Our Reptilian Brains

The human brain is brilliantly complex. Our species contains countless languages that allow us to communicate diversely among each other. We can think abstractly, feel a variety of emotions, and comprehend the rhythm in music along with millions of other amazing opportunities that our brains give us. But not everything is as it seems.

In certain situations, our brains switch into survival mode and a lot of our reactions are no longer because of deliberation and planning, but instead out of shear reaction.

This was the topic of conversation at work on Wednesday. My manager had been to a two day training about handling heated conversations and she was giving us a summary of what the training entailed. We talked about that switch from rational thinking to natural instincts that sometimes makes you say things that you don’t mean or react in ways you typically wouldn’t.

We also discussed perception and how much our perception of things affects how we interpret people’s words. When we are in the moment and emotionally charged, we can sometimes make assumptions about what people mean instead of giving them the benefit of the doubt and hearing them out.

When you are in a stressful situation, remember to take a step back, evaluate the situation removed from emotions, turn your reptilian brain off, take a deep breath, and communicate logically. It’s harder said than done, but being aware of when you might be misunderstanding or overreacting in a situation is the first step to better communication.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

 

Help Yourself to Help Others

Being busy can be a great thing, but it can also be a dangerous habit. I have always been a person who has a million things going on at one time. I love being busy, but it felt like I got to the point where my identity/self-worth was correlated to how busy I was. I didn’t have time to step back, take a deep breath, and enjoy life.

I’ve slowly cleared my plate of extracurricular activities because I am trying to focus on myself more and outside things less.

It’s been bittersweet. I have been incredibly grateful to have the time to work on myself, but I also feel empty at times. Over the years, I have learned to correlate my self-worth with how busy I am. If I’m not filling all of my time with productive activities, I tend to feel like I am wasting my time. This is something that I am working on in my life.

So let’s fast-forward to yesterday. I have been sick for over a week and yesterday it got worse. I ended up seeing a provider in my office at the end of my shift and was sent home. My stubborn self went back into work today just to be sent home when I get there. I was honestly uninterested in going home. I told my manager that I didn’t want to go home because I didn’t know what I would do all day and she reminded me that rest is sometimes just as important as productivity.

If we are going to be the best versions of ourselves, we need to know when it’s time to relax and rest. Our body and mind need that valuable time to recuperate (especially when we are sick) so we can give our best self out to the world.

Have you ever been on an airplane? Even if you haven’t, I’m sure you know about their safety speech that is given before each flight. In the event of issues with air pressure when in flight, oxygen masks are released. They tell you to put your oxygen mask on before helping others because if you can’t breathe, you won’t be able to help others.

This is the same logic that they teach you for shooting situations at hospitals. They teach us that our firsts priority is to run out of the situation. If we are killed, we can’t help to treat the injured when the situation is diffused.

This is something that I have to work on. Sure, I was out of work for one day, but I wouldn’t have been incredibly productive today at work with how tired and short of breath I was feeling. Instead of ending up in the hospital and out of work for an extended period, I took one day to start recovery.

So take that sick day or mental health day if you need it. You can’t help others if you are not well yourself.

Oh, and being busy doesn’t equal being successful. Don’t stretch yourself too thin. You are strong, but you are also human and there are only so many hours in the day.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Outgoing Introvert

I always felt as if I didn’t fit into a category of introvert or extrovert. I thought that if I wasn’t one or the other – then what was I? It takes me a little while to figure people out and get comfortable with them, but once I know you and like you…you can’t get me to be quiet. I’m sarcastic and energetic, but can be analytical and calculating too. I don’t put myself out there to meet new people, but I do hold those that I know closely. Sometimes I am spunky and other times I’m reserved.

Recently I heard someone talking about a book that they read about parenting a spirited child. She said that the book outlined what it means to be an introvert versus an extrovert. This is the kicker: it’s not about how you are around other people, it’s about how you recharge yourself. That made complete sense to me. Some people find comfort and inner peace by being surrounded by other people while others need time to be alone.

This had me reflecting a lot on my life.  When I have had an overwhelming day, I don’t want to talk or be touched or be around other people – I want to have space to reflect on my day and boost my energy. Once I feel relaxed and recharged, I am ready to face what life has coming my way. And that’s okay. Oh, and it’s okay to be an extrovert too! And it’s okay to be a little bit of both.

Ultimately it’s not about fitting into a category and knowing your place in the world, but instead it’s about self-actualization and knowing yourself.

Do you know what makes you emotionally well? What helps you to recharge?

Take care of yourself and find what makes you happy.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

I’m a Pusher, Cady

Have you seen the movie “Mean Girls”? If not, where have you been the past ten years?! Do you remember the part where the teacher tells Cady that she is “a pusher” and wants Cady to do her best? (And then Cady turns the teachers words around to make it sound like she’s a drug dealer.) Anyway, I’m a pusher (but not a drug pusher). I always push myself to work harder, longer, and better. I expect myself to function at my peak performance from the time I wake up until I go to sleep. No pressure..

It’s great to have high expectations for yourself and to work to a high standard, but everyone has a limit and it’s important to recognize when you are reaching your limits and begin to stretch yourself too thin. The last few weeks have been incredibly tough for me with deaths in the family and trying to buy a house. The past week or so, I have realized that I am starting to feel emotionally and physically drained. I can feel myself reaching my limit and I worry that my mental health will be negatively affected. So what will I do? I have been trying to take a moment for a deep breath when I feel myself getting overwhelmed. I remind myself that this feeling is temporary and it will pass.

I was hoping to get a part time job on the weekends (my days off), but I am going to give myself grace and patience. I need to focus on taking care of myself right now while I am dealing with this stressful time in my life instead of trying to be the most productive person possible. If I don’t take care of myself, how am I supposed to take care of the people around me? If I am already stretched thin, how can I find more of myself to help others?

One of the most important things that I have learned in the past five years is to recognize when I am pushing myself too much and how to help myself. Sometimes it just takes a moment to close my eyes and take a deep breath, but sometimes it takes a few hours (or even a day) to let myself relax and do something that I enjoy to recharge my energy. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Just because you can’t see your emotions and stress doesn’t mean that those things don’t matter.

Stress affects everyone differently, but it has the potential to not only affect your mental well being, but also your physical health. When I was about fourteen years old I had some stomach issues. I went to a GI specialist and he found an ulcer in my stomach after completing an endoscopy. He said the ulcer was from stress and he was shocked that someone at my age had enough stress to affect my body in that way. Stress can make your hair fall out, give you a rash, elevate your blood pressure, lower your immune system,…just to name a few.

Start paying attention to your body and how certain situations affect you. Take a mental note when you feel frazzled and if you feel like you are emotionally unwell. Is there something you can do to alleviate the stress?

It’s okay to say no if you feel like you are stretching yourself too thin. Hell, it’s okay to say no just because you don’t want to do something.

Take care of yourself so you can take care of those around you.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

It’s in the Genes

The older I get, the more I realize that mental illness is something that a lot of people in my family struggle with. I’m not just saying “my family is weird” because honestly I think all families are in their own way, but there are a lot of diagnosed (and some undiagnosed) mental illnesses that have taken advantage of the people I love.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one-in-five adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness in a given year. Additionally, many studies find that having relatives with mental illness can put you at a higher risk for having a mental illness yourself.

Growing up, I always knew that my father’s mother was different than the other adults in my life. She has never been able to take care of herself and has always been socially inept. When I was a teenager and originally diagnosed with Dysthmia and generalized anxiety, the conversation started with my mom about my paternal grandmother. I eventually had the opportunity to ask my father about her medical issues and the only answer he had for me was “she is bat-sh** crazy.” Mental illness has never been understood or accepted on his side of the family.  He told me that she has mental illness, but he doesn’t know what diagnosis she has.

As I became an adult and was a part of “adult conversations”, I realized that other members of my family have O.C.D., generalized anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, and/or addiction. On one hand, I was relieved to find out that I was not the only one struggling with mental illnesses in my family. On the other hand, I was frightened that this is something I could pass down to my children in the future.

Realizing how much distress my mental illness has caused me and my family, I worried that my children won’t have a chance to escape it. Then I realized that although we each struggle with mental illness, our lives are still full of love and happiness. We still have opportunities, experiences, and achievements. Our lives still have meaning and they are worth living.

Mental illness is still a taboo for a lot of people, but it’s a common occurrence among adults and children alike. Chances are, there is someone(s) in your life that struggle with mental illness. Have an open mind and listen to what they have to say. You don’t have to understand (or like) what they say, but it is a very real thing to them and you should validate that. Accept their fears and support their journey to wellness.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Addictive Behaviors

Drinking coffee has become such a normalized thing in society. Some people can’t start their day without it. Friends gather at a cafe to drink a cup of joe and catch up with each other’s lives. When did this beverage become such a staple in our lives? Coffee contains caffeine (even decaf products contain trace amounts of caffeine) which is a stimulant. Your body actually becomes addicted to the substance and dependent on it to function correctly. I’m not judging; for years I consumed the drug (yes, you read that right, caffeine is considered a drug).

When I was younger, I used fat burning pills that were practically just capsules of caffeine. I would have tremors, hypoglycemia, nausea, and irritability, but I stupidly thought that a faster metabolism was more important. News flash, it crashed my metabolism in the long term – I feel like after I stopped taking them, I gained whatever weight I lost plus some.

When I switched from a second shift job to a first shift position, I started drinking coffee. This also caused issues with tremors and nausea. I would only drink one cup per day, but it still affected my body. When I first started my blog, I wrote about the episode of chest pain that I experienced. After that day, I was terrified to drink coffee and decided that it was time to quit. Boy-oh-boy, I did not realize how accustomed to caffeine my body had become. Once I stopped indulging, I started having horrible headaches. My head would be pounding all day and I felt incredibly grumpy. My body was detoxing from the caffeine and I went through withdrawals. My body is very sensitive (hence all of the medication allergies and the affects of caffeine), so I should really be cautious with what I put in my body.

When I stopped drinking coffee, I also limited my alcohol consumption drastically. I have never been a big drinker, but we would go out from time-to-time to a bar and indulge in a couple drinks. In the last two months I have only drank twice. I honestly shouldn’t be drink at all. I am happy to say that I haven’t even wanted to drink alcohol recently.

Addiction is an issue that many people in my family have struggled with, so I should be especially aware. Growing up, my father had an issue with drinking alcohol. It was a big strain on my parents’ marriage. Shortly after they separated, my mom met her now-husband who also had an issue with alcohol consumption. Both of my grandfathers had the same issue. So does one of my great-uncles. Let’s just say that I have a lot of not-so-great childhood memories that were due to alcoholism. I don’t think that addiction is specifically hereditary, but I do think that having addicts as closely related family members can increase someone’s likelihood of becoming an addict themselves.

Additionally, I think that some people are more susceptible to addictive behaviors. I guess you can say that I believe some people have “addictive personalities” and I’m one of them. I become obsessed with things easily. Whether it’s photography, crocheting, nicotine, coffee, sugar, food, running…I get hooked. I am an all-or-nothing kind of person and I realize that it’s something I will fight against my whole life. When I started photography, I devoted every free moment of my time to photo sessions, editing, and research. Exercise has been an addiction of mine on and off for years. I will go from not exercising at all to exercising every day. For a while, I was running three or more miles per day plus weight training several  days a week. The same thing happened when it came to eating – whether it was excessive food consumption or minimal food consumption (let’s save that for another post).

This year I have focused a lot of energy toward maintaining balance in my life. No more caffeine and no more nicotine. I have been enjoying the things that I love (food, photography, crocheting, writing, and reading) in moderation and without becoming obsessed.

Are you someone who struggles with obsessive and addictive behaviors? Balance is key to a happy and healthy lifestyle. You aren’t alone and you can do this. Take every day in stride and don’t be too hard on yourself when you have setbacks. Nobody is perfect and progress is all that matters.

Every day is a new opportunity to live a better life.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Boudoir For-Sure

So recently I did a thing. One of my friends is a professional photographer and I finally scheduled a boudoir session with him. Yeah, I have photographed dozens of boudoir photos, but never have I ever been photographed in one of those sessions. I was terrified. I felt like all of the photos he posted were of people who had “perfect” bodies and I knew that I would never look like them in my photos. I almost chickened out of the session a few days before, but Tracy (my photographer friend) convinced me to keep our appointment. He showed me some photos of women who had similar body types as me and they looked amazing! They looked so beautiful that I instantly realized that everything was going to be okay.

When I first got there, I was nervous. But then, after a few minutes, I felt completely comfortable and confident! He let me see the photos right from his camera and when I saw how things were going, I was super excited to continue shooting. We took photos for about three hours and by the end of it I was tired, but i was also feeling really great about myself. I have always struggled with confidence issues and hated having my photos taken, so it was amazing to see how getting these photos taken changed the way I saw myself.

Since then, the photographer has sent me a photo (or two) each day that he edited and it is an awesome confidence building surprise for the end of my day. I did this for myself and it was one of the best gifts I have given myself. The gift of self-esteem. It helped me to realize that although I have stretchmarks, thick thighs, wide-set hips, and don’t look the way I want to, I am still beautiful. I am glad that I didn’t continue to put off photos until “my body is ready” like I said for years. I realized that my body would never “be ready” and I would always have issues with my appearance and feel that there was room for improvement regardless of how much weight I lost.

You are beautiful right now. In the body you have in this moment. You don’t need to lose weight before you start appreciating yourself. The sooner you love yourself, the happier you will be. It’s not about loving a result, it’s about loving a process. Don’t spend your life waiting, enjoy every day and every stage of your life.

I’m taking baby steps in the right direction. One step closer to self-acceptance and self-love. No apologies and no regret.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Micro & Macro Nutrients

One of the first questions I get when I tell someone I am vegan is if I take a bunch of vitamins. The truth is no, I don’t take any vitamins. A lot of vegan do use supplements, but I am horrible about remembering to take medication and vitamins, so I have opted out of it. Not to mention, I would much rather get my micro and macro nutrients from natural sources. My doctor is aware of my dietary choices and my blood work looks great, so I am currently not worried about it.

Protein is a huge concern for people when learning about a vegan lifestyle. I have heard a million times “what about protein?”, but what people don’t realize is there are ton of non-meat protein sources. Here are some helpful tips for including protein-rich foods in your daily life.

  • Almonds, peanuts, cashews and other nuts are famous for being protein-packed. You can make cheese and mayo spreads from cashews. You can make almond butter and peanut butter to spread on your toast or eat with fruit. I love to make our own trail mix with cashews, almonds, dried cranberries, dried coconut, and pumpkin seeds for a protein-filled snack.
  • Chickpeas are ones of my favorite foods. I eat them almost every day and they are so versatile. They can be seasoned and baked for an on-the-go snack or added to your salad. Regular cooked chickpeas are even great for salads. I love hummus. It’s one of my staple lunch foods. You can make your own or buy some already made and there are dozens of different flavor options. You can choose from crushed red pepper, garlic, original, artichoke, jalapeno lemon, dill, or any other flavor that you prefer. I usually pack hummus with some baby carrots and celery for part of my lunch at work. We also love to eat hummus with corn tortillas. You should definitely try it sometime!
  • Tofu is another great protein option. We don’t eat much tofu because I worry about too much soy intake, but a lot of vegetarians and vegans enjoy tofu in their recipes. A lot of Indian inspired dishes include tofu. It takes on the flavor of whatever it’s cooked with, so when we do use tofu, we like to add a lot of spices. It is even an option for some cheese alternatives such as the ricotta in lasagna.
  • I’m sure this comes as a no-brainer for you, but beans are a great protein source too. Beans and rice are an awesome budget-friendly meal. We love vegan chili and it is packed with beans and warms up great as leftovers. A lot of vegan brownie recipes call for black beans too. I am not a baker, so I haven’t tried my hand at making brownies, but I think it’s a great idea.

Iron deficiency (anemia) is a concern that I personally have. Women are at a higher risk for anemia than men, but vegetarian and vegans alike are concerned with the decrease in iron-rich foods. Meat products are a large component of iron in people’s diets, so being vegan means being in-the-know about alternatives.

  • Dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, kale, and spinach are great sources of iron. Broccoli is great raw or steamed. Kale and spinach are incredibly versatile ingredients. They can be eaten in salads, wraps, and sandwiches. I like to massage my kale before eating it raw because it mellows out the flavor and texture, but my husband loves the strong taste. They are also great cooked in soups because they wilt and coordinate well with many flavors. Because of the vitamin K substance in dark green leafy vegetables, I suggest consulting your doctor if you take the medication Coumadin (Warfarin) before increasing your consumption of these foods. If you are taking Coumadin, the vitamin K could decrease the medication’s effectiveness.
  • Soy products such as tofu and tempeh are packed with iron too!
  • Pumpkin, sesame, hemp, and flax seeds are great sources of iron. Pumpkin seeds can be bought in bulk and added to trail mix. You can also season and bake fresh pumpkin seeds. Any of these can be added to salads for a bit of extra crunch or, if you make your own bread, you can add sesame and/or flax seeds to your loaf.
  • A physician I used to work with told me that coconut palm sugar is an ingredient she uses when she becomes anemic. I started using it in moderation instead of regular white sugar and I haven’t even noticed a difference in taste.

Vitamin D is a micro-nutrient that people in the northeast (vegans and non-vegans alike) struggle to consume enough of. Companies have actually resorted to fortifying some foods with vitamin D (such as cereals and dairy products). Living in an area that doesn’t see much sunshine can increase your risk of vitamin D deficiency because our skin is made to create the vitamin from the sun’s exposure. This is a large contributor to seasonal depression.

  • Mushrooms are an easy-additive for vitamin D intake. We add mushrooms to many of our favorite foods including salads, sandwiches, sauces, pizzas, soups and anything else that we can sneak it into. Mushrooms have a lot of medicinal properties and some studies suggest that the consumption of mushrooms on a daily basis can decrease a person’s risk for cancer.
  • Just like cow’s milk, some almond and soy milks are fortified with vitamin D. We prefer unsweetened original almond milk, but you should use what you think tastes best.
  • If you have the opportunity to enjoy sunlight, it’s the best (and cheapest) way to increase your vitamin D intake. Being outside with exposed skin allows your body to create vitamin D intrinsically.
  •  Oh, tofu has vitamin D too!

 

There are so many foods that are nutrient dense and contain one or more of the above listed items. A lot of people utilize tools and apps such as “MyFitnessPal” to track their micro and macro-nutrients. I personally have decided to eat intuitively instead of tracking, but you should find what works best for you. With any diet or lifestyle change, it may get a good idea to have a conversation with your doctor beforehand. He/She will be able to guide you in the best health-conscious direction for your body’s specific needs.

Knowledge is power.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Anxiety

Chances are that somebody in your life is living with anxiety right at this moment (whether you realize it or not). If that somebody is you, I hope that what I will write in this post will help you. If not, this post may be able to help you relieve stress from your life.

Anxiety is something that I have lived with for about ten years now. There are a ton of different kinds of anxiety and I am not going to pretend that I know how everyone with anxiety feels, but I am going to list things that help my anxiety below.

  1. Essential Oils: I don’t know what it is about them, but lavender in particular will help me to relax if I am having a stressful day or feeling a little extra anxious. Orange is another great scent that will help me to feel energized and leave the house smelling so clean and fresh. There are a ton of different brands of essential oils out there and I’m honestly not sure how to tell which are better quality (although it is something that I want to do more research on), but I have bought some from MLM companies, Big Lots, Amazon, and even Walmart. I have a couple diffusers in my house and all i have to do is fill them with water, put in a few drops of the oil of my choice, and turn it on. I learned recently that some essential oils can have negative effects on pets, so talk with your veterinarian or do your own research if this is something that you have to consider. I have also been gifted essential oils that are in a diluting liquid (I’m not 100% sure on the process) and can be rolled onto my skin – I typically will rub it into my wrists – but I wouldn’t advise putting regular essential oils on your skin, especially if you have sensitive skin like I do.
  2. Deep Breathing Exercises: When I find myself getting worked up and increasingly anxious, I tell myself to take ten deep breaths while closing my eyes and count them as I go. (inhale through my nose – hold for a moment – exhale through my mouth – “one”) By forcing myself to focus on my breathing, I am momentarily distracting my brain from what it was being anxious about. I usually feel much better after ten deep breaths. Going to new places is one of my sources of anxiety. I know that the longer I procrastinate getting out of the car, the harder it will be for me. I allow myself to take one deep breath and then quickly open the door and get out of the vehicle. The more I let myself stew about the “what if” possibilities, the worse the situation will be and the worse I will feel. If you meditate, this is another awesome idea. Meditation on a regular basis is like a stronger and more effective form of deep breathing exercises. It forces you to release what tension you have and return yourself to a peaceful center. Meditation is something I am new at and still working on, but I have already found it to be helpful.
  3. Do a Craft: Art is a great outlet for frustration and anxiety. By forcing my emotions out through creativity, I am not only releasing tension and distracting my brain, but I am creating something that can be useful or is beautiful. Some examples of this could be crocheting, coloring, drawing, poetry, photography, wood burning, calligraphy, or any other craft/hobby that you like. It is so important to find your outlet and realize when you can benefit most from practicing your craft.
  4. Read a Book: I love to read. When I get into a good book, reality slips away from me. Having a break from the real world is sometimes just what I need. Pro tip – although there is nothing like the hard copy of a book, e-readers are great for people who are working on minimizing their possessions and living a simpler life. You can also find coloring apps and much more on most tablets, phones, and computers.
  5. Cleaning: I know that this sounds really cliche. I also know that this actually works for me. I think it’s partly because being around clutter and knowing that I have a long list of things that need to get done is subconsciously a huge source of my anxiety. By cleaning my house, I am able to get my frustration out while working on fixing what is making me so on-edge.
  6. Exercise: I used to be a runner. I’m not saying that I did track in high school or ran marathons or anything, I just used to run every day to get my stress and frustration out. This is something that I hope to pick back up again because it worked so incredibly well for me. It was like I was running away from my anxiety. Not everyone enjoys running, but just about any form of exercise can release endorphins in your body and help with your mental/emotional well-being.

I wish that I could guarantee that if you do these six things, your anxiety will be cured and you will feel great. That just isn’t reality. You need to figure out what works for you and go with it. If that means you need to turn music up loud and sing at the top of your lungs, do it. If you have to write out letters telling yourself that you are going to be okay and get through this, do it. You need to do whatever it is that is going to make life easier for you. Anxiety can be a real pain in the butt and affect a lot of your life, but it only has as much power as you give it. Don’t give up and keep working on your coping mechanisms.

Make yourself and your mental/emotional well-being a priority.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

P.S. There is nothing wrong with talking to a trained professional. They can be incredibly helpful in targeting what your anxiety triggers are and figuring out how you can deal with them.

Hydration Hints

Hydration is a huge part of health. Dehydration can cause a list of symptoms including dizziness, fatigue, rapid heartbeat, and dry skin. I am guilty of not drinking as much water as I should. It’s not that I drink a lot of other fluids, but I just forget to drink during the day. I am working on being more cognizant of my hydration levels, but I have already learned a lot about the signs that my body gives when I need to drink more water.

 

  1. My lips and mouth will be dry. No matter how many times I apply chapstick, my lips will still be dry and start cracking. 
  2. I will think I am hungry, but even after eating, I am still hungry. Sometimes hunger can indicate the need for a larger water intake. 
  3. I will crave foods that are extremely water dense such as watermelon and strawberries.  
  4. I will feel dizziness or foggy-minded. It may become difficult for me to focus or think properly. 
  5. I will be tired and feel like I don’t have the energy that I normally have.

 

Now, how can I be sure to drink enough water in the day? Honestly, I say listen to your body. Make sure that you drink a full glass at each meal with a few more glasses of water throughout the day. At first, you will probably feel like you’re in the bathroom every fifteen minutes, but once your body adjusts to the amount of water you are drinking now, your bathroom time will decrease.

 

Additionally, beverages such as coffee, tea, and alcohol can dehydrate you and should be counted as negative glasses of water. These drinks run through your body very quickly and do not help to hydrate your body the way that water does. This just means you will need to drink these beverages in moderation.

 

Listen to your body. The more connected you are with your body’s needs, the easier it is to take care of yourself.

 

Love Always,

Elizabeth