myself: What was my ultimate goal? What would it feel like when I accomplished my goal? Mine was to obviously to look good in a bikini but also to be a healthy, vibrant, better version of myself. That mental image stuck with me and motivated me to keep pushing play. It fueled my workouts and played into changing my eating habits. Change didn’t happen overnight, there were baby steps but one day that same image I envisioned was staring right back at me in the bathroom mirror. Yay!

Getting Stronger every day!

So remember: Every decision you take is the right one for you at the moment you take it. If you succeed it is the right decision and if you fail it is still the right decision because you learned from it. In the end, if you have your heart set on doing something, don’t ruminate over the negative self-talk, just go for it! I bet you even the slightest action will make you feel proud that you are finally doing something towards your goal and truly living your life.

Now tell me… what have you always wanted to do but were too scared to do?