Not letting setbacks drag you down

When things are going really well for a while, a setback can be even more frustrating.  During my therapy sessions, I will say things like “if this happens” and my therapist will correct me and say “when that happens”.  The reason he does this is because things won’t be perfect all the time and the more I can accept that the better off I will be.  

I have talked about it a lot on here that one of the big issues I have from my anxiety is sleep troubles.  More often than not I would have trouble falling asleep, lying awake for hours just counting down how little sleep I would be getting that night.  I tried every supplement, every combination of supplements and even turning to things like benadryl and nyquil some nights when I was really desperate.  After working with my functional medicine doctor and going to therapy consistently, things were finally starting to get better.  I had a stretch of a little over a month where I had no trouble falling asleep, I was actually struggling to stay awake on the couch after 9pm each night.  Then last week I had my first bad night in a while and it completely derailed me. 

I had done my normal night time routine, taken the supplements that have been working really well for me and was feeling really sleepy while I was watching TV that night.  I went into bed around 9:45 and really thought I would pass right out.  The time kept going by and I was still awake and I started to get really upset.  I kept thinking in my head I have been doing SO well why is this happening now!  The fact that I had such a long stretch of good nights made the situation even worse.  I was still in that “if this happens” mindset and not “when it happens.”  I had gotten too sure of myself that I was fixed and couldn’t believe that I was having one of my bad nights again.  After about 3 hours I knew I had gotten myself too worked up and I took one of my emergency night sleep aids.  I woke up the next morning exhausted, defeated, and really bummed out.

The next night was even worse.  As I was getting ready for bed and starting to wind down I kept thinking about not falling asleep and got so incredibly anxious.  I was watching TV, trying to calm down and my heart was just racing.  My thoughts were out of control and I couldn’t get my mind to settle.  I got into bed around 11, completely exhausted from not sleeping well the night before.  I had taken a little extra of my supplements and a little extra CBD, hoping this would help my mind shut off.  Because I was so frustrated and annoyed with myself from the night before there was no hope for me that night.  I was still awake when Derek came home from a night out around 3:30am.  At this point I was in tears and had just completely worked myself up.

The next day I felt awful, I was so tired I could barely function all day.  I went for a walk just to get myself moving and get some fresh air and I sat down by the ocean to really think about what was going on.  Why was I being so hard on myself?  Two nights of bad sleep used to be a good week for me so why was I so upset about it.  I realized I had gotten so used to feeling good and not having an issue with sleeping that I convinced myself things were all better.  I was doing exactly what my therapist had tried to steer me away from and I was not prepared for the “when.”  It is so easy to let a small set back spiral you back into such a negative mindset.  Instead of being gentle with myself and reminding myself that I am not perfect and I don’t have to be, I expected too much of myself and got mad when I felt I fell short.  Being such a perfectionist, it’s hard to be gentle and easy on myself. I’m used to putting so much pressure on myself and being so tough that it is hard for me to take a step back and give myself a break.  What I learned from this experience is that no matter how far I come, how much progress I make, there will be times that I feel off or I have a bad night sleep or a day filled with anxiety.  Just because I am making progress doesn’t mean I have erased all possibilities of a step backwards.  And these times when things feel off, that is ok.  Everything about the process has been a journey and the journey isn’t just a path forward.  This journey is steps forward and backwards and sideways and every way in between.  This is a lesson in self compassion.  I deserve to be kind to myself and proud of all of the work I have done so far, no matter how many setbacks I may encounter I need to be proud that I keep pushing forwards.

The lowfodmap conclusion

The lowfodmap journey is finally over! For the past 5 months Derek and I have been on a very restrictive doctor ordered diet. We were following this diet to treat a condition called SIBO which is small intestinal bacteria overgrowth. Basically, this means we had too much bacteria in our gut which would cause over fermenting of foods leading to lots of uncomfortable symptoms (gas, bloating, bathroom trips). We were diagnosed using a breath test, had to take a strong course of antibiotics and then follow the lowfodmap diet for 3 months with 2 more months of reintroducing trigger foods. 

SIBO can be caused by different things but in our case, it was leaky gut for Derek and having low stomach acid for me. We weren’t truly aware of what we were getting ourselves into and the experience has taught us way more than what makes our stomachs feel best. 

Being on this diet it was basically impossible to eat out. Not only were so many common foods on the no list but ones that were allowed had such specific quantities that were acceptable. This took a huge toll on our social life. I am much more of an introvert than Derek is. For me I enjoy quality one on one time with my girlfriends or small groups. With my schedule, it is super easy for me to get together with friends during the day for coffee or a walk and at night time I prefer to be home. The social aspect wasn’t too hard for me, even though I did miss grabbing lunch and happy hour drinks with friends. For Derek, going out with friends is a huge thing for him, it destresses him and revitalizes him. Since Derek has a more traditional job, he looks forward to going out at night and on weekends, meeting friends for dinner or drinks. Not being able to eat out made it very difficult to do these things. We found it hard to go out and just be an observer as friends ate and drank. We ended up becoming pretty reclusive and just meeting friends occasionally for hikes and walks on weekends when we could. This showed us how much of our social life revolves around food. We had to be more creative and find other ways to get out of the house. 

We both learned that food served as a comfort for us. For me there was nothing better than curling up on the couch after a long week with some ice cream or other treats. Derek would love to order pizza or a burger and crack open a beer. These small comforts were no longer allowed and it definitely threw us to see how much we relied on them. Having these comforts taken away caused us to get snappy with each other. This definitely tested our relationship and piled on to the normal adjustments during the first year of marriage. I’m not going to lie, there were times we had epic screaming fights leading to me getting way too emotional and Derek a little too angry. But the experience also taught us how to resolve issues, how to communicate better and be more open and honest with each other. In the moment, it all felt to be too much but I’d say this diet and the stress it caused really gave us tools for the inevitable tough parts of marriage and life. 

Another hard part of being on this diet was the time, effort and planning it took.  I had to cook all of our meals for 5 months, breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I always had to make sure food was prepped and groceries were ordered.  There were so many times after coming home from the day that I just did not want to have to deal with cooking, but in order for us to eat I had to hit the kitchen.  I started waking up at 5:30 every morning just to get the food prep out of the way.  Since there were so few foods we could actually have, we consumed so much to keep ourselves full that I felt like things were gone right after I had cooked it all.  I had Amazon Fresh groceries at my door at least every other morning.  Derek tried to help as much as he could but with him working a full-time job I understood that he didn’t really have the time to help.  He was really great with helping out at night with the dishes (there were always so many dishes).  But there were times that this did cause some tension in our relationship.  I would get up in the morning to a messy kitchen and I would get upset and frustrated that Derek didn’t clean up.  I tried to be more understanding and realize that after a full, stressful day of work Derek needed his own time to decompress and the dishes were not always part of this.

After the 3 months of strict elimination we had the reintroduction phase.  We had to test each category of food one at a time for 3 days, increasing the serving size each day.  After the 3 days of testing there was a 3-day wash period between.  Each food we tested represented a category of carbohydrates.  I won’t bore you with all the details of our reintroduction but I will tell you the things that I learned do not work well for me.  The first test food we did was avocado and so sadly I failed this.  The smallest serving was okay, ¼ an avocado, but anything more than that caused great discomfort to my GI tract.  This was very hard for me to accept; I absolutely love avocado!  Other foods in this category that I have to be careful with are any fruits with pits and also any gum or snacks that are made with mannitol or sorbitol.  Two other categories that we tested were onions and garlic.  Again, the smallest serving was okay but anything larger than that really upset my system.  This will make eating out hard since these are huge ingredients in most food but I will just have to be careful and try to ask for none when I can.  Other foods in this category include broccoli, Brussel sprouts, roma tomatoes, cabbage, asparagus, pistachios, beets, snow peas and artichoke.  The final category that was tough for me was almond butter.  I made it to the second day without too many symptoms but once I hit the largest serving I experienced some trouble.  The other things included in this category are cashews, hazelnuts, flax seed, hemp seeds, black beans, chickpeas and lentils.

Overall this was a really intense experience.  Looking back, if we knew how tough it was going to be I am not sure if we would have gone through with it.  I can sit and list all the hard and negative aspects but I want to shift my mindset and focus on the positives.  It helped Derek and I to learn things about ourselves, what some stress coping mechanisms are and how much our social life revolves around eating/drinking.  It tested our relationship by forcing us to be around each other way more than normal but this helped us to really understand each other more and get our communication on point.  We soothed our troubled guts and now experience way less of the terrible everyday symptoms we were having.  Most of all we truly appreciate going out to dinner now and the freedom it allows! 

When your healthy habits are causing you harm

I have some new followers and blog readers so I figured it would be a good time to share one of my original posts of why I really started opening up about my health and wellness journey.  It has been about 6 months since I wrote this post and things have gotten better but it is still a process and some days are harder than others.  I have been working super hard to help my body recover and I still have a long journey to go!

I have sat down a few times to write this post and have found it difficult to put into words how I am feeling.  I recently started seeing a functional medicine doctor to get to the bottom of a few things that have plagued me for a while.  Meeting with this doctor, we sat for two hours going over all my concerns and symptoms.  He sent me home with a huge list of tests to get done (stool samples, urine samples, blood work and a breath test).  I am so thankful for his desire to see the whole picture because it turns out some things I thought were “healthy”, were actually causing my body harm.

I decided to become a vegetarian when I was 17 years old.  At first it was just something I wanted to try, to see if I could.  It was also around that time that I started working out and being more conscious of my eating habits.  I lost some weight, got into better shape and was getting complimented on it so I figured I would stick with my new “healthy” lifestyle.  Soon after I left for college, The University of Vermont, where it was very easy to be a vegetarian.  There is a huge scene of pretty hippy people and the dining halls catered to that.  It was also a great way to keep myself from drunk late night food binges which usually consisted of burgers, breakfast sandwiches and pizza. 

I continued with my vegetarian lifestyle throughout my four years there, getting more and more strict with it.  It was during my last two years that I was also under a tremendous amount of stress.  I was studying dietetics which was kicking my ass and had a falling out with my best friend/roommate which made my living conditions extremely uncomfortable.  It seemed the only thing I had true control over was my diet and exercise.  I was super unhappy, basically depressed, and very stressed.  I told myself to just get through the last year of school and I would be ok.  All of this was taking a toll on my body, more than I even knew.  My weight suffered to the point where friends and family were concerned.  It wasn’t that I wasn’t eating, I was.  I had 3 full meals a day and lots of snacks in between.  The problem was my body was just on overdrive and I was pretty restrictive on what I allowed myself to eat, no cheat days.  I am 5 foot 10 and weighed 107 pounds, not good.

After college, I moved back home for the summer, taught sailing and was back with loved ones and in my happy place.  Things improved and I felt much better.  I decided to move to California to do a yoga teacher training.  I fell in love with LA and that is where I have been ever since.  I was still a vegetarian, still worked out a ton, probably a little too much, but I was happy.

Fast forward to now, to my follow up appointment to go over all my test results.  I met with Dr.Lekkos and he told me we had a lot of work to do.  The first thing he shared was that I am extremely deficient in all my B vitamins.  B vitamins are ones that need to be consumed daily and are found in beef, poultry and fish (things I was definitely not eating).  B vitamins are responsible for keeping our bodies running.  They help our bodies convert food into fuel, giving us the energy we need.  They also play an important role in immunity.  My levels were super low and that explained my fatigue and also why I was getting sick often.  He told me that my body isn’t efficiently using fat as a fuel and that my cell membranes are “rusted”.  Seeing the numbers on paper and how deficient I was really hit me hard.  Here I have been for the past 10 years thinking I was doing something amazing for my body.  I am not saying that a vegetarian diet is bad for everyone, some people can function well on one, but for me that clearly was not the case.  Since that appointment I have been slowly adding meat back into my diet.  I want to give my body the nutrients it needs to be healthy.

Another thing I learned from my test results was that my adrenal glands are fried.  The adrenal glands are active during stress, physical and emotional.  Long term stress causes these glandes to be overworked and they can’t keep up with the demands.  Dr. Lekkos said that my period of high stress in college and my continued intense workouts had flooded my body with cortisol, causing my adrenal fatigue.  This adrenal fatigue has since led to a slowing of my thyroid (slower metabolism and less ability for my body to successfully convert energy). 

It really upset me learning this.  My whole purpose, my brand is health and wellness.  To learn I have been negatively impacting myself made me feel like a failure.  There is so much pressure these days to look and act a certain way.  I had become so concerned with my body image that “junk food” and a rest day didn’t exist for me.  I have been pushing myself too hard, over training and also not giving my body the nutrients it needs to keep up.  This has been a huge eye opening experience for me.  It is now more important than ever to practice what I preach, balance.  I need a balanced diet.  I need more protein. I need more meat. I need more healthy fats.  I need to learn to workout smarter, not harder.  Instead of doing multiple workouts a day, I need to learn to do more efficient workouts that make me feel great and are good for my body.

I am not a lost cause, Dr.Lekkos assured me that with the proper diet and supplements I can repair my body.  It is important to me to do what is necessary to get back on track.  Derek and I want to have kids soon and my body needs to be functioning properly for that to happen.  This is also a huge lesson in self-love.  I need to be easier on myself.  I need to give myself rest days, I need to give myself overindulgent days.  I need to live life and be happy and confident in myself.  Not everything we do is good for us.  It is easy to get trapped into a mindset that your restrictions are healthy.  Balance is the key to life.  It took really harming my body to learn this and it is a lesson I am taking to heart. 

Yoga teacher training experience

I asked a while back what people wanted to see a blog post on and I had a few requests for my experience with yoga teacher training. So here is the story! 

I’ve talked about it before but as a recap, yoga basically saved me. I was stressed out in college, felt lost and alone. I started taking classes at a bikram studio nearby and i was hooked. Not only did I love the way my body and my mind felt but I also loved the community. The regulars at the studio became friends, people I spent time with outside of yoga. It didn’t take long for me to realize this was something that would-be part of my life forever and I wanted to share it with others. By senior year I knew I wanted to do a teacher training. At that time, I thought I would do the bikram training in LOS Angeles. I had been to LA once before and loved it so this seemed like the perfect option. Then everything changed after I took my first vinyasa class. I knew there were other styles of yoga but all I had experienced was bikram. A friend and teacher from the studio took me to one of her friends vinyasa classes and my mind was blown. There was music and smiling and lightness and fun! It was the complete opposite of the very militant bikram style. I loved how freeing it was, how you moved with your breath and could just deeply feel.

At this point I had to reevaluate my whole plan. I knew I wanted to do a hot vinyasa teacher training and I still wanted to go to Southern California so I started some google searching. There were of course tons of different options but one that really stuck out to me was Core Power. The class structure looked great, the timing was perfect and the price was doable. It finished up right around the holidays and at that point i thought I’d move back to nj after so it seemed like a perfect fit!

I decided to bite the bullet and I called to put down a deposit so I wouldn’t chicken out. This was a huge deal for me. I was someone who struggled being 6 hrs away for college. I am so close with my family and such a home body that moving across the country was so out of character. This is how important yoga was to me, important enough to completely leap out of my comfort zone. I also had only planned to go for the training so in my mind it was just a 3-month move. Another pretty scary part of this was I didn’t know anyone in LA. I was going to live in a place where I had no one to turn to if things got tough. To say I was nervous is an understatement. 

When the time came, I found a month to month furnished lease. I packed up some suit cases, shipped my car to CA and my mom and I flew out. She stayed with me a few days to make sure I was settled and I remember the day she left all I wanted to do was go back with her. She told me worst case scenario I could always come back home. 

So, there I was alone in a new place. I had a few weeks before training started and I would just ride my bike around, explore the area, found some studios to practice at and basically just hung out alone. I did get a part time nannying job so I could make a little money, so I had two friends ages 4 and 6. 

I will never forget my first night of teacher training. They encouraged us to take class beforehand so I walked into the Wilshire studio for a 6pm C3 class. At night, the studio is so busy! I was so overwhelmed. We started class, I was in the back row and we just got right into it. I can remember thinking what did I get myself into. After class, we had time to shower and get some food and then it was time, night one of teacher training. We had a group of about 20, all ages and all types of people. People with full time jobs, moms, college kids. Etc. I being the introverted person that I am was so shy. I don’t think I really spoke at all that first night. We met every Wednesday night and also Saturday’s and Sunday’s. It took me probably a full two weeks to start to open up and befriend my fellow TT crew. The great thing about yoga is that it is a space of non-judgement. Once I was more comfortable there I really felt safe. I now had friends. People I could turn to if I was stressed, people I could hang out with outside of the studio. 

Once I felt more comfortable, I started to open up more during our training sessions.  I started to let people get to know me and I started to find my voice as a teacher.  One of my favorite days of training was the finding your voice exercise.  We stood up and cued a posture and then a guest lecturer told us a pose to do.  I got up, said my cues and she told me I needed to awaken my inner child and that would help me find my voice.  She said I needed to be more playful, not so intense and serious.  She had me do happy baby pose and then do my cueing again.  There was SUCH a difference.  I still listen to that advice today and when I teach I focus on letting out my more playful, less serious side.

I did take teacher training very seriously.  I studied all the time and was always practicing my sequencing.  We had to know a full 60 min class sequence so I would go down to the beach during the day and just do it over and over again.  I was also in the studio ALL the time.  I took 2 classes a day and just fully emerged myself into the yoga world.  Looking back this was probably a little too intense but it helped me at the time be sure of myself.

Even though I was loving TT and had friends, it was still really hard to be away from home.  The second month I was gone, Hurricane Sandy destroyed the east coast and my family was extremely affected.  We lost our beach house which was sad but not the end of the world, but my family home was out if power for over two weeks.  It also was extremely cold weather during that time so my mom would light a fire in our living room and that is where they slept.  All I wanted to do was go home and comfort them but I couldn’t even get there.  It was so hard being on the outside and knowing my family was suffering.  During the storm my dad had torn his bicep helping move a tree off my uncle’s car.  He couldn’t get into the hospital for a few weeks and when he finally did he needed surgery.  During the surgery, my dad responded poorly to the anesthesia and his liver shut down.  At the time the doctors didn’t know what was causing this.  We were all so worried; they couldn’t figure out why his liver wasn’t functioning but they basically told us to prepare for the worst.  Being across the country I felt so helpless.  My mom kept telling me I didn’t need to come home, that it would all be ok.  I think for that week and a half I cried every single day.  Finally, they figured it out and my dad began to stabilize. 

Even facing all these tough times and feeling like I should be back home, I still managed to fall in love with southern California.  I loved being so close to the beach.  I of course loved the sunny warm weather.  I loved the focus on health and fitness.  I loved how many healthy food restaurants there were.  I loved the yoga studio that had become my home.  Most of all, I loved the people who had become my family.  I knew I had found a place that I wanted to be.

I went home for a while for Christmas and that is when I decided I wanted to go back to CA.  My sisters were growing up, doing more things with their friends and I knew they wouldn’t be around all the time.  My mom highly encouraged me to go back, I think she wanted a warm place to go visit ;).  So, I went back.  I signed up to do Core Power extensions program so that I could teach at CPY.  I finished that, auditioned and started teaching.  Once I was teaching a ton and had regular students I was forming connections with I knew I had made the right decision.  I met my husband out here in LA so it is a good thing I stayed!

My yoga teacher training was one of the most transformative experiences of my life.  It helped me to grow and to have confidence in myself.  I had to get up and command a room, create a class that felt good for students, one that could be judged, and fully support myself.  I will always miss home, there are still times I get really homesick and cry, wondering if I should be back closer to family.  But then I go to teach, I see my students faces and I know that I am helping people, I am sharing the gift of yoga, the same gift that saved me. 

 

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Living with anxiety progress update

I had a great opportunity last week to put into action the things I have uncovered about my anxiety and the tools I now have to soften it.  One big cause of my anxiety is having everything under control, having everything planned out and having in place a schedule.  In everyday life, it wouldn’t cause too much of an issue because I have a pretty standard routine.  I know what and when I am going to do things so I don’t feel worried or stressed about it.  Where the anxiety would show up really intensely would be when I was traveling, on someone else’s schedule or planning things out with multiple people. 

I was away for 9 days last week, going from Austin to Vegas and ending in Utah.  In the past, when I travel with my family I tend to be very uptight.  I want to know what we are doing, when we are doing it, where we are eating, when we are eating, etc.  Having this uptight approach would put me into a negative place and I could never fully enjoy my time away.  In therapy, I have realized that a big reason for wanting to have things controlled is to give myself a feeling of comfort and safety.  If I have a plan I can prepare, I won’t be caught off guard or surprised by things that may make me feel vulnerable.  I won’t go into detail of the underlying reasons for all of this because I do believe some things are too personal to share.  I will share that I have uncovered many deep-rooted issues, I have talked through them, and I am working on letting go of pent up emotions and being more accepting and understanding of them.

It is funny because I didn’t even realize the progress I had made until after the trip was over.  I was reflecting back on my time away when I got back to LA and it hit me, I had been way more flexible and open.  It hadn’t even occurred to me that I was feeling and acting that way because it wasn’t even a thing I had to think about.  My old feelings of anxiety and needing to control situations wasn’t there.  We were all over the place, having a loose outline for the day but no set times.  There was a day we were driving in the car for over 5 hours and in the past I would get very anxious and concerned about when we were stopping for lunch (since food is a big thing I have had control issues with) and what kind of place it would be.  I realized that I spent that time just hanging out in the back seat, snacking on rice cakes when I was hungry but I wasn’t stressed about food, I wasn’t anxious about knowing when/where we were headed.  I had made an unconscious decision to just go with the flow and be comfortable with whatever happened.

Another area my anxiety really kicks in is at night.  I have talked about in past posts how I have created a set bed time routine that I feel I can’t stray from.  It requires me to be home by a certain time, taking different supplements and having down time watching TV.  Obviously on vacation this routine goes out the window and usually that would cause me extreme distress.  If I go out to dinner or have to be out somewhere at night I will usually start to feel really anxious, I will get a tight feeling in my chest and I will be consumed with thinking about when I am going home.  On this trip that barely happened.  When we were out at night I didn’t find myself constantly checking the time and worrying about it getting later and later.  I found I was really enjoying being with my family, seeing different things and exploring the area.  When we did finally get back to the hotel I did a few steps from my routine and guess what, I slept.  The world didn’t end; I wasn’t up all night tossing and turning.  I changed up my routine and was out of my comfort zone and everything was okay. 

This whole experience and looking back on the difference between this trip and previous trips has me really happy and hopeful.  I now have evidence, situations I can use to show myself that my world won’t fall apart if I don’t have everything completely planned out.  I will be fine if I eat at a restaurant I didn’t previously vet out.  I will be able to sleep if I go out at night and live my life.  I know that I am not “healed”, I will always have trouble with anxiety but I now feel like there is another side to it, a side where it doesn’t control my life and keep me from doing things I want to do and being truly happy. 

What I think has really helped me make this progress is acceptance and letting go.  I have accepted past situations and made the conscious decision to not hold onto them anymore.  Anger, resentment, sadness, frustration, they are normal life emotions but they are not things I have to constantly let live inside me and write my story.