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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Rustic Roasted Brussels Sprouts – for Trisca

I didn’t think it was possible to get a 7 year old to fall in love with Brussels sprouts


I didn’t think it was possible to get a 7 year old to fall in love with Brussels sprouts

I always enjoy a challenge, especially when it comes to finding ways to “sneak” vegetables into a child’s diet so that they eventually grow to love them. Brussels sprouts are tricky to hide though, so I decided to do something daring and opted to instead dress them up with the hopes that two 5 year olds and a 7 year old wouldn’t turn their noses up at them during dinner.

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Although I’d taken courses on Child Nutrition & Cooking at Stamford University, I didn’t have much experience with cooking for children before I moved to Australia to become an Au Pair.  My approach coming into the family was simple though: prepare my regular go-to meals, but  gradually introduce new flavours and spices to their palates by upping the intensity of herbs each time I cooked the dish. When I first arrived, the kids were accustomed to simple steamed vegetables, a starch (steamed potato, rice or pasta) and a baked or pan-fried protein for their dinner every night. A well-rounded nutritious meal, but a little mild in comparison to what I was used to cooking.

The oldest child, Max, was the trickiest to please. His favourite foods included pizza from the restaurant down the street, and “pasta pockets” (pre-packaged cheese tortellinis). When testing out new recipes and presenting them to the kids and getting their opinion on the meal, he was my toughest critic…so when I convinced him to try my Rustic Roasted Brussels Sprouts, and he gave me a thumbs up with a huge smile as he shovelled more into his mouth, I was proud.

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 300 g Baby Brussels sprouts
  • 4 Fresh or thawed sausage links (pork, chicken, lamb, or meat-free)
  • 3 Cloves of garlic, crushed
  • ½ Medium Spanish onion, diced
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ Lemon, juiced
  • Herbal salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • Rosemary
  • Lemon herb & garlic seasoning
  • Thyme

 

DIRECTIONS

Steam the Brussels sprouts for 10 minutes, or until tender (you should be able to pierce with a fork all the way through). Remove from heat, and once cooled, slice in half.

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While the Brussels sprouts are cooking, slice the sausages lengthwise, and remove casings. Break into small pieces and roast in a large skillet on stove top. Once browned, add the Brussels sprouts and sauté in the sausage drippings for 2 minutes on medium heat.

Rustic Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Sauté the Brussels sprouts with the sausage

Next, add a drizzle of olive oil, diced onions, crushed garlic, lemon juice and a generous splash of balsamic vinegar. Be sure to thoroughly mix everything together in the skillet pan. Add remaining seasonings to desired taste, and reduce heat to a low simmer. Continue cooking until onions are transparent, and Brussels sprouts are browned and slightly charred.

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Rustic Roasted Brussels Sprouts – the end result

Serve with mixed grains salad or roasted potatoes.

SERVES: 6

PREP TIME: 5 minutes

TOTAL COOKING TIME:  20 minutes

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? 

Perth Beach reflection

My Journey Towards Becoming A Certified Yoga Teacher (PART l)

Ashtanga Opening Mantra
Ashtanga Opening Mantra

August 2015 was an incredibly challenging month for me. I chose to trek 6000km to Laguna de Apoyo in Nicaragua to complete my Ashtanga, Vinyasa and Kriya yoga teacher certification. 13 hours of intense mental and physical yoga every day for 30 days left me exhausted, and I will admit there were a few times where I wanted to throw in the towel and book a plane ticket back home, but I’m proud of myself for sticking it out. I learned so much about myself, and the experience alone was one that I’ll never forget.

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I had first discovered my version of “yoga” when I was a teenager. My mother must have read about the “exercises” as she called them (which I would later learn to realise were called asanas), and she began to start her mornings off with a modified version of Surya Namaskara A. Intrigued, I would watch her do her stretches, then go to the privacy of my own room to practice them myself.

However, I never really practised consistently. Always curious about new exercise fads though, I remember picking up magazines and reading about different (albeit easy) asanas to try. It wasn’t until years later once I was diagnosed with stress-induced seizures that my doctor recommended I consider trying out a real yoga class.

Soon after that, I ended up picking up a job at a health club working as both the manager and a nutritionist. I quickly befriended the office administrator who coincidentally had the same passion for health as I do, and before I knew it, we were looking for other fitness classes to explore that our club wasn’t offering. She stumbled upon an introductory month-long pass to Moksha yoga and that night we excitedly drove to the studio with our yoga mats to enrol in hot yoga. I fell in love with the structured class and the way the asanas flowed together beautifully. I finally felt as if this was the yoga I’d been told of all this time: a mental practise over a physical practise — which was exactly what I needed.

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After a few years of being a regular “Mokshi,” and becoming more and more submerged in a holistic lifestyle, I decided I needed a long vacation to find myself and get out of the house for the summer. I figured that a yoga retreat would be the perfect getaway but I couldn’t find anything that lasted long enough, or for a decent price. Using my favourite Moksha instructor as my muse, I thought maybe I could just go for my teacher certification? She makes teaching look so easy! Plus getting my certification could also help my career as a nutritionist by opening some doors!

And so began my hunt for a yoga school recognized by the Canadian Yoga Alliance.

The organisation listed 15 schools in Canada which were weekend courses only and would have taken 5 months to complete. To my surprise, they listed one school outside of Canada in Nicaragua which offered free accommodations and a fast-track 6 week program which would allow me to obtain my teaching certificate at the end of the summer.

But was this a safe decision? And where exactly in the world was Nicaragua?

This post is part one of a three part series.

Click here for part 2 — Preparing for Yoga Training in Nicaragua