Managing Stress: Regaining your Mental & Physical Health

Stress

Take a deep breath, and relax.

We’ve all heard it before: stress plays an important role in our health. Obviously, it can wreak havoc on our mental health, but did you know that it can also impact our physical health?

During our fight or flight state, our adrenal glands go into overtime and start pumping out a slew of hormones including cortisol and adrenaline. Before we evolved into the human beings that we are now, our bodies relied on these hormones produced during stressful times. Cortisol aided us by raising our blood pressure, and prolonging blood loss in the event if we were about to go into battle with an enemy (fight), and adrenaline began to course through our veins preparing us to run away from our attacker (flight).

These hormones are synthesized in the central nervous system, and if not exerted and balanced, numerous health issues can arise including imbalanced blood sugars resulting in depleted energy levels, vitamin C deficiency, digestive upsets and ulcers, sleep quality, hair loss, unpleasant complexion, mood swings, decreased libido, irregular periods & fertility issues, extreme increase or decrease in appetite thereby affecting weight gain or loss, deterioration of thyroid health, motivation to perform common tasks and your general vitality and lust for life.

Being in a constant state of fear that something bad will happen to us is obviously quite detrimental to our health. It doesn’t help that over the past few decades, the norm has been for us to live a 24/7 lifestyle of being attached to our phones and slaves to our jobs, with no time for play or rest. In turn, our fast-paced mentality has carried over to our grab-and-go eating habits through fast-food and commercially prepared snacks and meals, which as we know is just creating even further damage to our health. It’s a domino effect.  

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A tranquil walk my not only clear your head, but can also assist in helping to exert the excess energy created by your adrenal glands

There are a number of steps we can take to assist in keeping calm, cool and collected — such as improving our nutrition, exercising more, and practising meditation and pranayama. However, just like with nutrition, the trick is to get down to the root of the issue and prevent these health ailments from arising, rather than treat them long after the damage has been done.

Think of the human body as a seed.

In order to flower, we require proper nutrition, a healthy amount of sunlight, clean water, and time to rest for growth, rejuvenation and transformation. If a budding flower were to constantly endure environmental stresses, how would it bloom?

If your job is causing your hair to fall out, can you find a different position? If you’ve developed ulcers from worrying about your relationships with others, can you distance yourself from them? If you’re turning to food when faced with a heavy course load at school, can you find better ways to manage your time? 

If what you’re doing doesn’t bring you joy, either find an alternative way to cope with it, or cut it out of your life.

Address your stresses so that you can further bloom.

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Don’t Look Back – You’re Not Going That Way

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I had a moment of self-realization recently.

I really enjoy solo road trips. There’s something so freeing and liberating about being alone in the car for long periods of time with nothing but you and the open road. I’ve always been shy when it comes to singing in front of people, yet when I’m alone in the car, I’m free to belt out the lyrics to my favourite songs on my car’s stereo. Singing makes me happy, and gives me a sense of finding myself more…so it’s any wonder I’m able to reflect and meditate best on long car trips alone.

A few weeks ago, I was driving along a desolate highway from Phillip Island back to Melbourne. The sun had long set, and the sky was pitch black. There were barely any other cars on the road and aside from the radio, my open windows revealed that there weren’t any surrounding noises outside. Yet, I unintentionally kept checking my rear view mirror.

Finally, for some reason I said to myself: Don’t look back. You’re not going that way.  

I immediately knew that this was my subconscious bringing clarity to not only the present moment whilst driving, but also to life in general. For years, I can remember telling my friends during their tough times not to dwell on the past. And once, after getting into and argument with a family member and then reconciling, I was told it was water under the bridge and we never brought up the incident again. So why then, when facing my own struggles, do I have so much trouble with letting go of the past? Sure, you can forgive and forget, but the heart can’t instantly repair itself. And granted, time heals all wounds, but you’re only going in circles if you keep trudging up the past.

Since further studying yoga and moving to Australia, I’ve done a lot of self-discovery. I feel as though mentally, I’ve grown a lot and gained so much wisdom. People have come in and out of my life, and I feel as though each person has been vital in my mental development — even if I only knew them for a short period of time.

We have to keep in mind that we’re constantly evolving. Each new day can offer a life lesson, whether big in the form of death or heartbreak, or small through learning a new skill or brightening someone’s day.

Yes, it’s okay to look back on the past as a reminder of how far you’ve come. But continually picking at the scab and resenting or dwelling on a moment long past isn’t helping you grow.  

Keep your eye on the prize, and try to move forward… because that’s the direction in which you’re headed.

A Year of Reflection

Spending your birthday by yourself is a chance to focus on your goals and appreciate how far you’ve come

In 3 hours I’ll be 27 years old.

It’s so strange to think about where I thought I’d be by now. When I was a kid, I always imagined that I’d be married with 2 kids by the time I turned 25 years old. I suppose I had based this thought around the nuclear families I’d seen on TV, and the stories I’d heard of my grandparents marrying and having children of their own in their early 20’s.

The times however have changed. Now, it seems somewhat out of the ordinary to learn of anyone I know of or grew up with, as getting married and having babies of their own. In a sense, I still feel like so many people my age are still children themselves. Nonetheless, I feel as if for me 30 is just around the corner, and that there’s a push to start getting my life more in order…in terms of relationships, career, and responsibilities.

Looking back, I’ll consider the year I was 26 as a whirlwind adventure. I experienced what feels like a lifetime of ups and downs in a mere 365 days. I took my first solo trip and lived in Nicaragua for the summer, I became a certified Yoga instructor, I spent 3 weeks travelling through Europe, I made new friends, I spent more time with family, I left my job, I impulsively moved to Australia, I re-evaluated relationships , and most importantly I learned more about myself and how to love myself.

Although I’ll be spending my birthday this year 17,000km away from my friends and family, I look forward to turning 27 and to what this year has in store for me. I feel through this past year’s experiences, I’ve gained more wisdom and clarity to be able to truly decide on what I want in life.

Ageing is inevitable, so why not make the most of this short time we have on Earth? 

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Preparing for Yoga Training in Nicaragua (PART II)

This post is part two of a three part series.

Continued from My Journey Towards Becoming a Certified Yoga Teacher – Part One

I have to admit, I was a bit sceptical at first about travelling all the way to Central America by myself. I had been to Nicaragua before with my boyfriend, and his family made frequent trips there several times a year, so I knew the country well enough. But this was my first solo trip anywhere and to add to my anxiety, my Spanish was no bueno.

I decided first to do some research on the yoga school in Nicaragua to make sure it was indeed a legitimate program, and to see what my accommodations would be like. Nicaragua is a third world country, and more often times than not, most people have difficulties even pointing it out on a map. Since the country gained independence in 1821, it’s seen many periods of political unrest — most recently in the 1970’s. That fact alone is usually enough to put a sour taste in one’s mouth and deter them from ever visiting the country, let alone living there.

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But the Nicaragua I knew was full of peaceful, helpful, laid-back people who you’d never think of as violent at all. In fact, quite the opposite as locals would sometimes invite gringos and complete strangers into their family homes to share a meal with them. So clearly, I wasn’t concerned for my safety at all. I think if anything, I was worried I’d be lonely and homesick.

As it turns out, the shala where I’d be learning was inside of a bed and breakfast called Casa Aromansse located at the base of an inactive volcano called Laguna de Apoyo, which over thousands of years had naturally evolved into a volcanic lake. Coincidentally I had also visited this lake in my previous travels, and I knew from memory that its tranquillity would set the perfect tone for some rest and relaxation. The research I’d done on the B&B revealed a beautiful retreat with plenty of outstanding reviews and the teaching instructor, Serge, seemed to be loved by all of his students. I promptly contacted him and as my old journalist instincts kicked in, I realised I was interviewing Serge and asking every question I could think of.

After weeks of intense research, email correspondence with Serge, planning, and budgeting, I had enrolled in my first 200 hour Registered Yoga Teacher Training and purchased my plane ticket. Nicaragua’s climate is hot yet dry, and our classes would be spent all day outdoors. August in Canada can see the hottest temperatures we’ll experience all summer, but I’d be arriving in Nicaragua during their wet season, invierno (winter). So although the temperature wouldn’t feel humid, I did run into the possibility of experiencing a tropical storm. This of course, meant I’d have to get creative and carefully plan out my outfits when packing for my trip.

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Leading up to my departure, my free time was spent attending Moksha’s yoga in the park, and unrolling my mat in my backyard and on the beach so that I’d be more accustomed to practising outdoors.  Outside of the office, I lived in my yoga leggings and a breezy shirt so that I could move more freely, and most of my disposable income went towards purchasing more gear to bring with me for the 6 weeks I’d be away. 

The big day finally arrived for me to fly out, and I said goodbye to my friends, family and co-workers. Everyone was extremely supportive of me going out on my own and eager for me to come back with new accomplishments (solo travel & a certificate!), so off I went on my 8 hour-long journey to Laguna de Apoyo. 

…Little did I know, I was in for a rude awakening.

Click here for the final chapter of My Journey Towards Becoming a Yoga Teacher (PART lll)