*I'm using this piece of writing as a personal reflection on my current experiences. *
Today I want to talk about grief. To begin, let's start out with some definitions.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines grief as:
deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement; a cause of such suffering; trouble or annoyance
Dictionary.com defines grief as:
keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret
Finally, let's look at the definition from MedicineNet.com:
The normal process of reacting to a loss. The loss may be physical (such as a death), social (such as divorce), or occupational (such as a job). Emotional reactions of grief can include anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness, and despair. Physical reactions of grief can include sleeping problems, changes in appetite, physical problems, or illness.
Now, let's analyze these conversations. Grief can be experienced in various ways by each individual. You may be more comfortable with one of those definitions than the other. That's okay. That is what I would like to bring up today, that grief is different for everybody and can come from a variety of causes. No matter what the situation was to cause the grief, each human reacts in their own unique way to handle this.
And that is okay.
After a very hard beginning to our year of 2020, my boyfriend and I lost his father to lung cancer. This was devastating. My heart broke into a million pieces. To see the person I love in so much pain did not make sense to me. It was not fair. I did not understand. I still don't. Why do we have to lose the people we love?
As we tried to go on with our normal lives after missing weeks of school, this pandemic began to take its toll. Another reason to grieve. Our first 4 year Bachelor programs have come to a sudden halt. No more seeing friends everyday. No more work. No more social interaction.
We are currently finishing our 4th week of isolation here in Burnaby and all I can say is that I feel okay. I feel very happy some days while others are tough. I know I am grieving. I see is through my sleeping patterns, energy levels and mood swings.
I think people assume you can only grieve after a death but that is not the case. We can all grieve ANY distress or loss. You can't figure out why you are feeling so odd lately? Maybe you are grieving what you have loss.
It's okay to be sad. It's okay to feel loss. It's okay to be confused.
What we can't do now is ignore these feelings.
We must acknowledge them.
We as a society must understand that hiding our emotions only causes more emotional distress in the future.
Many psychologists and scholars place grief into 5 or 6 stages. This is a normal, scientific way of categorizing our feelings. They are:
The point I am trying to get at is...
GRIEVING IS NORMAL AND WE NEED TO ACKNOWLEDGE WHEN IT IS HAPPENING.
Continually throughout my life, I have seen family and friends pushing their emotions away, putting them to the back of their mind. Unfortunately, this only causes more issues in the future because of so many built up feelings.
If you are feeling anything similar to how I am lately, I wanted to create an exercise for us to help heal ourselves. Here we go.
SELF-HELP/GRIEF MEDITATION EXERCISE:
The more I see society pushing their feelings away, the more I realize we need to self medicate with meditation. A simple process we can start including into our daily routines. Research shows as little as 2-3 minutes of daily meditation can have a benefit to our physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. I encourage you to try it!
If meditation is not for you, that is okay. I ask you to practice deep breathing still. This respiratory practice has the ability to slow down our thoughts and lower stress levels. You could try the 5-6-8 breath. Inhale for a count of 5, pause for a count of 6 and exhale to a count of 8.
Thank you for tuning in everyone. I hope you enjoy your Easter weekend.
This is how we flourish.
It has been awhile since I have had time to post on here however, with the current circumstances in Vancouver, I am finally finding time for this project. Today I want to talk to you about depression and it's connection to physical activity. I recently completed a project on this for my Developmental Psychopathology class at Douglas College which focuses on mental issues throughout the life span.
This class really opened my eyes to the significance of childhood experiences on one's adulthood life. As a student in the Bachelors of Physical Education and Coaching at Douglas, I thought this was a perfect opportunity to bring awareness to the connections between Depression and Physical Activity in everyone. Throughout my school program, we are continuously learning the importance of creating young students who are confident with moving their body. Our goal is to have more people strive to be active for life, embracing their physical literacy.
Physical Literacy is the "...motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge, and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life."
- The International Physical Literacy Association, May 2014
By being physically literate, we are able to understand and control our emotions more effectively. Mental health is strongly connected to our physical activity levels. In my eyes, when someone is struggling with a mental health issue, one must look to physical activity as a complementary medicine. I could get into this in much more depth but I decided to keep this short and simple to understand today.
Now the research I did in the literature review for my class is focused on children and youth (ages 5-17) so this may or may not be important for you to read. I have attached the file below.
For those who would like to learn more about these connections between mental health and physical activity levels, here are some statistics about Canadians:
More than three quarters (77.8%, or 20.1 million) of Canadian adults 18 and over and 90.7% of children and youth aged 5-17 years are not meeting the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines (2012-13, CHMS).
Among Canadian adults, a higher number of obese adults report being depressed or having a mood disorder (11.0%) compared to overweight (7.0%) or normal weight (6.9%) adults
Over 3.5 million (or 10%) Canadians aged one year and older use health services for mood and anxiety disorders annually (2011/12, CCDSS).
One in 25 (4.0 %) Canadian adults aged 20 years and older have a mood and anxiety disorder co-morbid with at least one of the four major chronic diseases (2014, CCHS).
Taken from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/healthy-living/how-healthy-canadians.html
Now, there are a lot more alarming statistics out there regarding this topic but instead of using scare tactics to talk people into being active, I would rather tell you how depression connects to all of this.
HOW DOES PHYSICAL ACTIVITY LOWER DEPRESSIVE SYMPTOMS?
This information is taken from the Mayo Clinic (2020).
In the paper I wrote, I discovered how physical activity creates opportunities to grow:
I hope this information can help some people out there. I know it can be difficult to deal with emotions at times but I am a strong believer that physical activity has the short-term and long-term abilities to heal ourselves. My goal here is to encourage everyone to take part in small amounts of physical activity throughout their day to enhance their mental wellbeing. I hope some people feel better after reading this.
Thanks for reading everyone.
Wednesday, January 30th is Bell Let's Talk day. If you are unsure of what this means, "Bell Let’s Talk is a wide-reaching, multi-year program designed to break the silence around mental illness and support mental health all across Canada". It is a great way to spread information about mental health and reduce the stigma surrounding mental illnesses.
"Bell will donate more towards mental health initiatives in Canada by contributing 5¢ for every applicable text, call, tweet, social media video view and use of our Facebook frame or Snapchat filter".
"The Bell Let's Talk Community Fund is focused on improving access to supports and services for people living with mental illness through local projects and grassroots organizations in communities all around Canada". (all quotes taken from (https://letstalk.bell.ca/en/).
At Douglas College, we are having a large event throughout our New Westminster Campus aiming to help students understand the importance of taking care of their mental health. Some people are unaffected by mental health issues but most know a family, friend or themselves who may be living with an illness.
We are finally in a world where talking about your mental health is not frowned upon. I am extremely thankful and blessed to be living in a generation with like minded individuals who are opening up regarding this topic.
Now, let's look at some Canadian statistics...
(Mental Health Commission of Canada (2013). Making the case for investing in mental health in Canada).
I chose to stop looking up more statistics since they continue to be negative numbers. The bolded statistics are the ones, as of right now, I believe to be very important and should be known to the public. By age 40, 50% of our population will have experienced a mental health issue and most of them will not have gone to their doctor. That one hit hard.
Going to a doctor regarding symptoms of your mental health is NOT EASY. However, it is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT for ensuring you get proper treatment.
Reducing the stigma surrounding mental health is necessary for Canadians (and everyone else around the world) to feel more comfortable talking to a medical professional about the issue.
Everyday should be a day to open up about about our thoughts, feelings and symptoms, especially if they are negatively affecting our lives. Bell Let's Talk day donates to a good cause with every social media hashtag you use. Spread the word and share the news.
If you are experiencing problems with your mental health, here are a few easy tips to increase your mental well-being:
Thank you all for listening to me babble on about mental health. It is a very significant piece of my life right now and I hope to ensure everyone I meet knows they can talk about it openly. There is always someone willing to listen whether it is your family or a mental health hotline.
Please share the importance of Bell Let's Talk Day and help us reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.
CLICK THE LINK OR COPY INTO YOUR BROWSER.
All pictures where taken during my walk home last week in the rain.
Please share this post to decrease the stigma surrounding mental health.
This post is on the topic of anxiety. Recently, I took a course through my employment with Douglas College to get certified in Mental Health First Aid. It was incredibly eye opening, bringing awareness to many topics I had not considered before. When the topic of anxiety came about, I felt nervous to share my story but did anyways. I then found out I wasn't the only one it the room that had these feelings.
Our workshop leader, who is extremely passionate about the subject, engaged us in many differing tasks and activities to help the class understand mental illnesses. For the anxiety activity, we were placed into groups and told to come up with a sign or symptom of anxiety for every letter in the alphabet.
The alphabet has 26 works, we had four groups, meaning a total of over 100 words were brought to our attention regarding anxiety. These signs and symptoms are some of many various feelings one can experience. Anxiety is a part of being human. We must learn to accept it until it interferes with day-to-day living. When it takes over from letting you complete your day to day life, it can become a problem.
In this training, we were not taught to diagnose, but to notice lifestyle and behaviour changes in others. Those who are struggling with their mental health can give us signs that we may never catch on too. Now being certified in Mental Health First Aid, I feel even more confident in helping others find appropriate help.
*NOTICE: There are a variety of links in the blog post regarding mental health and the training I received. Since I have not found how to make them active yet, please copy and paste into your browser to view. *
Here is the first photo of the activity.
This favourite words from this one are
I can relate to many more of them as well. Did you know that all of these words can relate to the signs and symptoms of anxiety? Maybe some of them are new for you like they were for me.
Here is the second groups work.
The words that stood out for myself the most are procrastinates and irritation. I notice these traits within myself when I am extremely anxious or stressed about a certain situation.
Here is the third group's work.
Ah. Zombie like. We can all relate to this.
Here is the fourth group's work.
Personally, I feel oversensitive to most situations I am presented with. I have been told that I am over sensitive my whole life. The smallest things can affect me in very large ways and instead of being ashamed by my sensitivity, I am embracing it.
Overall, this activity was very intriguing to me and brought attention to our group what anxiety can look and feel like in others. Since it is a NORMAL reaction that the human body has adapted, it can be difficult at times to tell the difference between feeling anxious and having a mental health problem.
We were taught very well throughout the course to recognize that we are not taking this certification to diagnose others, but to notice behaviour changes. When the signs and symptoms are taking over one's ability to fulfill their daily life, it has become a problem.
If you, or anyone you know, are struggling with identifying if you have a mental health problem, I recommend seeing your family practitioner and doing online research of your own.
During a stress-less event at Douglas College, we had the counsellors come down and encourage students to take an online test regarding mental health problems and how we can help them.
Here is the website:
It is full of self help resources, personal stories and information from professionals to ensure your safety.
Knowing that you are not the only one who experiences anxiety, is a relief to those consumed by it. One lady in the course opened up about her GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder), as did I, and we both felt connected in knowing we were not alone.
The Mental Health First Aid course was delivered by the amazing and informative, Carla Abichahine who works for the CDA Training and Development. I would recommend this course to anyone in the workplace. Specifically, those who are working with youth and young adults throughout public education. The link below shows more information about the training from Carla. I cannot thank her enough!
Thanks for reading How To Flourish.
ANXIETY IS A NORMAL HUMAN REACTION TO STRESSFUL SITUATIONS. IT BECOMES AN ISSUE WHEN IT INTERFERES WITH DAY-TO-DAY ISSUES. FIND OUT MORE ON
A post about SAD and how you can lessen the symptoms if this is something you see occurring in your daily life.
As humans, we are greatly influenced by the environments we surround ourselves in. Throughout the winter months, it is not easy to stay as motivated, positive and content as we are during the summer.
Personally, I am a summer body. The sun makes me feel some sort of way that I cannot explain. I thrive on hot days and have really come to not like being cold. When I moved to Penticton, in the Okanagan, I thought I would be experiencing less cold of a climate but boy I was wrong.
Second try now and I have moved to Vancouver. The rain capital. However, I do not like to think of rain as a downer. Rain is refreshing and rejuvenating, we could not live as humans without it. Rain grows our plants and cleans our air but can also bring a lot of people down.
I will admit that Seasonal Affective Disorder is easy to be consumed by and can have many negative affects on the human body BUT your state of mind plays an HUGE role on how you feel. If you wake up everyday, dreading the weather, you will notice negative emotions. On the other hand, if you wake up with a positive attitude and optimistic mindset, you may notice more positive emotions.
Now let's get into what SAD is and how we can treat or prevent it.
According to the Mayo Clinic,
"Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you're like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer" (2018).
Now take a moment to reflect on your past, have you experienced this before?
Previously, Rachel and I had a harsh winter in 2015/2016. We both realized that the weather and other situations in our lives resulted in using having SAD. It was not fun, we were emotional, confused and stressed out. The year we moved in together, we both promised each other that we could not let this happen again.
The Mayo Clinic offers a list of symptoms once can experience when diagnosed with SAD:
Now, it is important to notice if you feel these symptoms only throughout certain seasons or throughout an entire year. If this goes on longer than a few months, it would be a good idea to see a physician.
In the winter months, we see people with SAD very much oversleeping, overeating and having extremely low levels of energy. Do you feel this way?
Mayo also states some of the potential causes of SAD:
Once Rachel and I noticed ourselves feeling this way, we realized something needed to change. Here are some ideas of how you can overcome the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder without having to visit a physician:
1. Take your Vitamin D
As Canadians, we are prone to having low levels of Vit D throughout the non sunny months. Each individual requires a certain dose of Vitamin D so I am not going to recommend an universal amount because it may not work for all of us. (PERSONALLY, I take 6-8 drops of 1000 IU's daily). Keeping up with these doses can help your immune system and energy levels.
2. Create a list of things you LOVE about winter
Some ideas include: Snow, blue sky on a cold day, skating, knitting, wearing mittens and scarves, tea, looking at Christmas lights, family events.
3. Prepare your body for colder temperatures
An idea from Rachel:
"I also think it's a good idea to practice being cold so it is less over whelming and you can feel better about leaving the comfort of inside. So during a hot shower, switch the water to cold for like 30-50 breaths and let the cold water touch all of you, then turn it back to the hot temp. This will not only help your immunity, but it will push you out of your comfort zone, and you feel more alive after."
I will not stop telling everyone how importance this factor is in your overall health. Take advantage of how you body moves. Walking in the winter is one of my favourite activities and can easily burn as many calories as a hard gym session. Notice your surroundings!
5. Get enough sleep
Since it darker more often, go to bed earlier and maybe give yourself a bit of time to sleep in. Do not get mad at yourself for being tired, it is what our biology has evolved from. Winter is a time to rest and rejuvenate, but not sleep all day.
6. Eat healthy
Don't forget to have your daily intake of greens, vitamins and minerals throughout the cold seasons. Indulge from time to time which treats but don't let that become a habit. Take your vitamins to encourage healthy levels throughout the body.
7. Learn how to recover your body faster from over indulgences
Throughout the holiday season, it can be easy to fall into a state of lower mood and energy, especially after a night out with some friends. Here are the ideas I found that work best for me:
-A HUGE glass of water after a night out of drinking before bed
-Some sort of snack before bed to absorb the alcohol
-A healthy, balanced breakfast with lots of carbs for energy
-Vitamins and Electrolytes
-Allow yourself treats but follow with a healthy snack or meal to encourage proper digestion
8. Light Therapy
Many of those who live with SAD, invest in light therapy. You can find a way to bring it into your house or have it done by a professional. It provides you with a good length of exposure to healthy light, to increase positive neurotransmitters and emotions throughout the body.
9. Yoga/ Meditation
Maybe it is time for you to create a meditation sequence for yourself. Maybe you need to write down some mantras so you can repeat these to yourself daily. Don't be afraid to try new things. I like to notice when the full and new moons are happening to ensure I can adapt to them accordingly with rituals and habits. Humans are attached to the weather, the environment and most especially the moon and sun.
10. Fresh air
BREATHE IN THE COLD AIR. THAT IS ALL IT TAKES. (If you can't, put some peppermint oil underneath your nose).
11. Non-prescription Medications
In the past, when I was struggling with figuring our what would decrease my anxiety symptoms the most, I tried both of these. I noticed positive benefits but did not carry on with the doses. From time to time I take 5HTP if I am feeling overwhelmed or anxious.
5HTP- 5-HTP works in the brain and central nervous system by increasing the production of the chemical serotonin. Serotonin can affect sleep, appetite, temperature, sexual behavior, and pain sensation. Since 5-HTP increases the synthesis of serotonin, it is used for several diseases where serotonin is believed to play an important role including depression, insomnia, obesity, and many other conditions.
GABA- GABA is taken by mouth for relieving anxiety, improving mood, reducing symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and treating attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also used for promoting lean muscle growth, burning fat, stabilizing blood pressure, and relieving pain.
12. Stay social
As humans we crave connection. Instead of pushing people away at this hard time of the year, bring them in closer. Tell someone if you are struggling. Go to that party, say hi to that friend. Little changes make the big differences.
13. Add light to your environment
You can open your blinds, add plants to your house and ensure nothing is blocking your windows. Make your space open and fresh with light coming in from the earth each day.
14. Keep your immune system up
THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!!!!
This is a huge one for myself and everyone that knows me. Unfortunately, winter can come with decreased immunity. To prevent this you can:
-Drink Kombucha for proper gut healing bacteria
-Take Manuka Honey for anti-bacterial properties
-Drink tea daily for it's anti-oxidant properties.
-Indulge in citrus fruits and vegetables with high amounts of Vitamin C
-Make a homemade tonic (check out my last blog post)
-Take your Vitamin D!
Now that you have gone through this entire post learning about Seasonal Affective Disorder, I hope you can learn from it. If you are experiencing the symptoms, talk to someone. Write down a few goals of how to overcome this. Everything will be okay. Summer will be here eventually.
Thank you for reading How To Flourish.
Taking care of oneself is a necessary part of each day.
Lately, you may have been seeing social media talk on "self care" and how to take part in it. I am writing this post to give you all information on what self care is and how to add more self caring activities into your day. It is important to take time for your body each day of the week.
We only have one body, so we must take care of it. I'm sure you are already taking part in taking care of yourself daily, however you may not be adding enough self care into your routines.
Self care can vary for each of us. It can take some trial and error to find what works best for yourself. Self care is taking care of your personal self to promote your development. It is indulging in practices that make you feel some sort of magnificent way. It is relaxing, rejuvenating and necessary for wholesome growth.
Unfortunately, we find ourself in times where our bodies are not our #1 priority. This can often happen because of school, work, or other sources of stress. This past week after midterms, I found myself struggling with always being busy and having no time for myself. I do not like having days where I don't have personal time. I feel put off when I cannot go to the gym or am not sleeping properly. My immune system was extremely low from letting myself not get enough nutrients into my body. Once I realized this, I needed to make a change.
It is difficult at times to be in a constant routine of self care but I want to bring awareness to the importance of it and how it can enhance your holistic health. We have 8 aspects of self care to take care of. These are:
Wholesome health stems from having balance in each of this dimensions. Self care can take part in each of these as well. A question for thought, do you feel balanced in each of these dimensions of health? If not, it is time for some change.
Here are some self care tips I have come up with from personal experience and research that are easy to add into a day, making you feel that much better. I have faith that self care gives your body a rest from everyday struggles and strengthens us in each of the different aspects of health, enhancing the mind-body-spirit connection.
A teacher of mine brought up to my class the other day, the 2 minute rule. If takes less than 2 minutes, do it right away. It if takes longer, put it on the to-do list. It can be easy for things to stack up quickly. Get the easy things done first.
We need self care as humans living in this busy world. Don't ever underestimate your worth. There will always be stress in your life, do not let it take over.
Below are some photos of different ways to take care of yourself.
Is today one of those days where every single thing is bothering you?
Whatever the reason is, we all come across bad days every once in awhile. This article was created to show people some simple tricks to making your bad day into a good one.
Whether you slept badly, woke up grumpy, were late for work or forgot your lunch, don't let this bad day steal your sunshine. There are always ways to improve your mood.
Let's boost your mood...
Back in high school, I used to let the simplest thing ruin a perfectly good day. Mainly this was caused by not sleeping the night before but could have also started from an argument with a loved one, a small comment that hurt my feelings or any other little thing I chose to stress over. NOW, finally, I try very hard to not let the little stuff get to me. So much of our daily life is out of our control. Why stress? Yoga has allowed me to focus on the extraordinary things in life instead of the negative. It has let me escape negative thoughts, bringing awareness to what is really important to myself. I always suggest yoga for holistic healing so here are some other ways to cope with stress.
Now let's look into what you can do to make your day instantly better.
I'm sure we all have different ways of coping with stressors and hard times. If you have any ideas, please feel open to let me know on your own ways of coping. Thanks for reading. Enjoy your Saturday :)
Thankfully, I am in my second opportunity of attending school away from home. Was this a hard decision? Of course. Leaving my family, friends and connections for a brand new city where nobody knows me.
That's the beauty of moving. Nobody knows you. You can set out to be whoever you aspire to without any judgment or opinions. Don't get me wrong, if I could do my schooling in the Kootenays I would, but my programs aren't offered rurally. Living at home for school would be a heck of a lot cheaper so if you get the opportunity to do so, I think you should take it.
I recently asked on my Instagram page what others would like to see for topics on this blog and one of them was "How to deal with moving away for school". So I thought I would offer some tips that can help my peers when making these decisions and encourage them to flourish away from their family.
Some of you may be in a difficult time right now trying to adjust to this new setting. Take some deep breaths! New experiences help us grow.
The first time I moved, was to Penticton for Okanagan College. I went with my best friend, Rachel, and we had a blast. Although, I don't believe I was prepared for what was upcoming.
I was eager to save money, get healthy and do well in my academics but we all know that doesn't always work out for us. I experienced a lot of anxiety throughout this first year of being away from the people I have spent the last 19 years with. Here are some tips on how I dealt with it.
We cannot forget the importance of taking care of our bodies. Each aspect (mental, physical, emotional, social) is necessary to observe to see how our holistic body is functioning.
School can bring on many mixed feelings. Recognize what you are feeling and what you can do it make that feeling more positive. Is it less judgment? Less complaining? Less comparing?
We all need love and support when it comes to migrating to a new place. Whether you do this alone or not, remember your reason for moving. Imagine if you did not take the opportunity to move, where would you be now? Exploring and creating is an exciting part of being young and should always be encouraged.
Photo done by Briana Haslam. Instagram @briana.designs. Facebook @briana.designs
A piece about my personal struggle with insomnia and how I manage it now.
When I was younger, I never considered myself to be an insomniac yet after years of late, restless nights without sleep, I soon realized this term fit well.
We know that sleep plays a major role in how your body and mind function. Most of us have learned this from growing up with society saying "Aim for 8 hours of sleep per night". Personally, I don't get 8 hours of sleep often. Even when trying to go to sleep early, I'm lucky if I get 7 hours. Does society leave us enough time to sleep? Does everyone have as hard of a time resting the same way I have for years? Why won't my mind shut off? These are questions I've asked myself often.
The following is a personal journey about my struggles with anxiety-induced insomnia. If you are not interested in reading a quick summary of my years of troubles, you may skip to the end for a list of what I believe to be necessary for a blissful sleep. I want to help everyone who has or is feeling the way I used to about sleep, by sharing my experience and how I manage this problem now.
Life is busy. We all have varying schedules but we all need to make time to sleep. Without it, our body cannot survive. Rest allows mammals to grow, repair and rejuvenate for the upcoming day. As I've said many times before, not enough rest leads to burnout which can be hard to recover from.
Insomnia is common throughout young adults. The Canadian Sleep Society (CSS) describes insomnia as "a condition that involves dissatisfaction with sleep quality or duration, along with problems falling asleep at bedtime, waking up in the middle of the night, or awakening too early in the morning". This can become "a clinical problem when a person experiences trouble falling or staying asleep several nights per week and these difficulties cause distress or impairments of daytime functioning such as fatigue, decreased energy, mood disturbances, or concentration problems". (CSS, 2018).
If this sounds like something you are used to, do not over-stress. Insomnia can be acute or chronic, depending on the individual. It can result from a variety of stressors and each body responds differently.
You may not be sleeping because you have an important date coming up or an interview for a new job. This is known as acute insomnia and will most likely disappear after your stressor is gone.
If you aren't sleeping for a prolonged time, this is considered chronic insomnia. It may be when you are anxious, over-thinking or living with a mental illness; This is when you need to notice your insomnia and start to make some healthy lifestyle changes.
My personal fight with insomnia began back in high school. Staying up late texting and scrolling on my phone always left my mind racing before bed. I was introduced to Melatonin and began to give it a try. This hormone is produced in the Pineal Gland in your brain and taking a melatonin supplement aids in re-starting your sleep cycle. Melatonin is great and can help your body get back into it's normal sleep schedule, however, using it for too long results in an increased tolerance. After about a full bottle of melatonin, you will start to notice it does not put you to sleep as easily anymore. I realized I needed to try something else.
I then noticed that Advil PM always knocked me out for the night. In high school, I was a busy athlete with consistent injuries so I lived off ibuprofen. I got into a habit of taking night time NSAID's before sleep every night. Thankfully, I realized this was not healthy for my body anymore even though I could easily get 8 uninterrupted hours of rest. I wanted to try something more natural.
I then tried 5-HTP, GABA and melatonin (separately and all together) and still my mind would not stop running. These products are more natural, producing different neurotransmitters and hormones to encourage healthy sleep. I enjoy them all but they were not enough. There are a variety of sleeping supplements that have multiple products combined in one. "Tranquil Sleep" by Natural Factors is a great product, containing L-Theanine, 5-HTP & Melatonin. I find it may help put me to sleep if I take 2-3. Is that realistic for myself to take 2-3 of these every night? When will my tolerance increase again so they do not work as effectively?
Needed to try something new.
Another product I tried was "Sleep Aid" by Kirkland. It is a doxalymine succinate supplement that "helps reduce the difficult of falling asleep". This is a harsher substance, however, I have found it works best. I am still taking it when I cannot sleep, but only half a pill. I try not to take these types of pills before sleeping but if I am feeling anxious or energetic before sleeping, I usually have to take any of them to actually fall asleep.
Insomnia from anxiety is hard to understand if you haven't experienced it. There were nights of staying up till 3-4 AM, thinking about things I shouldn't be worrying about. My mind did not give my body the choice of sleeping at all, which lead to drowsy school days and extra long naps. I started my antidepressant during my 2nd year of college and noticed a bit of a difference if I took it at a certain time of day but would still have nights of sleeplessness.
You can't just tell anxiety to stop. It doesn't work that way. The medication helps but it does not get rid of your mental illness. My friend once told me, anxiety will always be there, you need to learn how to manage it.
Throughout these years of trial and error, I had learned that many of my family members had also been dealing with this problem their entire lives. It bothers me that not all of us can easily find a proper solution to the problem. Overthinking will never stop if you ask it too. You need to find ways to distract yourself, to create positive thoughts, allowing your body and mind to rest properly.
This experimenting with supplements lead me to start researching marijuana as a sleep and anxiety aid. I am now very committed into using CBD. I know this can be a controversial subject for many traditional people, however, marijuana has been proven in many scientific studies to work for those who are suffering from no sleep. CBD (Cannabidiol) is a solution for many. CBD is the non-psychoactive part of the marijuana plant and does not produce a "high" but a connection with your neurotransmitters to create a therapeutic affect. It has many medicinal uses such as relief of insomnia, chronic pain, epilepsy and anxiety/depression. Since this is extracted from a plant on our earth, I have faith that it can be used in many ways to benefit us humans.
CBD can be found in oils, tinctures, creams, pills, powders or dried leaf. It's anti-anxiety and anti-psychotic effects have been studied for years and are finally becoming more accepted in our current society. If used properly, CBD is not a drug; It is medicine. I recommend trying CBD to see if you notice any benefits to your sleep, although like everything else, it is not a "cure-all".
CBD Indica is more effective for relaxing while Sativa is more energizing for the body and mind. ( I purchase mine from Westculture.ca )
CBD has become a necessary part of my nighttime routine. I rarely sleep without it.
In addition to the use of CBD, I have incorporated a small yoga practice into my nightly routine. This allows my body to full relax, preparing itself for blissful rest. I breathe deep, roll out my back and lie on the floor for at least 5 minutes before bed. I encourage you all to try this. Focus on your breath and body. Mentally watch your thoughts go by like clouds in the sky. Not stopping on any of them, just observing.
Likewise, the use of lavender allows myself to deepen these sensations. In my most recent blog post, I wrote about my favourite essential oils and how they have positively affected my life. Lavender is my #1 stress reliever. I oddly go places without it and I most likely will not sleep without a whiff. It is great in a diffuser, or gently rubbed on your temples and wrists.
As well as Lavender, I always rub Peppermint oil on my temples before bed to relieve my headaches.
All of these products/rituals I perform or use have very much changed how I view sleeping, making it easier to accomplish that full 8 hours. It has taken me 4-5 years of testing out different solutions to find what works for me best. I am still in the process of experimenting with what my body needs but this is what has worked for me so far.
What I am trying to get at is, you need to create a simple, calming nighttime routine for yourself if you are still struggling with insomnia. You cannot just lay down, stare at your screen and expect your body to sleep. You need to understand it may take time and effort. A relaxing sleep is not too far away once the effort is put in. You may need to take a supplement or medication, do not be ashamed of that. Try out something new.
I am still struggling with this. I do not sleep properly every night. These rituals I have began for myself allow my body and mind to become more calm before bed. I still have to take anti-anxiety medication and a sleep aid. I am hoping to one day be off everything but unsure when that will happen.
Another photo by Briana Haslam. @briana.designs
Here are some steps to encourage a better sleep for yourself.
To begin, try to find out what is making you not able to sleep. ELIMINATE THE STRESSORS. Are you anxious? Worried? Stressed? Figure out what is causing your mind to stay awake and eliminate it. I like to calm my anxiety by using essential oils, stretching and breathing deeply. Find something that works for you, whether that is reading, drawing or petting your dog. Get rid of the problem.
Secondly, create an environment that will aid in relaxation. SET THE MOOD FOR SLEEPING. Eliminate the light, noise and distractions. You could try sleeping with earplugs or an eye mask. Set your electronics away from your bed. Give yourself space. An essential oil diffuser is necessary in my opinion. The quiet sound of the water relaxes my nervous system. Try out lavender and eucalyptus (what I have found that works best to knock myself out).
Thirdly, TRY RELAXATION TECHNIQUES. Personally, I feel like I have tried every technique in the book. I used to google "ways to fall asleep fast" most nights as a kid and see how they would help me. There is the 6-7-8 breathing technique to try (Inhale for 6 seconds, hold for 7, exhale for 8). This is not easy and requires some brain power but can work for many people as they will eventually drift into sleep. There are other techniques you can try such as counting sheep, counting backwards from 100 or reading a book before bed.
Finally, if your insomnia results from anxiety remember YOU ARE NOT ALONE. I struggled with this the most in high school. I did not think anyone else felt the same as I did. I thought there was something wrong with me and that was why I could not sleep. Many people are struggling with sleep and there are ways to help all of us get more rest; we need to stay more open about the topic to help others.
ANXIETY IS NORMAL. IT DOES NOT MAKE YOU CRAZY. I always hear people say "You worry too much" but I cannot help it. I have learned to embrace my anxiety as something unique about myself and my extreme empathy towards others. My anxiety lets myself know when I should be aware, appreciate my senses and overpower the feeling of fear.
Insomnia can take over your life. It can ruin your mood. Make your day miserable. You need to notice how it affects your body and decide it is time to try something new. There are ways out there for everybody to sleep, it may take some effort to figure them out. You may need a new bed, a different nighttime routine or a fresh attitude. There is something out there for everyone.
Listed below is what I personally have found to be necessary for myself to get a good night's sleep.
1. CBD (Whether this is in oil, leaf, edibles or tinctures)
2. Essential Oil Diffuser with Lavender (The sound and scent are mandatory for my brain to relax)
3. Melatonin or a "Sleep Aid" (I try to not take these all the time, but I physically cannot sleep without them. Aim for a natural supplement.)
4. A proper nighttime routine (Shower, lotion, stretch)
5. Yoga before bed. Calm your senses.
6. Glass of sleepy-time tea. (Chamomile, peppermint, no caffeine).
7. Peppermint oil on temples. Relieves stress and pain.
I hope this article provided some important information to those who may have been struggling the same as I have. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask me. My goal is to help as many people as I can by opening up about my personal struggles and offering help to those who may not ask for it.
Thank you for reading how I try to flourish with sleep.
The photos for this article were graciously done by an extremely talented friend, Briana Haslam. Her illustrations represent the struggles I have experienced from anxiety-induced insomnia very well. Show her some love and check out her Facebook or Instagram page @briana.designs. Thanks Bri!
A piece about taking time for yourself.
This is a follow-up from my last piece regarding the importance of moving your body. I believe activity powers your whole-body strength however; sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is nothing at all.
Resting is equally as important as moving. A mantra I live by is “Life is all about balance”. Taking a day off can aid you in your journey of growth. Sometimes everything is too much. Too much to listen to, too much to handle. When your body, mind or spirit are fatigued… they are calling for recovery. This can look different for each of us. It can be watching television, taking a bath or reading a book. For myself, I really enjoy laying down. Whether that is on my bed, in the bath or on the beach. It is not having any obligations to fill besides breathing deep and thinking less. Thinking and not thinking about my thoughts. Trying to recognize the positives instead of the negatives. Trying to not stress about the future. Realizing how far I have come and how I should not feel guilty by doing nothing.
My favourite is laying in the sunshine listening to nature. I try to get at least 15 minutes a day of straight sunshine. Sunshine can increase the vitamin D levels in your body. This has the potential to increase your mood, energy and physical health. We struggle with so much darkness in our Canadian winters that many of us will experience Seasonal Affective Disorder.
“Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder subset in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year exhibit depressive symptoms at the same time each year, most commonly in the winter. People may sleep too much or have little energy. The condition in the summer can include heightened anxiety.”
I do no want to get too off topic, but this is important to understand. Try taking some time in your day to feel warm from the sun. Close your eyes and enjoy it. We are blessed to live in a climate that allows nice weather.
Although this is not easy for all of us to accomplish, it is necessary. Hard workers can get so caught up in life that they forget to take an opportunity to slow everything down. Not taking this chance can lead to burnout. Burnout is when you have too much on your plate. It can happen from not managing time properly, taking on too many tasks or not giving yourself a break. Understand you need rest to grow. I am talking about this in a wholesome aspect. To grow your mind, your awareness of your actions, your thoughts but also your physical body. In fitness, we stress that it is essential to rest and recover for your muscles to adapt; this applies to all of your life. Let your mind and your body relax as well.
Starting something new or facing a challenge requires your body to make some adaptions. Listen to your body talking to you. If you feel tired, rest. If you feel anxious, rest. This is a simple concept many of us forget to understand.
On the other hand, some of us rest too much. We don’t have the energy to power our body throughout the day. We just want to sleep as much as possible. This is easy when you are living with a mental illness. This is also easy when you are experiencing SAD. Getting out of bed can be really hard some days, whether that is from being physically exhausted or emotionally drained. Certain life events can lead to this decrease in energy but one must not let it overpower their life.
My point is we all get sleepy from one time to another but we cannot let this take over our opportunities to live. Living with anxiety has pushed my brain into constant overthinking. I’ve noticed that sometimes my mind gets so tired it can’t think much more. For myself, this looks like staring into space, not being able to finish a sentence, losing my train of thought or just being completely confused on what is going on even though 3 seconds ago I was completely engaged.
My anxiety doesn’t want my body to rest. It wants to keep thinking, keep worrying.
From not sleeping properly for years, I have come to a point where rest is one of the most important parts of my day. This is usually done in yoga, laying down or just breathing deeply without distractions. I strive to give myself at least 5 minutes a day of nothing. 5 minutes to allow myself to not worry about what is happening in the future. This is not easy.
When I was first starting yoga many years ago, I would still be overthinking during my poses. Through years of practicing meditation and mindfulness, I finally feel comfortable with thinking about nothing at all. It took a lot of trial and error to let myself accomplish this. At first while I was trying to calm myself during yoga poses I would imagine a lotus flower on my belly. It would expand into full bloom when inhaling and close up when exhaling. This may be useful to you. I encourage you to all find something that relaxes you as use it as a tool.
Although now when I am trying to rest and cannot stop thinking, I picture a beach. Water has always calmed me. My parents put me to sleep as a baby with the tap running, as nothing else would work. The beach I imagine is blue as can be. I picture myself there with my dog. It is just us. Nothing else. Nothing to worry about. Waves crashing onto the golden sand. If negative thoughts try to creep into this imaginative state, I imagine palm trees blocking them from entering. This is one way that aids myself in finding my zen.
I encourage you to imagine your happy place when trying to relax. Mentally put up walls that stop your negative thoughts. Focus on the good in your life. Focus on what you love and strive for. Allow your mind, body and spirit to relax. Relaxation is required to mature. Reward yourself with rest but know when it may be too much.
We all push through each day with whatever energy our body is providing us. Some of us need caffeine to get through or sleeping pills to stop it all. Don’t ignore the importance of listening to your body and allow yourself to give it the recovery it needs. Overexerting your body is unhealthy and may lead to negative consequences. Step back and be grateful you are alive today. Give your physical, mental, emotional self what it needs. Do not feel guilty about taking time for yourself. You will be thankful in the end.
Photo retrieved from Pinterest. Artist is Laura Supnik.
LIVING WITH NOT SUFFERING FROM ANXIETY
(I don’t like to say we are suffering from a mental illness but instead we should aim to deal with it appropriately.)
This can be a challenging topic for many people to discuss. The stigmas around mental illnesses are slowly diminishing in our society today although this has not always been the case. I want everyone to know they should not be ashamed of the uncontrollable mind. I know my generation can be more open than others and I hope this piece brings awareness to all ages of noticing their anxiety, realizing it is there and using it to become stronger.
First is a short version of my experience with this mental illness. Feel free to skip to the end to view my 10 tips to relieve your anxiety.
Anxiety has always been a part of my life even when I did not know it. Being anxious is a part of being human. Fortunately, I recognized and educated myself on the topic around the age of 16. Little did I know when I was younger that I had always experienced anxiety.
Being a child it was hard to understand. I didn’t know why I could never answer the phone or the door. I felt scared every time someone asked me to do either. I still do not open the door or answer the phone often, I feel it may always be a fear for me. I also could not understand why I felt so insecure around adults. I was very scared of people of authority and would usually burst into tears if I had to confront them. If I had to present in front of a class I would try to fake sick to get out of it. However, years have passed since then and thankfully I now know how to control these feelings.
Unfortunately, I had a lot of people tell me I was "worrying too much" or that I should "calm down" which at first made me very sad. I guess many don't understand what this can feel like. I believe we should all speak up about our thoughts. This can ease the feeling of being alone. I want you to understand you are not alone and other people do feel the same as you. (This is what I needed most when I first noticed my anxiety).
My point being is we all experience feeling anxious at times throughout life but where do we draw the line of it becoming an anxiety disorder?
What anxiety can feel like:
-a feeling of uneasiness and worry, usually generalized and unfocused as an overreaction to a situation that is only subjectively seen as menacing.
-an emotion characterized by an unpleasant state of inner turmoil, often accompanied by nervous behavior
-anxiety is the expectation of future threat
-feelings of apprehension or dread, trouble concentrating, feeling tense or jumpy, anticipating the worst, irritability, restlessness, watching (and waiting) for signs (and occurrences) of danger, and, feeling like your mind's gone blank
*Being in school makes me want to cite everything I use from online*
What I experience:
-unable to fall asleep or stay asleep
-fear of losing my loved ones or everyone leaving me
-fear of failing
-blank staring into space (anxiety attack)
-weak immune system
-headaches and migraines
-overthinking (the worst one)
Things that give me anxiety:
-having to make decisions
-knowing I won’t be able to fall asleep
-letting someone down
-deciding what I want to eat at a restaurant
-when people don’t plan ahead
-when something doesn’t go as I planned it
-when people have their volume high on their phone next to me
…This list could go on for awhile. Anxiety shows up differently in all individuals. Listed above are a few weird situations where I experience it. Some may feel the same or have no idea what I’m talking about and that’s okay. When it is happening so often that it begins to interfere with your daily life, something should be changed as that is when it can be considered an anxiety disorder.
For myself, it took a lot of courage to bring up to a medical professional how I had been feeling inside my mind. Your mind may be the only true place to keep your personal thoughts. Exposing that was not easy. I was afraid they wouldn't believe me. They offered advice but I found nothing worked. In October 2016, I had just moved to Penticton and had no family doctor here but needed something to be done about these anxious emotions. I went to a walk in clinic, told him how I felt and he told me I was experiencing anxiety and OCD. I got prescribed an antidepressant.
That’s how easy it is to get prescription medications today. He did not consider my holistic health in any way. I believe he took a shortcut. Many loved ones didn’t agree with this new medication although I decided to give it a chance. One friend of mine told me about her experience on antidepressants and how they never actually make your illness disappear, the thoughts will always be there, they just help to ease the feelings. I was upset this doctor didn’t question me more or view my interrelated health between the different systems of my body. Nevertheless, I still chose to give it a try.
A year and a half later and I do believe this prescription has helped me in many ways. I don’t stay up all night anymore, I don’t freak out when I see a mess in the kitchen, I know how to control my thoughts for the most part. This is not independently because of this medication. This is because I am using a holistic approach to healing myself. Focusing on all aspects of your body is crucial to overcome these challenges.
But some times all of that goes away and you want to stay in bed all day with the lights off. Relating to the philosophy of balance. Some days you will have it all together, you will be on the top, others you will be down. This is all a part of growing, so aim to not make it a negative part of your life but instead a small bump to try to overcome. There isn’t much you can do about what life throws at you but you can control the way you handle your anxiety. I will tell you it isn't easy but here are some of my habits I have been drawn to that help me flourish in this area.
*IDEAS TO HELP EASE ANXIETY*
(These are not in order of importance)
*Take a large breath in, expanding your belly, ribs and chest
*Sigh out your exhale, releasing the negativity.
When I am acutely stressed, or in a stressful situation. This is my holy grail. Listen to your heart beat strong.
3. Essential oils; Peppermint and Lavender are a necessity. Many studies have proven their relaxing and calming effects on the mind, body and spirit. They feel great on the temples, wrists and neck.
4. Being physically active; whether that is killing in the gym, walking through the forest or stretching on your mat. This is so important to living a balanced lifestyle. Get out there and get your heart rate up
5. Tea; a life saver no matter what time of the day
6. Getting some fresh air; Nature always works its magic. 15 minutes of sunshine works wonders. I really wish we had more sun in our winters here in BC. It would make a huge difference to many peoples lives.
7. Writing; Instead of bottling up your thoughts, learn to express them on paper or computer. A main reason of why I started this project. I don’t want to keep all these thoughts inside anymore.
8. Spend time off your cell phone; This can be hard for many but a lot of people don’t know their phone is their own stressor. Leave it alone for a couple hours everyday and even longer when feeling really anxious. Talk to your friend’s and family instead.
9. Spend time with your animals and loved ones; take them outside, pet them for hours (not your family), play with them. If you don’t have pets go to the SPCA or to a friend’s, they instantly cheer me up.
10. Smile! I cannot stress how important a smile is. Smile to yourself, to others on the street, to your dog. Forcing a little smile relieves stress.
A reminder that you may never fully eliminate anxiety although you do have the power to overcome it's symptoms. I encourage you to try these out, and would love to know if this piece of writing was appealing to you at all. Thank you for following me through this journey of growth.
Photo found on Pinterest and thought it was perfect for this topic. Retrieved from