How to De-Stress and Reduce Symptoms of Anxiety

Whether you suffer from full-blown anxiety or just the stress of daily life, there are simple things you can do every day to feel better. I will say that if you do have anxiety, it is always a smart move to at least talk to your primary care doctor and hopefully see a therapist because these tips may not be enough. But I do believe they can make a big difference for those with daily stress and also help in the quality of life for those suffering from anxiety.

The most important thing you can do is to to identify what causes you stress/anxiety and, if you are able to, avoid those situations and people. For example: I personally struggle with large crowds, so I avoid bars/clubs, large parties, and I do my shopping when I know the store won’t be its busiest.

However, sometimes it can be difficult to avoid our stressors, like in the instance of our jobs. If you are not prepared to leave your job and it is causing you a lot of stress, it is important to find ways to manage that stress. If there are certain co-workers who are adding to the problem, try having a respectful conversation with them about how they can help you out or at least not make things worse for you. You can also use your lunch break to completely leave the building to get a mental break in your day that will allow you to regroup. If it is the amount of work you have stressing you out, try creating to-do lists and check things off as you go so that you continue to feel accomplished and your tasks feel manageable.

Work is one (and probably the most common) example, but there are many other factors in our life that can be contributing to our stress/anxiety. Each case will have its own specific ways in which it can be helped, but let’s talk about general methods of reducing stress that may apply to a situation you find yourself in.

  • Meditate. Meditating at least once a day – whether in the morning, mid-day, or at night – is a great way to calm your mind and center yourself. It is a period of time for you to disconnect with the world and focus on yourself and what you are feeling. Guided meditations are an excellent way to bring positivity into your life.
  • Prioritize. Sometimes just having too many things going on can cause a lot of stress. Being able to look at the bigger picture and prioritize what should be done first and possibly finding things that can be taken off of the list altogether will help a lot with stress management.
  • Prioritize part 2. Another way to look at prioritizing is to decide what deserves your energy and attention and what does not. Sometimes there are things that stress us out that are beyond our control and it is important to be able to remove them from our thoughts and not give them any energy. Instead, focus your energy and attention on the positive things in your life to bring more peace and happiness.
  • Breathe. When you do find yourself caught up in stress and anxiety and it feels overwhelming, take a few moments to breathe. Think of it as a mini meditation where all you are focusing on is your breath and centering yourself. It is a great opportunity to tune out whatever is causing you stress and to focus on something simple.
  • Talk. Sometimes the most helpful thing to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed is to talk to someone about it. It gives you a chance to get out of your own head and see things more clearly. Plus, venting always feels great because you know you are not alone in your problem. Whether the person gives you advice you wouldn’t have come up with on your own or just provides emotional support, you’re going to leave the conversation feeling much better and more in control of whatever is stressing you out.
  • Exercise. Whether it’s running it out, lifting it out, dancing it out, punching it out, or doing whatever you like best, exercising is an incredible stress-reliever. Not only do you create an outlet for your aggression, you also release feel-good endorphins that will help fight off the negativity in your life.
  • Reduce Caffeine. As someone who used to drink 4 cups of coffee a day and constantly had the jitters and was an anxious wreck, I can confidently say that reducing your caffeine intake will work wonders on your stress and anxiety. You don’t need to go cold turkey (I still have 1-2 cups per day), but keep lowering your intake until you feel those daily jitters go away and find that your stress levels have been significantly reduced.

If you have any other methods of stress-reduction, feel free to leave them in the comments 🙂 I’d love to hear your ideas!

Best Wishes for a Happy and Healthy You,

Ashley


The Best Daily Supplements and Their Benefits

Let me start out by saying that every person has different needs based on their genetic makeup and diet so it’s important to know what vitamin deficiencies you have before starting a daily regimen. Surprisingly, there is such a thing as overdoing it with vitamins! The best thing to do is to go to your doctor to find out what you are lacking and then create a mix of supplements and vitamins that work best for your body.

Because we all have different deficiencies, a multi-vitamin isn’t a great option because they try to be a “one-size-fits-all” solution and that’s just not how our bodies work. By taking a multi-vitamin, you’ll end up overdoing it on some vitamins while still have deficiencies with others.

That said, let’s talk about some of the most common supplements and vitamins that can really make a big impact on your daily life and overall health.

Probiotics & Prebiotics:

A daily probiotic/prebiotic is hands-down my favorite supplement. There is nothing worse than dealing with digestional discomfort. Many of us suffer from bloating, going to the bathroom too much or not enough, and just general pain in our stomachs. There are different reasons for these issues – ranging from overdoing it on antibiotics to simply having an unbalanced fiber intake to having food sensitivities – but a good-quality probiotic can make a world of difference by fixing your gut bacteria. The best probiotics are ones that still have live cultures. These ones are typically found refrigerated either in pill form. The other way they’re refrigerated? As pickles! That’s right – eating pickled vegetables (that have to stay refrigerated) is a great source of probiotics. Other natural food sources of probiotics are: yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, miso, and tempeh.  Now you’re probably wondering what the heck is a prEbiotic. A prebiotic is the food for a probiotic, which means having prebiotics helps your probiotics to work better for you. Like probiotics, you can find a prebiotic pill, but there are also foods you can incorporate into your daily diet instead. These include: raw chicory root, raw or cooked onions, raw Jerusalem artichokes,  raw garlic, raw dandelion greens, raw leeks, raw asparagus, and bananas.

Fish Oil:

Fish oil is another one of my favorites that I will never give up. Fish oil is packed full of omega-3 fatty acids, which can also be found in oily fish like salmon. Unless you’re eating a lot of omega-3 fatty acids in your food, a great way to get a lot of health benefits is to pop a fish oil pill every day. Some of the benefits of fish oil are: lowered risk of heart disease, improved mental health and cognitive functioning, supports eye health and vision as you age, and reduces inflammation.

Vitamin D:

I started taking vitamin D3 a couple of years ago because I was told it can help with the “winter blues”, otherwise known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. If you spend a lot of time outdoors in warmer climates, chances are you get enough vitamin D from the sun. But a lot of us spend most of our time indoors and/or live in climates that are not sunny and warm year-round. So, if you don’t get a lot of sun exposure, taking vitamin D every day can have a lot of benefits. These benefits include: reduces depression; promotes bone health by aiding in the absorption of calcium; lowers blood pressure; aids in weight-loss; and reduces the risk of diabetes, heart attacks, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.

Calcium:

Calcium is extremely important for your health and best way to get it is definitely through your diet. Unfortunately, most people suffer from calcium deficiencies so a calcium supplement could be the way to go if your diet doesn’t include a lot of dairy, leafy greens, and beans. The benefits of calcium include: bone, heart, muscle, and nerve health and possibly protecting against cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Vitamin E:

Another popular choice for a daily vitamin is vitamin E. It can be found in certain plant foods, but if you have a deficiency then a daily supplement may be the way to go. The benefits of vitamin E are seemingly endless, but they include: balanced cholesterol, disease prevention, skin repair, thicker hair, balanced hormones, improved PMS symptoms, improved vision, brain health such as helping those with Alzheimer’s, and improved physical endurance and muscle strength.

Vitamin A:

The last vitamin we’ll discuss is vitamin A, which is a powerful antioxidant. There are two main sources of vitamin A, which are active vitamin A – found in animal product – and beta carotene – found in colorful fruits and vegetables. You want to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin A either from your diet or a supplement because there are so many great benefits, including: eye health, immune support, reduced inflammation, skin health and cell growth, and cancer prevention.

These were just a few of the many vitamins and supplements that can help you feel – and even look – better and there are many more! Again, the best way to know what you need is to go to your doctor and get tested for deficiencies. I hope learning about all of the benefits mentioned above inspires you to take more control over your health!

Best Wishes for a Happy and Healthy You,

Ashley


How To Avoid The Dreaded Holiday Weight Gain

It’s that time of year again! A season full of social occasion after social occasion that feels like an obstacle course of trouble for anyone worrying about their waistline. I myself have fallen victim to the dreaded holiday weight gain- sometimes putting on 15 pounds in just a couple of months! And we all know it takes way longer than a couple of months to get that weight back off.

So how do you maintain your weight, or even lose weight, this time of year without missing out on all of the occasions and holiday traditions it has to offer? It’s all about strategy, self-control, priorities and keeping your eye on the bigger picture.

While the other tools for success mentioned above are very important, the #1 factor to staying in control of your eating over the holidays is strategy. That means looking at your week to figure out when temptation is going to strike (i.e. a work party, a gathering with friends, or a family celebration) and knowing how to plan around that event. A good rule of thumb is to stick to one indulgence per week. That doesn’t mean one full day of indulgence, but one meal or time frame for indulgence. I like to call this your “treat meal” rather than a “cheat meal” because you’re not cheating on your diet/healthy lifestyle if it is a part of your weekly plan… but that’s another article for another day. This means that if you have two events during the week where you know temptation will strike, it’s best to stick to healthy eating/drinking at one and eat off-plan at the other. For instance, if you have dinner at a restaurant with friends on Wednesday and a big family celebration on Saturday, you could stick to healthy choices in-line with your normal diet at the restaurant and indulge in more carbs/fats/sweets/alcohol at the family event – or vice versa! However, if you feel that you are someone who has a lot of self-control and are not an “all or nothing” type of eater, you could also choose to indulge at both events during the week without going crazy at either. Think of it as having two half treat meals rather than one full one.

Another strategy is to be selective about the events you attend. Yes, there’s a desire and almost obligation to socialize like crazy during the holidays as the events seem to be never-ending, but that doesn’t mean you have to go to everything. Look at your calendar and decide which events you don’t think you’d regret missing and knock them off the list. And if there’s something that can be rescheduled until after the new year when there’s not so much going on – such as that dinner with friends – then move it to a week where it will be your only off-track day. Repeat after me: “It’s okay to not go to every event and to not schedule everything within the same few weeks even if that’s what others want.”

Now that we’ve accepted that socializing – however frequent – will be a part of our holiday season, let’s talk self-control. Just because there’s 3 different pastas, potatoes, bread, multiple fatty meats, dairy-doused vegetables, endless trays of desserts, and copious amounts of alcohol does NOT mean that you need to eat and drink all of it even if it is your treat meal. Oftentimes when we’re on a diet or simply sticking to a healthy way of eating, we have feelings of deprivation and lots of thoughts of “I can’t eat this. I can’t drink this. I can’t have this.” So many “I can’ts” make us go crazy on food when we finally say “I can”. So when you do socialize and decide to let loose, remind yourself that you can have those foods whenever you want. It is your CHOICE not to have them on a regular basis but you are always ALLOWED to have them. Taking away that restrictive mindset will help you to have more self-control when you are around foods that you don’t normally eat.

Finally, let’s talk priorities and keeping the bigger picture in mind. If strategizing and self-control seem to be failing you, ask yourself what is more important to you: what you are about to eat/drink or your health. Sometimes we are just so darn hangry that the answer is going to be the food in front of us and we won’t care about those last 10 pounds on the scale in that moment. But oftentimes by asking yourself that question you’ll be able to keep your bigger picture in mind and know that those few cookies that will be eaten within a matter of moments really aren’t worth it. Sure, you’ll enjoy eating them, but how will you feel 5 minutes later? An hour later? The next day? Probably not very good. Now, I’m not saying don’t have any cookies or pasta or alcohol. I’m saying that if it wasn’t what you *planned* to have as part of your strategy for the week and self-control seems to be fleeting, focus on the bigger picture to help you stay strong and committed to your health goals.

And if you do gain weight, don’t beat yourself up. The holiday season is a field of temptation landmines that gets the best of us. But as long as you stay focused on your bigger goals and committed to your health, any setback on the scale will be minor and easily fixed. So go out there and have a happy and healthy holiday season – with a few extra indulgences 😉 You got this!

Best Wishes for a Happy and Healthy You,

Ashley


What is “Integrative Nutrition”?

We all know what nutrition is. It’s concerning the food and beverages we put into our bodies and how it all nourishes us. So what is “integrative nutrition”?

Integrative Nutrition is the concept that food isn’t the only important factor to nourishing our bodies. You can probably guess that fitness is also an important factor to your health, but did you know that your relationships (whether they’re romantic, friendships or family), career, spirituality, and so many other facets of your life play a huge role in your overall health?

My favorite question that really gets to the core of integrative nutrition is: “Why do you do what you do when you know what you know?” In other words: If you know how to be healthy and the steps you should be taking daily to feel your best, why do you continue to make unhealthy choices that keep you from being the healthiest version of yourself?

For instance, you know you’re supposed to eat nourishing unprocessed foods at every meal and your plan is to go to the gym every night. Yet, multiple nights a week you find yourself leaving work to go home to eat pizza or ice cream along with a bottle of wine and you skip your workout. Or you go out for drinks and unhealthy restaurant food with co-workers or friends instead of going home to your healthy groceries and taking the spin class you planned on taking. Or, if you’re a parent, you eat the chicken nuggets and mac ‘n cheese you made for your kids instead of the healthy meal you planned on making for yourself. Why do so many of us make these choices when we know what the right ones are? Are we stressed about our jobs and need to let loose? Are we in an unhappy relationship – or unhappy because we’re not in a relationship – so we eat and drink our feelings? Are we tired and overwhelmed from all of our daily responsibilities that we feel like we can’t put the effort into one more thing? Or are we simply giving into social pressure from friends, romantic partners, and/or family only to regret it later and beat ourselves up for it?

There are countless reasons we make unhealthy decisions when we know the right ones to make and it is my job to figure out why those decisions are being made. Once you know the emotional triggers behind your unhealthy choices, you can start working on healing those issues and before you know it making healthy choices for yourself will come easy. It’s all about learning the right healthy choices for you, figuring out the “why’s” behind your unhealthy choices, coming up with coping strategies that don’t involve food, and becoming the healthiest and happiest version of yourself.

Best Wishes for a Happy and Healthy You,

Ashley