The Number One All Natural Medicine for Anxiety and Depression that Every Doctor Should Prescribe

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Numbers are rising of those who are diagnosed each year with clinical anxiety and/or depression.  I recently wrote a book called RENEWED:  A Mind, Body, Spirit Approach to Self-Renewal that talks about how anxiety and depression develops over time as a result of unmanaged stress.  In this book I explain how stress impacts the brain and triggers the fight, flight or freeze response.  You see, when we encounter stress, our brains process the stress as a threat which naturally triggers the fight, flight or freeze response to danger otherwise known as survival.  Those responses can include verbal arguments, physical altercations, shutting down and isolating from people, places or things, avoiding stress by numbing ourselves with drugs, alcohol and/or food and avoiding work, school, friends, social events, etc.  Let’s face it…our lives are full of constant stress which means we are in constant survival.  And because our brains are constantly processing our stress as danger, then we are constantly fighting, flighting and/or freezing.  As a result of this need to constantly survive the threats our brains interpret, we can become physically, emotionally, mentally and even spiritually depleted over time.  This combination and depletion physically changes the amount of dopamine, serotonin, melatonin and cortisol our bodies produce among many other chemicals needed to balance our mood.

I’ve always struggled with anxiety and depression, especially during the winter months.  I work with many people whose moods seem to dip in November and they don’t find relief until April/May when it gets lighter outside later and they are able to get outside and be exposed to sunshine.  This seems to be a common pattern I tend to come across and attribute it to many factors including a decrease in vitamin D from lack of sunlight, a decrease in getting fresh air from being outside and a decrease in movement from being cooped up during the winter months.  We also eat less fruits and vegetables in the winter because they are not in season and less available.  I often find that stress can also occur from an increase in stress due to greater expectations and demands at either work, school or family activities during winter months.  As a culture, we take more time off from work and routine during the summer months.  Do you see where I am going with this?

My family recently experienced a very stressful winter.  We are a very busy family to begin with.  Both my husband and I own businesses.  My husband works long, steady hours and I work part-time aside from being the primary caretaker at home.  We have 3 children who are actively involved in school and sports.  They participate in band, student council and peer mentoring activities.  My oldest son is involved in martial arts and my two younger children are both involved in hockey.  If you know anything about the sport of hockey, then you know it is year around and an intense commitment both economically and time wise.  Lastly, my family is very active in our church.  Our children participate in youth group regularly and both my husband and I volunteer and lead in church activities.  So you can see that just like you, we live very busy lives.  We have little free time and struggle to sit down as a family to eat dinner.

I am often asked how I manage to do all of the things I am doing.  The answer is very clear to me.  I make self-care my priority.  Not my husband.  Not my children.  Not my work. I make sure that I am fully cared for, balanced and recharged and as a result I am able to provide way more than I ever could not only for my immediate family, but for more and more people in my circle.  I am able to give more to my church.  I am able to give more to my clients.  I am able to give more to my family.

So let me get to the real answer to the question above:  what is the number one all natural medicine that a doctor should prescribe to treat anxiety and/or depression?

A VACATION.  That’s right!  A vacation.  I strategically planned a vacation for the time when I knew I would need it most.  Throughout my many years learning about the benefit of self-care through my own personal practice, I came to the conclusion that I struggle most during February/March.  So I strategically planned a family getaway for February, then a self-renewal weekend retreat for myself in March and another family getaway in April.  I know what you are thinking,  “Boy, don’t you have the life.”  I am not going to feel bad about it.  We work hard and that is what we’ve decided to put our money into, our family vacations and time off from work.  I also know what else you are thinking, “I can’t possibly take time off in February/March…my kids are in school or that is the busiest time of the year at work or my kids sports schedules won’t allow for it, etc”.  Trust me, I get it.  February is not the ideal time to get away in my line of work either and my kids play hockey so its not the ideal time for them and they are also in school.  But isn’t that exactly why it is so important to go away during that time?

That is exactly what I discovered and now prescribe to clients now; a vacation during the time when you know it is going to be the most busy and chaotic.  Why?  Because that is when you are most likely to fall into survival mode and get trapped in the cycle of fight, flight or freeze.  That is the time when you are most likely to shut down and isolate because you are exhausted and that is the time when you are most likely to get more unfocused at work and more sloppy as well.  That is the most likely time that you will go back to old habits such as emotional eating or using drugs or alcohol to get you through.  So be proactive like I was this year and plan your VACATION.  It doesn’t need to be extravagant.  But it does need to require you to get away from the daily life you are living; away from the cell phones, computers, drama at school or work, and every day busy schedules that you are living right now.  And if you are like me and live in a dark, cold, snowy area during the winter months, then yes, I highly recommend you consider planning a vacation to a warm, sunny place.  And yes, you may need to let go of some comforts during the year in order to include this vacation into your self-care practice.  And you will most likely find it helpful to plan it during a time of year that is least convenient and most stressful to take the time off.

This year I put my money into a VACATION during the month that was the least convenient for me and my family to get away.  And guess what!  I did not get depressed this winter.  I did not struggle with chronic clinical anxiety this winter and I did more things this year to serve in my home, work and community than I’ve ever done before.  Why?  Because I made self-care a priority and took time off to renew, rejuvenate and rebalance my body, mind and soul.  This has allowed me to stay focused throughout the year, especially during the months where I struggle most.  The number one natural medicine that all doctors need to prescribe is a vacation.  Consider this today.  You won’t be sorry.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can make self-care a priority, take a look at my RENEWED Program and visit my website at renewedmindbodyspirit.wordpress.com.

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“Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food”

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Intuitive Eating has been my way of life for quite some time now.  I spent most of my life worrying about food and my weight.  In turn, I spent much of my energy counting points or calories, labeling foods as “good” or “bad” and feeling guilt and shame if I were to consume something that was “bad” or not in my calorie or  point range.  So I guess you can say that I was a very restrictive eater.

My very first step with Intuitive Eating was to erase all of the information I learned about food and adhere to principle one, “Reject the diet mentality.”  As I started to do that, I gained weight.  I gained weight as a result of my body’s rejection to the in and outs and ups and downs of dieting my whole life.  I gained weight because I didn’t know how to eat when I was hungry or stop when I was full.  I couldn’t do that because I didn’t even know what being hungry felt like.

My second step with intuitive eating was to learn how to wait until I was truly hungry to eat.  This has been a big challenge.  We are so used to eating at certain meal times that it makes it really hard to do this.  My mind goes into panic mode if it is dinner time, but I am not feeling the hunger cues.  Do I eat or not eat?

I am learning how to tune into my body and really listen to it and better yet learning that I can go against the social norms and not eat when everyone else is eating.  In the end it makes me feel so much better to do this.  I may get asked a few questions during a meal, but it only lasts a minute or two, whereas, if I eat when I am not hungry, then I am left for hours feeling physically awful and mentally and emotionally stressed.

This weekend I am away on a trip with my son’s hockey team.  We took a bus with the team up to Montreal, Canada.  Yup, you heard that right!  TOOK A BUS WITH THE TEAM UP TO MONTREAL, CANADA.  That is a 6 hour drive from home.  I don’t think I really registered what I was getting myself into when I agreed to come.  All of my “safe” planning tools are gone.  We have no food (well, I did bring my own coffee because that is a necessity), we have no car to drive to get food and there is a language barrier.

We got to the hotel around 6:30 last night.  I was not yet hungry because I ate a large sub on the bus at noon along with some pretzels and almonds.  Looking back I can see that I was anxious with the start of the trip and did not tune into my body.  Instead, I shoveled the sub into my mouth to calm my anxious feelings.  The ride was fine; better than I anticipated.

We got to the hotel and the team ordered pizza and wanted to swim.  I sat in room for a few minutes and that’s when it really hit me.  “What the hell did I get myself into and what are we going to do for the next three days?”  I feel bored out of my mind with nothing to do in between the hockey games.  I feel insecure around the other moms who look better than me.  I brought one outfit a day to live in and that is it.  It consists of leggings and sweatshirts and UGGS, something I do not feel very attractive in.  My head is spinning and what I see in the mirror I don’t even want to say out loud.  The only thing to ease this anxiety and boredom is to go to the vending machines, get junk food and eat.  It was then that I realized just how anxious I truly am.

The pizza arrived by 8pm and it looked amazing.  I already ate a few pretzels and finished the nuts, partly due to hunger and partly due to anxiety.  So the questioned remained, do I eat “dinner” (the pizza) or do I call it a night, drink a cup of tea, watch my t.v. show and go to bed?

I thought about my options and the consequences of both.  I am happy to say that I declined the pizza.  It looked amazing, but I knew that number one I was not even hungry.  Number two is that pizza and me is not a good mix late at night.  There is something in it that makes me lay awake all night and makes me super thirsty and also have heartburn.  I need to have pizza during the day if I am going to eat it or early for dinner.

The feelings that flooded in that hour were difficult.  I could feel every bit of discomfort and fear that I worked all my life to avoid.  But the beautiful thing is that it lifted.  I was able to lay in bed with my kids and enjoy them last night. I was not irritable or grumpy because I was not physically uncomfortable.

I went to bed and slept okay last night, much better than I would have if I chose to eat the pizza.   And this morning I feel pretty good.  Most of all, I feel extremely empowered because I realize that I can “honor my feelings without using food.”  I can sit through them and feel them and the anxiety does lift.  I am certain that it will come back today, but I know that I can work through them.  I brought my lavender/chamomile tea for comfort and my computer for writing.  I brought my devotionals to read and I have my biggest comfort in God who is always with me no matter where I go on this earth.  I can do this without using food to get through.  And today, my goal is to eat when I am hungry and enjoy all the restaurants and take out food because it tastes yummy and I don’t eat out all the time.

If I can sit through these feelings, then anybody can.  I am my own worst enemy and my head can be a powerful enemy.  So grateful for what I am learning with the principles of Intuitive Eating.

Gentle Nutrition and Intuitive Eating

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Okay, so I’ve been doing this intuitive eating thing on and off for a few years now.  For those of you who know me, you’ve probably heard my story.  I battled disordered eating since the time I was 8 years old.  It started as overeating that grew quickly into compulsive eating that then spiraled into bulimia as a way to manage and control the weight I gained.  I’ve been on just about every “diet” out there.  I’ve used diet pills, laxatives, and exercise and have even lost weight on and off throughout my years.  Even at my lowest weight (which was still not good enough by the way), I was not happy.  Why?  Because I was exhausted from all the things I needed to do to maintain that weight; the calorie counting, the points counting, the purging, the exercise, the money I would spend on diet foods or expensive shake programs.  It was all just too much!

So one day I discovered Intuitive Eating.  The idea of it sounded like heaven.  Intuitive Eating told me that I could eat whatever I wanted and whenever I wanted.  It sounded like freedom from the bondage I’d been in most of my life.  So I studied it and began practicing the principles, starting with principle one, “Reject the Diet Mentality.”

It took some time to erase old thought patterns that led to restrictive eating, but it worked.   Principle by principle I was able to break free from my old ways of thinking and being.  I was no longer afraid of food.  I enjoyed it and even had self-control when I was around my favorite foods.  This was unheard of for me.

I am not going to lie about my experience.  Instead I am going to be completely honest.  I went from being somewhat overweight on the BMI chart to being on the higher end of overweight on the BMI chart.  I know, I know, Intuitive Eating says  I need to get rid of that stupid BMI chart.  But my old ways kicked in as the weight crept on.  So I was left making a decision between freedom from the bondage to self and food or weight loss.

It was then that I decided that I wanted both.  So I began exploring principle 10, “Gentle Nutrition.”  I read about gentle nutrition in the intuitive eating guide and started restricting within a day.  I went right back to diet mode and found myself within a day overeating and stuffing my face with food when I was not even hungry.  I ate so much that I couldn’t even taste it.  And when I finished, I still wanted more.

That was just yesterday!  

It lasted about two days and then I stopped and decided that I am just not there yet with the gentle nutrition part.  But as I got some support from my Intuitive Eating Community online, I realized that I am infact doing Principle 10.  I am eating nutritiously.  I eat very healthy foods.  I listen to my body when it is hungry.  I stop when I am full and I eat what is satisfying.  When I do this I feel good and free and my energy goes towards things that are relevant rather going toward obsessing over food, weight and my body.  So there it is…I need to just keep on going and keep on learning about Intuitive Eating.  I don’t ever want to go back to dieting.  It makes me crazy and I guess if I am overweight in the end, then I am overweight.

I hang onto the hope that my body will adjust and find it’s way.  But I need to let go of the expectations of what that might look like or tell me on the scale.  So as I leave this blog today, I will not be studying Principle 10.  I will be going back to Principle 3 (Make Peace with Food)  and Principle 8 (Respect Your Body).

If you would like more information about me and my journey with Intuitive Eating, please check out my website at www.mindbodyspiritcounseling.net.  I will be hosting monthly an Intuitive Eating Support Group starting in January 2017!

How to Find Purpose and Meaning in Your Life

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Often times people come to me with feelings of dissatisfaction and lack of fulfillment in their life. They express feeling like something is missing. The following is the most recent chapter in my guide, “Healing Your Relationship with Food and Breaking the Cycle in Your Home.” It explores finding your purpose in life.

Who knew that healing your relationship with food would lead to finding purpose in your life. I’ve talked about purpose throughout this guide. But what do I mean by purpose in life and how does one get there? Both are two very good questions. I believe each person’s purpose is very different. And I also believe each person finds their purpose in a different way and through different circumstances in their life. So how can this chapter help you if your purpose is different from mine? The answer is simple. Take everything you just learned in this guide and apply it to purpose and your purpose will come to you. In this chapter I will show you how I applied the guidelines in this book to help me uncover and live out my purpose.

1. Get real about your story. By writing out my life story I was able to identify my struggles. I was able to acknowledge where I came from and what I believed. I was able to be honest about things I’ve done and how those things impacted my life. But most importantly, I was able to recognize that my story is in the past and is not happening now. Therefore, I no longer need to abuse myself like I did in the past. My story has made me who I am today. I would not have the depth of knowledge regarding food issues if I did not have my story. I would not be able to come out of the mess I was in and I would not be writing this guide for you to read. My story brought me to my purposes in life. I’m not at all saying that everyone who has struggles with food will go on to write a book or work in a field to help others overcome their food issues. I am saying that your story makes you who you are today. It is the storm you have to go through to find strength, courage, wisdom, and faith. Your story is your testimony to others. Your testimony to others is part of your purpose.

2. Stop letting rules control your life and go for it! I lived my life with rule after rule. Rules controlled my eating. Rules controlled who I was. Rules controlled what I believed. Rules controlled how I did my job. Along my journey of healing and learning to live intuitively, I learned that life is not all about rules. I learned the difference between rules and boundaries. Boundaries are necessary to keep people safe and healthy. Boundaries are different for everyone. Rules assume that everyone is the same and that everyone’s body, mind and spirit work the same way. I learned that I need to incorporate healthy boundaries into my life and get rid of all the rules. For example, I used to work in a large mental health counseling agency. For 10 years I practiced counseling under the rules of the company and the code of ethics I was taught. I left my job in community mental health to open a small private practice where I could be free to express myself intuitively and help people the way my spirit was guiding me to . I have boundaries in my private practice that allow me to keep both myself and my clients safe, but they are not the same for every person. My boundaries differ from client to client. I started a life coaching program to allow these boundaries to be different and looser for those who needed different supports. I started writing about myself and my life experience to teach and help others. I started to express myself in ways I did not know existed for me.

3. Eat intuitively. Month three explored intuitive eating. I found that as I began to eat intuitively, I began to tap into my intuition. I learned how to listen to my body not only when it came to eating. I learned that my body, mind and spirit were also guiding me in other ways too. Intuitive eating led me to learn about intuitive living. When I eat certain foods, I do not feel well. When I move certain ways I do not feel well. I learned to eat and move in a way that feels good for my body, mind and spirit. I apply this theory to purpose as well. Before I opened up private practice I worked independently for a few months in an occupational therapy practice with kids. The kids were very young. Many of them were under 5. This made me very uncomfortable as it was just not my thing. The environment I was working in was not what I visioned either. It created a lot of anxiety for me and a bad feeling in my stomach. I was not feeling alive or full of life when I went to work. I was feeling anxious and stressed. I was beginning to doubt myself and talk down to myself. I learned that my intuition was trying to tell me through my feelings that this was not the place for me. I left there and shortly after had another vision to go out on my own an open my private practice. It has been the most amazing experience. The feelings I get each day are completely different. I feel alive and fulfilled most days. I feel right about where I am. My spirit feels bright. I’ve helped many women and men find their life purpose. The way I do that is by guiding them to tap into their intuition. Many of them have left their jobs to open practices of their own usually doing something that is helping others. One woman I worked with opened a health club to help other women learn how to take care of their bodies. One woman is currently working toward her vision of opening a sober house and putting together programs for families of addicts. She also has a vision of incorporating spiritual life coaching. Another woman is working toward opening a massage therapy practice and incorporating her skills in holistic health. One woman that came to me was already living out her passion regarding her job. She continued to do her job grooming animals, but was able to find purpose in other ways by becoming part of a new church environment and being a testimony for others. So you don’t have to leave your current job to find purpose. However, most people on this path do leave behind jobs they were not happy in and relationships that did not fulfill them.

4. Do not give the inner critic power. This is a big one. During my journey of learning to live intuitively, I battled a nasty inner critic. Infact, I think I learned that much of my problem came from this inner critic thinking. It took a few years to really learn how to coach myself. In the beginning of my journey the inner critic had much more power over me because it was all I knew. I did not know about the inner coach. But once I began practicing coaching myself I became more rational and much braver. I was able to let go of fear. The inner critic’s role is create fear to keep us from living out our purpose. Fear says, “What if I fail?” The coach says, “But what if you fly?” The biggest thing I learned and the most powerful thing I share with clients is that if you truly follow a path of intuitive living, you cannot and will not fail. There is one of two things that is true when faced with a vision of purpose. The first is that your spirit is guiding you to live out purpose and will provide you with all the knowledge and resources to carry that purpose out. The second is that you have a vision but you find that it was is not spirit led. If this is the case, you still cannot fail. I learned that God can turn anything and I mean anything into something for His greater good. I will give you an example. I was involved with a very codependent and unhealthy relationship. But at the time I did not know it was unhealthy. Infact, I thought for sure it was spirit led because we had so much in common spiritually. We were on similar paths. But there were some major red flags that warned me that it was unhealthy. A new direction and path evolved for me as this relationship fell apart. Lots of growth, wisdom, knowledge and this great loss led me spiritually down a completely different path that I would have never found if I did not know this person or have this pain of losing her. I do not believe that God wanted me to be hurt in this relationship, as He put many signs out there and my spirit warned me with my feelings many times that it felt bad. But He did turn my grief into an amazing path full of purpose. As I began to listen to my spirit guide, I began to let go of this relationship and build stronger healthier relationships. I was also led to my private practice and teaching self-care to women. Things are falling into place as I continue to follow my intuition.

5. Surrender your will and your life to God. This is another very difficult step to take. True surrender took me almost 15 years to understand. I was 21 years old when I began my spiritual journey. I studied step three in the twelve steps for 15 years. Step three says to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him. I prayed and beg to finally surrender my food issues to God. But I kept taking my will back. I just didn’t get it. One day I became completely powerless. It was the time in my life where I had nothing to give and nothing left in me. I was at my absolute bottom. It was in that moment that I had no choice but to surrender everything. I had no control and I knew it. I still try to take my will back today. But I am learning to be more aware of it when I do. I understand life on a whole new level today. I believe that my life is not mine. My body is not mine. My children and family are not really mine. They are gifts from a power greater than me. I was chosen to have these things in my life. My husband, my children, my house, my body, my private practice. They are all temporary and they are gifts and blessings I received. Each of them serve a purpose in my life to give me strength, hope, love, inspiration and so on. But they are not mine. They are mine temporarily for me to live in and live with. They are entrusted in me to take care of. They are resources I can use to live out my purpose. Looking at my life this way helps me to surrender each and every day. I do believe there is a much greater purpose in life. That purpose being eternal life after death. Eternal freedom in a world in which we cannot understand or begin to comprehend. But while we are here on earth, we have earthly purpose to do good and have an impact on the world and impact on what that eternal world will look like. During my prayer time, I tell God that I will do ANYTHING He asks of me. Being willing to do anything is true surrender. Through living out this prayer and surrendering my will to God, I am challenged to make changes that scare me, but I am blessed with more than I could ever want or imagine. I am blessed with true fulfillment and great peace and joy.

6. Practice Prayer, Meditation and Yoga. This one speaks for itself. Another mantra I live by today is “pray, listen, obey”. As I shared in the chapter on prayer, meditation and yoga, it was through these behaviors that I was able to connect with my intuition. It was through these actions that I was able to feel the light within. I am told by many that they are not able to hear their spirit speak to them. Many are confused about what it sounds like or what it feels like. Please do not misunderstand me. I do not hear voices in my head. It is not like that at all. Through prayer, meditation and yoga I am given thoughts and visions. When I get the thought or vision I pray and meditate more about them. Often times I will get feelings associated with these thoughts and visions. If it is a spirit led vision and I get a bright positive feeling. If it is not spirit led, then I usually get a dark yucky feeling. Sometimes I don’t get a feeling at all and the vision goes away. So I have two guidelines I follow when determining whether or not to act on a vision. The first is to assess whether it gives you a bright feeling or a dark feeling. And the second guideline is the 24 hour rule. When my son played football for the first time, his coach sat all the parents down and told them about the 24 hour rule. He explained that throughout the season there would be times when parents will get upset with how the games are going and will be tempted to gossip to each other or complain to the coaches. He discouraged the gossiping completely and asked that the parents give their thoughts and feelings 24 hours before sending out a nasty email to the coaches. This rule really hit home for me and helped me learn to sit with something for at least 24 hours. Today I may sit with something even longer. Often times my vision will go away and not come back. The visions that persist and get stronger are the ones to pursue.

7. Allow Yourself to Feel and Embrace Changes. If you are on a spiritual and intuitive path seeking purpose, you will find that change happens regularly and sometimes even rapidly. In month seven I spoke about the stages of change. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been through these stages, but I can tell you it happens a lot and very regularly. The biggest thing I learned regarding these stages is that I was not allowing myself to go through these stages before and I was therefore getting stuck. Once I began to allow myself to feel all the feelings associated with change, I was able to embrace them, feel them and move on. My path and purpose has changed and evolved so much over the years. My purpose 20 years ago was much different from my vision today. I do believe it was part of my purpose and plan to work in community mental health. I know this because I loved it. I felt fulfilled for 10 years. But eventually I began to crave more and that purpose changed. My feelings began to change at work and I began to have duller and darker feelings. It was then that I knew I needed to move on and seek fulfillment again. Your purpose will evolve if you allow it to. It will not be the same forever. I always tell my clients that today I am working in private practice and I absolutely love it. I have no idea where I will be in 1 year. But I do know that if I continue to live intuitively, my life will continue to evolve and I will be blessed more and more.

8. Practice Intuitive Movement to get positive energy flowing and unblock toxic negative energy. Movement has been a very important tool on my journey. For me my moments of intuitive movement have been some of my greatest moments of clarity. People have a hard time believing me when I share that I hear God the most when I am exercising at the gym. I truly believe that if we seek intuitive movement it will help us to unblock stagnant and toxic energies in our body, mind and spirit. I believe that intuitive movement helps my spirit guide to move freely through me. My movement has become part of my meditation. My movement is not always slow. I enjoy running, spinning and weight lifting. I do not do these things to lose weight, but more because it is what my body craves. Through these activities I am able to open my body mind and spirit and get positive energy flowing. My body works better with movement.

9. Build a spiritual and healthy support system. I shared in month 9 that I lost many relationships through my journey of learning how to live intuitively. But I also shared that I was able to build a support system full of spiritually wise men and women who encourage, support and challenge me to seek my purpose. Healthy support is necessary when seeking and living your life purpose. I realize now that although my friends and family love me, many of them are unfortunately not on a spiritual path. Many of them fear change and are very close minded. Those people were keeping my thoughts stuck. They were feeding my inner critic and keeping me from making changes in my life. It wasn’t until I let go of those people, places and things that I was able to fully embrace my purpose. I replaced negative relationships with positive ones that foster growth and change.

10. Clean up the amount of toxic chemicals in your life. The last chapter I spoke about was truly being honest with what I am putting into my body and letting go of toxic substances. This was very important for me especially since I failed so many times at achieving this goal. I looked at food as a good and bad and today I look at food as a fuel that has effects on my body, mind and spirit. Man has changed our food so much through the years. It is becoming more and more toxic and physically changes the brain. As I began to clean up my food by eating more and more whole natural foods, I began to think clearer. My body began to work better. My spirit began to connect more and on a deeper level. I believe that the chemicals in the foods we eat and the environment we live destroy not only our natural cues, but also creates a fog in us that keeps us blinded and living in the dark. The cleaner I eat, the less stagnant I feel and the more energy flows through me.

I am going to sum this chapter up into 10 guidelines for spiritual growth.

1. Your story is your testimony.
2. Boundaries not rules.
3. Your body is a vessel so take care of it.
4. If you listen to what everybody thinks you should do and do what everybody wants you to do, then you will stay stagnant.
5. Be willing to do anything.
6. Pray, listen, obey.
7. Embrace change.
8. Move your body to unblock negative energy and promote positive energy.
9. Surround yourself with positive people, places and things that encourage and support you and detach from negative ones.
10. Be one with nature.

Feel free to write them on an index card and put them in a place you will remember. You can apply them to your journey with intuitive eating and also with finding your life purpose. Remember, each person’s life purpose is different. And your purpose can evolve and change over time. What may have been your purpose 10 years ago may no longer be your purpose today. But know that you are here for a reason. Your passions are yours for a reason. You get bright feelings and dark feelings for a reason. When you are living your purpose you fill fulfilled and full of joy. You were chosen to be here and you are equipped with everything you need to seek and live out your life purpose. You cannot and will not fail.

If you would like to explore your purpose further or would like to learn more about how I can help you overcome your unhealthy relationship with food, please check out my website at http://www.mindbodyspiritcounseling.net. I offer a 12 week online program using my guide “Healing Your Relationship with Food” which can be purchased on Amazon.com. I also offer one on one life coaching and individual counseling services. Don’t forget to “LIKE” Mind, Body, Spirit Counseling on Facebook!!

10 Ways to Help Your Struggling Child When the Special Education System Fails

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Within the last month, I’ve had 3 meetings with special education teams in three different schools for three different children. Two of the children are my own and one is a current client of mine. My client is a 7th grader with severe learning disorder, ADHD and dyslexia. I requested her meeting because she is verbalizing stress at school and I wanted to implement a stress management plan for her to utilize her coping skills with hopes that it would help her with focus at school. The meeting was held with very specific guidelines. The school informed me that I would not be allowed to discuss her educational needs during this meeting that I would only be able to discuss her stress and mental health issues. I was not very pleased with this response from them as I find it very hard to discuss the mental health concerns without addressing the underlying causes for the mental health concerns which are related to her learning disabilities. With that being said, the meeting was successful and they agreed to meet with me to discuss my educational concerns for my client at another meeting.

My daughter is 8 and was just diagnosed with auditory processing disorder. I requested her meeting because she was beginning to show signs of school refusal, anxiety and depression at home. My goal of the meeting was to request academic testing because I was questioning a processing disorder. The first 90% of her meeting was complete and utter frustration as the school questioned me about my daughter’s symptoms and told me they were home issues and that I should get her set up with an outside counselor. Once again, completely dismissing the fact that my daughter only has these symptoms during the school week and as a direct result of her struggles with school. By the end of the meeting they finally agreed to test my daughter based off her lack of reading progress.

My son is 7 with a diagnosis of speech and language impairment and sensory processing disorder. He has an IEP at school for speech only. I requested his meeting as a means of being proactive for next year. My concerns were that due to his sensory processing disorder (which the school refuses to recognize), he benefits from movement and sensory breaks in the classroom. I wanted this simply stated in his IEP. I was not requesting any change in service, but simply a note to inform other teachers that my son benefits from movement breaks. This was denied because the teacher stated that he is “accessing the curriculum just fine”. She stated that “all the children get movement breaks and all the children benefit from them”. Because she would not support my simple request, he was denied this additional note in his IEP plan. I left that meeting hysterically crying in frustration with the special education system.

I am still in the learning stages of what is and is not allowed with school special education. My newest findings is that of all the diagnosis listed above, three of them are not recognized as learning disorders. This makes the process of getting adequate help for a struggling child a complete nightmare. At least that has been my experience. I am also learning that the school does not legally need to accept outside documentation from doctors and other professionals even if it is ethically in the child’s best interest. Legally a school is responsible to provide accommodations if and only if the child is having trouble “accessing the curriculum”. What I am also finding is that often times the school’s testing and observations show nothing while outside testing is much more detailed. I finally received my daughter’s academic testing which showed absolutely nothing in terms of her struggles. All of her testing for learning and processing disorders were negative. The only recommendation they made was for her to seek outside professional counseling. Her outside testing done with an audiologist showed severe auditory processing delay/disorder just as I suspected. I have her meeting this upcoming week to see if this school is going to accept this diagnosis and give her an IEP or 504 plan with the accommodations recommended by the audiologist. Based on passed experience I am not feeling hopeful.

With all of this said, I am still finding ways to help my children and my clients. I am finding ways to work around the gaps in the special education system. I am finding that complaining about it and fighting with the school is not always the most beneficial. In my experience it has taken a lot of energy from me and gained little to no results. So instead I am finding ways to raise and teach children how to understand their disabilities and advocate for themselves. I am finding that when the child approaches the teacher or counselor with their needs, they are more likely to be met. I am learning that building verbal skills both receptive and expressive language is most important. My plan on moving forward with very little support for my children and some of my clients is to continue to advocate for them by keeping communication open with their teachers and teaching children how to express their needs. The following are some ways I am doing this.

1. Advocate for a specific type of teacher for your child. At the end of each school year, I write up a letter to the principal with my child’s diagnosis and symptoms giving a brief description of what he/she struggles with. I then state the type of teacher my child is most successful with. This might include a teacher who is sensory friendly, a teacher who understands auditory processing disorder, or maybe a teacher who is willing to take the time to learn about my child’s diagnosis. It may include a teacher who is structured and organized. I make sure to keep the letter simple making sure to get my most important points across so it is easy to read. This has been a very successful intervention.

2. Educate your child about his or her diagnosis. What and how you choose to discuss your child’s diagnosis is up to you, but I find that it is very helpful to be open and honest about a child’s testing and results. You can start from the moment your child begins testing by making sure they understand why they are being pulled out of class and what the teachers are doing and why. Once you get the results both inside and outside of school begin talking with your child about them. I use children’s books. You can order tons of books on most disorders from amazon.com. They have tons of books for kids to learn about all kinds of processing and learning disorders. Most of this books talk about symptoms of anxiety and school and how to cope with it. They are great tools. This will give your child education and verbal skills to be able to make connections with how he or she is feeling and experiencing. It has been my experience that once a child has the verbal skills they are able to communicate to you what is going on with them.

3. Make an appointment with your child each week to discuss school issues. My kids love these “appointments”. They learned very quickly what they are for and use them very well. You can start by explaining what the purpose of the appointments are. During my appointments with kids I ask very simple questions about school. I ask about all areas of school, social, emotional and academic. We even talk about the bus. I ask the same questions each week because repetition is proven to be effective in learning. You may want to even have a generic format you follow that will become more natural as you continue this process.

4. Share your child’s concerns with the teacher. Once your child begins to express his or her worries and concerns you can start by sharing them with the teacher. Before sharing information with a child’s teacher, I always ask the child if he or she is okay with me sharing his or her concerns with the teacher. Most of the time the answer is yes. If it is no and I really think the teacher should know about it I am usually able to convince the child to say yes by simply being honest with them about why I think the teacher should know. If a child says no and I am okay with it, then I respect their answer and follow up with them the next day or session to make sure it has not gotten worse. It is important that the child feel respected and heard. It is important that the child learn trust.

5. Be mindful of how you express your thoughts and feelings to your child’s teacher. Just a small tip…it has been my experience that having a positive relationship with the teacher is more effective than a negative one. I made the mistake of expressing my frustrations to my son’s teacher this year. She was the same teacher my daughter had the year before. She insisted that my daughter struggled with confidence and nothing more. She did not respect my concerns as a parent or as a professional. She turned out to be wrong. So when it came time to advocate for my son, I immediately expressed my frustration to her and basically told her that I did not value her opinions. While I stand by how I feel, expressing this in such a way did not help my son at all. I watched her completely dismiss my son’s issues regardless of tons of documentation stating what his issues are. Your child’s teacher holds all the power when it comes to making changes in your child’s plan. Having your child’s teacher’s support can make all the difference in the world. What I learned from this experience is that teachers and school personnel are human beings with issues too. I think sometimes teachers and school staff take things personally and don‘t know how to deal with this so in turn they become defensive and sometimes even stubborn. While I recognize this I cannot change this nor is the teacher ever going to admit this. I probably came off somewhat attacking and now the relationship is strained which makes it very hard for me to advocate for my child and get my child’s needs met. I am finding that approaching a teacher in a positive way is much more beneficial for your child in the end.

6. Teach your child how to advocate for themselves. Unfortunately I’ve had the experience 9 out of 10 times in which the teacher or school team will tell me that they are not seeing stress in a child. I often times leave meetings feeling like they are trying to put the issues on home rather recognize that the child is simply masking their emotions. Children learn to mask their emotions as a means of survival. They fear standing out, being notice and made fun of. I always encourage the child to talk with the teacher or guidance counselor about their concerns. It means so much more coming from the child than the parent. I offer to make arrangements for the child to meet with the teacher by emailing the teacher letting them know the child would like to meet. This usually helps a ton. If the child is not quite ready to advocate, I continue to share the concerns until he or she is ready. You can even offer to make a meeting after school and assist your child in talking with the teacher. This process starts off slowly, but as your child becomes more confident and feels more supported it becomes much easier for him or her to share their feelings and concerns. Most of the time the experience will be a positive one which will reinforce the child.

7. Implement a stress management plan with your child’s teacher. Once your child is able to express his or her concerns to the teacher, help the child and teacher formulate a stress management plan in the classroom. This can be anything from taking short breaks to having accommodations made in the classroom. If accommodations are made in the classroom and they are successful, this gives you the upper hand to request a 504 plan for the following year. You now have the proof you need that shows the school that your child has been successful with the accommodations. You now also have a positive relationship with the teacher who is more than likely to be supportive.

8. Get your child involved with an after school activity that promotes wellness and builds self confidence. It is very important to choose an activity that will promote health and wellness, but also build your child’s confidence and self esteem. My daughter was involved with dance for years until we finally decided to take her out and try something else because she was struggling with processing the moves and music due to her auditory processing disorder. She was not feeling successful with dance and kids were starting to notice and pick on her. We took her out and signed her up for martial arts which is done in a group setting, but also a very individual activity. Her teacher is phenomenal and very intuitive when it comes to children, especially children with special needs. I’ve noticed a tremendous improvement in her confidence. I am most likely to recommend martial arts over any other activity for children with needs. It is however, important that you find the right instructor and studio for your child.

9. Get a therapist or coach for your child. If you feel like you are struggling to complete the above suggestions with your child, get help. A therapist can help assist you in this process and can also be a wonderful advocate for your child. It has been my experience that the schools are more likely to take input and suggestions from a child’s therapist than his/her own parents. When a therapist gets involved it becomes a medical issue in which the school is responsible for putting attention to.

10. TAKE CARE OF YOU! Most important advice as always is to make sure you as the parent are taking care of you. It is easy to put your health aside for your child. I find the process of dealing with advocating for my child be physically and emotionally exhausting which is why I run self-care groups for women. You are no good to your child if you are not mentally and physically prepared to deal with the stress and challenges that come with advocating for your child. Join a support group or talk with a therapist or life coach who can support you and encourage you to make sure your needs are met.

These are just a few things I do with my kids and my clients to help them at school when I feel the school is failing them. If you or someone you know is struggling to be heard or is feeling lost in the education process, please consider attending one of my upcoming workshops or make a life coaching appointment with me. You can learn more about my services at http://www.mindbodyspiritcounseling.net. Please feel free to contact me with questions or concerns. Don’t forget to “LIKE” https://www.facebook.com/mindbodyspiritcounseling on Facebook for up to date information and resources.

Is Your Child Falling Through the Cracks at School?

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If you have a child with social, emotional, or academic concerns you may want to read this. I am a mother of three beautiful and amazing children. All three are unique in their own ways. I am also a social worker who recently opened up private practice so I can share my knowledge and experience with others in a more personable and different way. I have over 10 years of experience in community mental health with children and adolescents and 10 years experience as a mother of three children with unique special needs in the areas of social, emotional and academic. So one could say I am fairly experienced in the area. I’ve attended many special education meetings at school both as a parent and as a professional. I work hard and love to collaborate with school staff to help provide supports and accommodations to children with all needs. Along the way I have met some amazing educators. With that being said, I have also had my fair share of struggles with educators. I want to take a moment to share what a struggle it has been both professionally and personally to get the needs of these children met. There are many thoughts I have on why this is. One thing I learned in the last several years is that teachers and school personnel do not have an adequate understanding of some of the mental health and educational disorders out there. Infact, I was told at one meeting when I inquired about an auditory processing disorder, that the school does not have the means to appropriately test for an auditory processing disorder. When information was presented to schools and counselors, I found that they did not even understand what this type of disorder is and how it can impact a child’s learning socially, emotionally and academically if needs are not met. In my experience this has been true for most processing disorders and also for children struggling with ADD and ADHD, executive functioning and sensory processing disorder. I also found many of them unwilling to listen and acknowledge information presented to them. I got many responses dismissing my arguments because “it was not impacting the child’s learning”. I am not saying that this is true for all teachers and school personnel, but I found it to be true for a large majority. The biggest struggle I discovered is that if your child is not a behavior problem, then they can slip through the cracks very easily.
I am currently working with a 7th grade girl who cannot read and write a full sentence. She is in the 7th grade and her school continues to push her through the system despite efforts to have her placed in an academic environment that is more equipped to educate her properly. I work with kids who are severely depressed and feeling discouraged and hopeless at school. As I dig deeper with them, I learn that they are struggling with learning disabilities that have gone undiagnosed and unrecognized by the school. Parents find the battle with schools exhausting and hopeless and often times give up as a result.

I have dealt with many schools who do not return emails or phone messages unless hounded by a professional. I contacted one school regarding a client of mine four times in one week before finally receiving a return call the following week. I am not one to give up and I don’t go down without a fight so it makes it difficult for them to avoid me.

Unfortunately I am feeling beaten down and frustrated both as a professional and as a parent. To make matters worse, when you go into a school to inform the school that you recognize concerns with your child based off the work coming home, they sit you in a room with 8 of them and one of you. They proceed to look at you and ask “So tell me what is going on at home?” I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when they ask this. I’ve been in meetings with testing done to prove that there are multiple things going on with a child and still turned away because a teacher can say that “it is not affecting the student academically”. Can you tell I am fed up?
I am writing because I know there are so many other parents out there feeling lost when it comes to finding answers and support for their children. I have learned through the years that there is a very specific and fine process one must go through in order to get their child’s needs met. I decided that it is my mission to educate families who are interested in learning more about how they can advocate and get their child’s needs met at school by hosting workshops. I also decided to write a few ideas down for parents to guide them in beginning the process of getting help for their child or in my case children.

1. Learn how to recognize the signs of struggle. This is a pretty easy one in my opinion. I knew my daughter was struggling because she would cry during homework and tell us she didn’t understand. Sometimes she would shut down before even trying. She would cry about going to school the next day. She became withdrawn and lost her appetite on several occassions. She lost sleep at night. Other kids struggle behaviorally and will act out at home or school. If your child is acting out or showing signs of anxiety, depression or increased stress during the school year, you have every right to be concerned. Do not ignore these signs.
2. Begin by asking questions about your child’s progress in the classroom through email. Using email allows you to begin a paper trail of who, when, where, what, and why you are concerned. It allows you to track when you emailed a teacher, what information you received or did not receive, how often you were concerned etc. Be open and honest with the teacher making sure to inform them of your concerns with your child, what you are seeing at home, what you are doing at home to accommodate your child’s needs.
3. Do not be afraid to be pushy. I struggled with this for years. I hate being a pushy person. I am a people pleaser and I want people to like me so telling a teacher how I felt or that I disagreed was not easy. I was always appropriate with how I communicated, but I became a person who was able to tell a teacher when I was frustrated and did not feel that my child’s needs were being met. I had an experience at one time where I got an email back from the principal stating that I was no longer allowed to email the teacher because it was causing too much stress. I felt terrible, but I needed to be heard. Good news is that the principal was able to meet my child’s needs.
4. Listen to your gut. For 2 years I listened to teachers tell me that there was nothing wrong with my daughter and that I needed to give her more time. Well I finally decided to listen to my gut and take her for testing on what I thought was an auditory processing disorder. It concluded that my daughter did infact struggle significantly with auditory processing which was why she was struggling in the classroom and beginning to show signs of high anxiety and depression by third grade. I also had to listen to my gut in regards to advocating for my children and clients in other areas where school insisted there was no issue. 9 out of 10 times my gut was right.
5. Request academic testing through school. If you feel that your child is struggling and feel that he or she may have a learning disorder of some kind, always request academic testing. You want to put it in writing for the school. If you do this, the school by law has to provide a meeting to discuss your concerns in a timely manner. If agreed upon, the school then has a very specific amount of time to get the testing and meetings complete.
6. Request a copy of the results from testing before you attend the meeting to go over the results. Special education meetings can be extremely overwhelming and intimidating especially if you are new to learning about educational needs. Take some time to review the results. Share them with your child’s PCP before the meeting.
7. Get your child’s Primary Care Provider (PCP) involved. Always make a call to your child’s pediatrician and discuss any concerns you have with him or her. Typically they will help guide you and if they are really good they will even help to advocate for your child to have testing done. When testing is completed, get a copy and share with your child’s PCP before the meeting to get feedback on what your child’s PCP wants to do with regards to moving forward.
8. Don’t be afraid to get a therapist of life coach who specializes in child development and educational needs. This can be a support for both you and your child. I think parents are sometimes afraid to take their child to a therapist because they feel that their child will feel like there is something wrong with them. This is never usually the case. 99% of all children I’ve worked with feel relieved when a therapist gets involved and helps to advocate for them. A therapist has education in educational needs and can help to build accommodations and supports for your child. A therapist or coach can educate parents on what can be done to help your child and can also shed some light on what is going on with your child. Often times a therapist is the one to recognize the disorder in the first place. If you choose to have your child seen by a therapist, ask the therapist to write a letter with diagnosis and suggestions that may benefit your child in the classroom.
9. Get outside testing done. There are so many areas of processing where school is not equipped to do adequate testing on many processing disorders. In my experience outside testing is more accurate and assesses for a wider variety of issues. Outside testing allows for more information regarding what is going on with your child. I also feel that the accommodations recommended by an outside provider is more detailed and specific.
10. Learn as much about your child’s disorder or condition as possible. You can Google just about anything these days. Once your child is diagnosed with a specific area of dysfunction, do anything and everything possible to learn more about it. Often times you can learn about the diagnosis online as well as get recommendations for your child. There are also agencies around that will answer questions you have. You can learn more by contacting the department of education as well.

11. Get your child re-evaluated every year. If you have outside testing done for a processing disorder such as ADD, ADHD, executive functioning, sensory processing, auditory or visual processing, have your child re-evaluated each year. This evaluator will become a great asset in your child’s IEP or 504 planning. Yearly evaluation is also a great way to continue to learn about your child’s disability and it is also a great way to track progress or lack of.

12. Make sure all you child’s teachers are aware of his/her IEP/504 plan. At the start of each school year I always recommend that parents email a copy of their child’s school plan to each teacher who will be working with that child. I also encourage parents to request a team meeting with the special ed team and teachers to make sure everyone is on the same page regarding accommodating the child’s needs. If you request a meeting they have to give it to you.

13. Communicate regularly with your child and make sure he/she understands what they are allowed to do at school. I make weekly appointments with each of my kids for 30 minutes to allow them time to discuss concerns they have about school. At first it was like pulling teeth, but now they know what the half hour is for and I cannot get them to stop talking. They love meeting and have so much to say. This is great opportunity to educate them about their disability and needs and encourage them to become an active participant in getting their needs met.
14. Take care of yourself. The biggest reason why kids fall through the cracks in the school system is due to lack of follow through from parents. Most often I see parents get beaten down and discouraged with the education system and I see them give up. I find that I too have moments where I feel this way and let go of the fight for several months only to find my child regress. I learned that I am my child’s biggest and most constant advocate. In order for me to stay strong and secure with myself I need to make sure I have the right supports around me and I am taking care of me first. It’s like they say on an airplane, “put your mask on first before putting your child’s on”. The same is true when fighting for your child’s rights and needs. You must be healthy and strong to endure the battle.

If you or someone you know is struggling to be heard or is feeling lost in the education process, please consider attending one of my upcoming workshops or make a life coaching appointment with me. You can learn more about my services at http://www.mindbodyspiritcounseling.net. Please feel free to contact me with questions or concerns. Don’t forget to “LIKE” https://www.facebook.com/mindbodyspiritcounseling on Facebook for up to date information and resources.

12 Lifestyle Changes I Implemented into my Life to Overcome Anxiety Naturally

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I recently wrote an article about how to overcome anxiety with 4 steps:

1. Embrace the anxiety

2. Surrender the issue or situation

3. Trust that it will be dealt with

4. Let it go

I said that I would write a follow up article on what you can do to make this process easier and part of your every day life with each and every situation.

I know that it is easier said than done to simply embrace, surrender, trust and let go. And for most of us it does not come naturally. For me it took many years to understand how to truly surrender. I knew what it meant, but I had no idea how to do it. Same thing with trusting, embracing and letting go. I knew what they meant and I could tell someone else what they should do but I will be honest, I truly struggled in my own life with being able to do it.

It wasn’t until I got completely desperate to find alternative ways of coping; healthier ways of coping with stress and anxiety that I learned the meaning of those words. Understanding and doing did not happen over night. It happened as the result of several lifestyle changes that I slowly implemented into my life.

I am a very busy woman and it was very difficult for me to do at first, mostly because I did not want to put the time and effort into doing them. But what I found was that once I started implementing these things into my life, like anything, I couldn’t imagine my life without doing them. The following are lifestyle changes you can make to improve your ability to embrace your emotions, surrender your emotions, trust that they will be taken care of and lastly let go of the negative emotions.

1. Talk about what is going on with someone you trust. The first step I took was to open up and talk to someone about my worries, fears, concerns etc. I am not someone who likes to open up to others about my problems. I am not used to doing this. I am the one who listens to others and helps others. Reaching out and trusting another person with my emotions was very difficult. I feared judgment and criticism. I feared rejection. I found that some people did judge and criticize me and some even rejected me, but some did not. Judgment, criticism, and rejection hurt. But it was through this process that I learned who my real friends were vs. who weren’t. Also by talking about what was going on I was able to get some great feedback as well as someone bringing my thoughts back to reality. Often times anxiety is a cluster of irrational thoughts. Having a trusted person to talk to helped me to put the thoughts into perspective and be more realistic. This person can be a friend or it can be a professional or even both. The more supports you have to listen the better.

2. Meditate. This was a very hard lifestyle change for me to practice and learn. I am not someone who can sit still for long periods of time. My mind races fast and I am always on the go. I thought I did better that way. It wasn’t until I attended my first couple of yoga classes that I learned how to sit and be present in the moment. I learned how to sit with emotions. I learned how to be mindful in the moment. I learned how to train my brain to stay in the moment rather worry about the future. I learned how to be still. By practicing quiet meditation it allows for thoughts to come into the mind. Thoughts that promote change. Often times some of my best changes come from an idea I got during a quiet meditation time.

3. Practice Yoga. As I said above, yoga taught me how to sit and be present and still. It also taught me how to connect to my body not just my mind. It taught me how to recognize internal signs within my body such as when I am hungry, tired, thirsty, cold, hot, uncomfortable, etc. Yoga helped me to relax. There are specific positions in yoga which helped me to surrender and also to let go. Some yoga postures can make you feel vulnerable, but once I began practicing them in a class setting, I slowly learned how to overcome this fear of judgment and criticism. I learned how to sit with feeling vulnerable and I learned how to surrender and let go of those feelings in class.

4. Breathe. Such a simple technique to learn and do. Yet if you think about it, we do not breathe properly throughout the day. Our breaths are tense and shallow and rapid much of the time due to the busy demands of every day life. Learning how to really sit and breath properly changes brain chemistry and releases chemicals that promote relaxation.

5. Eat healthy foods that nourish your body and mind. I bet it sounds strange to think that eating healthy has anything to do with anxiety. Well I learned one summer that it does. During my most difficult time I experienced severe anxiety accompanied by panic and insomnia. I went to see a holistic doctor who encouraged me to go on a whole foods diet for 6 weeks then slowly incorporate the foods back into my diet. I did this and was absolutely amazed at the results. I learned so much about food and my body. Certain foods affected my mood. Certain foods triggered headaches and body aches. Certain foods made it difficult for me to sleep. I did incorporate all foods back into my diet, but I did change how I ate them, when I ate them and how much I ate them. I limit the foods that cause me problems. I am very aware of how I feel when I choose to eat them and I know that if I am feeling emotionally imbalanced it may mean that I need to clean up my food a bit.

6. Take vitamins and supplements. Certain vitamins can help with anxiety. I learned that B12, Calcium Magnesium, Vitamin D, Fish Oil, and a good whole foods multivitamin can be very beneficial to promoting stress relief and reducing cortisol levels. There are also several herbal supplements and teas on the market that can help as well. Consult with a holistic coach, nurse or doctor for more information on what is right for your body and mind.

7. Sleep. This is a tough one if you are struggling with anxiety and racing thoughts. The above lifestyle changes made it possible for me to be able to get the sleep I needed to stay balanced. I also learned that in order to ensure I get adequate sleep I needed to have a schedule. Our bodies are naturally programmed to settle down and unwind between the hours or 6 and 10pm. Our body produce chemicals such as melatonin in order to promote sleep. I now know that if I stay up too late or stimulate my mind later in the evening then I will not fall asleep at a decent time.

8. Pray. Yes Pray. I went through some very difficult moments in my life and am very blessed to have found a higher power through those challenges. Exploring spirituality was very difficult yet very awesome at the same time. People have different beliefs and thoughts about spirituality. I am not here to tell you what you should believe in, but I do want to say that by exploring spirituality and believing in something it can have a magnificent effect on how we manage and deal with emotions such as fear and anxiety. After exploring my spirituality I began to implement prayer into my life and it has completely changed my world. I no longer fear the unknown. I no longer need to control life. I can let it go knowing that there is something greater out there in control.

9. Focus on your purpose in life. I believe we all have purpose in this world. I learned that by trusting and focusing on that purpose is the key to finding a life of love and happiness. As I expressed above, I am not in control of the outcome. If I am anxious about something, I focus on my purpose. If my purpose is not clear, I go back to talking to someone I trust, meditation, yoga, breath, and prayer until the answer become clear. The answers always come in time. I learned that they may not always be what I want or how I want them or when I want them, but they do come and the outcome is always better than I ever imagined if I focus on my purpose rather control.

10. Journal or Write. I hated the idea of writing. I never had the time. Well I finally started doing it and I am addicted. I would write letters to the person I was struggling with (sometimes I gave them, sometimes I did not). I wrote answers to questions in self help workbooks or exercises. I wrote my thoughts and feelings in a journal. I even found people through self help programs that I could check in and write to daily. I did not do all of these every day. But I do write most days. This helps with the embrace, surrender and let go processes.

11. Listen to your body and mind and trust your instincts. The biggest challenge I faced and continue to struggle with today is listening to and trusting my instincts. I believe that we have the answers inside of us. Our body’s’ intuitively know what to do and how to do it. As a therapist and life coach my job is not to tell you how to live your life. My job is to help you connect with yourself because your answers are inside of you. I believe that our society and culture has taught us the opposite. It teaches us to resist our instincts and needs. Our culture encourages us to keep going when our instincts scream at us to stop. If you have anxiety, try asking yourself what is going on in your life? How does your body feel? Does your lifestyle allow for you to take care of your needs or does it encourage you to neglect them? If you answer yes to these questions, I am not surprised that you are experiencing anxiety. Listen to your body. Make the changes in your life you need to make.

12. Put healthy boundaries up with those who are not there to support you. This was another tough change I made. This was definitely a very painful process. I call it “cleaning out the closet”. I learned through this process of self care that there were some people in my life who were not capable of understanding, accepting and supporting me. I learned that in order for me to be able to move forward in my journey of health and wellness, I had to stop trying to please everyone around me. I learned that I had to believe in myself and keep going forward. I limited my time with unsupportive and toxic people. Doing this allowed more time and energy to spend with healthy more supportive individuals. Some of the people I set boundaries with remain in my life and others left. But once again, I learned who my real friends are. I also decided that I only want those real friends around. Friends and loved ones are supposed to make us feel good, not bad.

Try slowly practicing these skills and you will be amazed at how your life can change.

If you would like to explore your anxiety further with me or feel you would like more individual support check out my programs and services at http://www.mindbodyspiritcounseling.net. Don’t forget to “LIKE” https://www.facebook.com/mindbodyspiritcounseling on Facebook for daily tips and inspiration.

4 Steps to Dealing with Anxiety Naturally

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Everyone feels anxious at times. Anxiety can come out of nowhere. It can come when life is going well. It can come when times are tough. I would be lying if I said I don’t have anxiety. Because lets face it, most of us struggle with some form of anxiety. Just because I am a therapist doesn’t mean that I am not a human being. I always tell my clients that I am here in this line of work because I understand what it feels like to struggle.

I struggled my whole life with anxiety. I mostly struggled with social anxiety. I managed my anxiety with food and other obsessive compulsive behaviors. I developed a nasty inner critic that took over my thinking and impaired my relationships with myself and with others. I developed co-dependent relationships as a result of my anxiety.

It took me many years of therapy to understand my anxiety. In therapy I never really learned how to overcome the anxiety, how to think differently, how to make the negative thinking go away. I studied 6 years in college classes to learn about anxiety and other mental health disorders. I still didn’t know how to manage my anxiety. Maybe I wasn’t ready.

I tried medication for a couple of years. That was just a bandaid. The anxiety was still always there and when the medicine wore off doctors insisted on adding more medications.

A few years ago I decided that I was ready to do what it took to make the anxiety go away. It was at that time in my life that I discovered what the word “surrender” means. I am not talking religion here. I am talking about surrendering to things we have no control over. Letting them go.

After learning how to surrender, some amazing things started to happen. I began to implement a process into my life that would help me manage my anxiety. Little by little it melted away. What I found was that the anxiety did not disappear over night nor was it one specific behavior or thing that made it go away. It was a lifestyle change I made that slowly began to shift my thinking and my behavior.

Here are four things I do when I am feeling anxious.

1. Embrace the anxiety. “What!! Embrace it. Are you crazy?” No I am not crazy. Let the anxiety in. Feel it and embrace it. Your anxiety is there for a reason. It has a purpose. It is your mind and body telling you that there is something not working in your life; something not healthy perhaps. By embracing the anxiety I was able to explore and understand why it is there and what needs to change. In order to manage and rid the anxiety you need to make some changes. You can’t make changes if you don’t know what changes you are supposed to make. You can’t identify the changes you need to make if you don’t embrace the anxiety. Do you see? It is a vicious cycle.

2. Surrender. Once I was able to recognize, understand and feel the anxiety, I had to learn to surrender it. I found that the anxiety usually served a purpose in my life. It is almost always a sign that something is not working or something is not healthy for me. I struggled with surrender because to surrender means one must give up control. Well I finally decided that my way was not working anymore so I surrendered trying to control every little detail of my life. Surrender also meant having to change my way of doing or thinking. Many things changed as I implemented the word surrender into my life. My job changed, my relationships changed, my eating changed, my lifestyle changed. For me change is very uncomfortable and difficult. Now I enjoy change. Because I know that on the other side of the changes is a much brighter way of life.

3. Trust. Once you surrender what you are anxious about you must trust. This is where my faith was very helpful. You do not have to be a religious person to have faith and trust. Trust that the situation or problem will be naturally dealt with and trust that the way it will be dealt with will be better than your way. Because let’s face it…your way isn’t working so well if you are having anxiety. I find that every time I trust, the situation always turns out better than expected in the long run. I may not understand the whys and hows in the moment, but eventually it always makes sense in the end. I may not like the reasoning or the outcome, but I always, always, always find that there is a bigger picture.

4. Let Go. Lastly, I learned to let go. Trust that the situation will turn out the way it is supposed to in the end. Letting go of the fears, worries and anxiety was the last step in managing my anxiety. Once I let it go I was free to use my time and energy to focus on something else….something more purposeful.

This new way of thinking, behaving and living is not a one time thing for me. I have to do this on a daily basis with each and every situation I encounter. Sometimes I need to do it several times for the same situation. But it works!

I will address in a different article the types of things I implemented into my life to be able to do these four things each and every day with each and every situation.

If you would like to talk more about how I can help support you on your journey, please check out my website at http://www.mindbodyspiritcounseling.net. I offer small group coaching, individual coaching and professional counseling services. Don’t forget to “LIKE” https://www.facebook.com/mindbodyspiritcounseling on Facebook for daily tips and inspiration.

How to Get Started With a Yoga Practice

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Within the last few years I discovered the spiritual practice of yoga. I always wanted to incorporate it into my day, but it was so hard for me to find the time and the space to be able to sit in quiet. I am an active person and have much difficulty sitting still especially with my thoughts. Throughout my college days I often times remember thoughts of wanting to be more present. I came across a lot of yogis back in the day and there was something about them that I wanted. Something I yearned for. They had this peace and serenity about them…this calming aura. They were always smiling and most of the people I came across were vibrant and living with meaning and purpose.

The last 2 years challenged me mentally and emotionally. I felt forced to find an alternative way of coping. It was either find a way to relax or take medication for it. Although I tried yoga in the past I decided to take a class. At the time my aunt was studying yoga. She so generously offered a class to me. I accepted and attended. I am not going to lie…yoga was a very different lifestyle and practice than I am used to. I attended a gentle yoga class and shortly after a therapeutic yoga class. Both are very meditative and focus on breathing and body postures rather core strength and exercise.

After a few session I was amazed at the results. I was able to sit in quiet for longer periods of time without my mind racing or feeling the need to get up and move. I began to have better insight on my life. I felt more connected with my thoughts and began slowly trusting in myself rather depending upon others for guidance. I developed a relationship with myself where I began to accept and love myself and treat myself with respect. I began to sleep better.

My life changed when I discovered gentle yoga. Anxiety decreased and I began taking risks I never thought I would take. Social anxiety melted away. I slowly left my old life and began a new more healthy journey.

Below are a few tips to help you get started with yoga. These suggestions are based off my personal experience and my experience as a clinical therapist who works with both children and adults:

1. Make the decision to try yoga in a class setting rather at home. Life is busy. Whether you are a child, teen or adult, we all have things at home that deter us from staying focused. I tried yoga at home, but the phone would ring or the dryer would stop or there was cleaning to be done. Often times we push things off at home and say we will “do it later”.

2. Explore your yoga goals and expectations. Take some time to research on the internet what kinds of yoga there is. Talk to someone who knows yoga before signing up for a class. Really take the time to think about what you want to accomplish with your yoga practice. Do you want to strengthen your body? Are you looking to quiet the mind? Are you looking to calm your nerves? Are you seeking pain relief? Whatever your goals are there are lots of options available.

3. Pick a studio that has a calming atmosphere. This is very important especially if you are a sensitive person. When I choose a yoga studio, I look for a place that has calming lights, soft music and gentle assists. I also enjoy gentle guided meditation during yoga. Being sensitive can work against you or for you when it comes to yoga. If you are sensitive to sound, touch and sight, you will want to explore what kinds of senses are going to calm you and what kinds are going to cause more stress. I went to a yoga class that played soft calming music, had dim lighting and the teacher provided gentle assists. I loved this aspect of class. But parking at the studio was very stressful. I could never find a spot and when I did I had to walk in the dark alone in the city downtown (I am a country girl) to get to and from the class. Whatever stress relief I got from the class was often times compromised by my walk back to my car.

4. Shop Around. Finding a yoga studio, yoga practice and yoga teacher can be similar to finding a therapist or doctor. I often tell clients to shop around until you find the right fit. If you attend a yoga class and do not benefit from it know that it may not be the right kind of yoga for you. My first few experiences with yoga were more exercise based and I did not like them at all which is why it took me so long to incorporate yoga into my life. I enjoy physical exercise such as spinning and running. It took me years to discover a different form of yoga in which you are in resting poses and focusing more on meditation and breathing. This worked for me, but I do wish I learned about this kind of yoga years ago. Do not give up until you find what fits your body, mind and spirit.