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.

London, England

A Hop Across the Pond to Kick off a 3 Week Tour of Europe

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Less than 24 hours after arriving back home in Canada from my summer spent in Nicaraguamy friend Meghan had convinced me to re-pack my bags and accompany her on a 3 week-long tour of Europe. Surprisingly, my boss was very supportive of my new travel plans, and also urged me to get out and explore more of the world.

34 days later, Meghan and I would be running through the JFK International Airport in New York with our luggage as we struggled to make our connecting flight to London, England’s Heathrow Airport.

I had been to Europe before when I was 17 as part of a high school Latin class trip to Italy and Greece, but now I was more mature and able to appreciate the history, architecture and culture of my foreign surroundings. And of course, what I looked forward to most of all for this trip would be the varied cuisines between countries — my last trip to Europe resulted in a trip to the hospital when I’d arrived back home, as my then “vegan diet” included an abundance of sweets in place of any animal products, which lead to an unhappy gallbladder. But now I knew better, and understood the importance of a healthy lifestyle that included  lots of vegetables but treats in moderation.

We arrived in London, slightly disoriented and jet-lagged from our 6 hour flight across the Atlantic ocean. Weeks of carefully planning what to pack  and sharing clothes and other necessities between our bags, we were certain that we hadn’t overpacked. But, already exhausted and having to haul our heavy luggage from the airport to the Underground rail systems and then through the streets until we finally found our hotel, we were starting to second-guess our need for certain items in our suitcases. To make matters worse, we became further irritated once we arrived at the hotel, and were told we wouldn’t be able to check in for another 3 hours.

Desperate to make the most out of a less than ideal situation, we decided to duck into an authentic British pub, and indulge in some fish & chips and wash it all down with a pint of English lager (despite the fact that back home in Canada, it would have only been 5:00am our time)!

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Eager to “sample” every country’s traditional dish, I made a simple promise to myself: not to overindulge in unhealthy foods — whether it be fried, dairy, red meat, or savoury sweets. I knew my digestive tract and my inflammatory trigger foods, and didn’t want to waste any time sitting in my hotel room with gastric cramping and nausea. It’s funny how after over 10 years of not really being able to go near certain foods, I’ve pretty much lost interest in junk food and anything that at one point in time had a heart beat. It was somewhat of a chore for me to eat half of my fish & chips, but I happily inhaled my side salad (or was that a garnish?) along with what Meghan left behind.

Once our bellies were full, we sleepily tried to make our way back outside to marvel at the city streets of London. Everything was so foreign: cars driving on the opposite side of the road, double decker buses whizzing by, the different noises the sirens of emergency vehicles made, fruit vendors on every corner, the currency (and sadly, our measly dollar comparison), the friendly locals,  the gorgeous architecture and  building character…it was all so much to take in, yet we could barely keep our eyes open. We realised that we had spent a fair amount of time in the pub, and as it was finally time to check into our hotel, we would go back to our room for a short cat nap. We would be able to appreciate more of our surroundings once we were better rested, had clearer heads, and were no longer carrying our various heavy suitcases.

Of course, our bodies craved more than a 45 minute nap, and we somehow both managed to sleep through the alarms we’d set to wake up at 2:00pm. Instead, we woke up several hours later and it was already dinner time, the sky pitch black and daily sight-seeing tours ended. We hurriedly got dressed, and made our way back to the streets to try to find something “British” to do before the day had ended and the shops had closed. Out of luck, we settled for a nighttime stroll through one of the beautiful city parks to  appreciate its gardens, and then we made our way to a tea shop to partake in some scones, bikkies and sweets.

As London was our first stop, we unfortunately were only in the UK for a mere 24 hours before we had to embark on our European tour and check into our next hotel in Amsterdam. Fortunately, England wasn’t at the top of our Travel Bucket List, so we weren’t too concerned about missing some of the major attractions. In hindsight, I do regret not at least doing the Hop On Hop Off tour on one of the many double decker busses to see Buckingham Palace, London Bridge, Big Ben and the London Eye. I suppose part of me feels guilty for not wanting to explore more, especially since I grew up in Stratford, Ontario — a community obsessed with William Shakespeare and his life.

But, I have an entire lifetime ahead of me if I so choose to go back and see what I missed out on.

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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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