Uncategorized

Mental Health Talk: 3% Love and Peace

I have been naturally growing and moving away from the compulsive desire to share (on the internet/social media) and to be seen/validated by strangers, or even people that I do know. That is one of the reasons this blog has sort of sputtered… However, it’s the third time I open the editor to write this post; I really feel a call to do it. So I’m giving in. 🙂

This is a gentle reminder about making the best choice we can when we feel pain, nerves, anger, frustration, stinging nostalgia, etc. Anything heavy. So much of all of those feelings is not by choice or intended to happen at any moment by us.

Most of the experience of emotional pain feels as though it’s just happening to us, especially in the moment. Even if in truth there are frames we use to see the world that affect how much something might affect us, that knowledge is not useful in the moment, once the feelings are in.

But even in moments of overwhelm, when it feels like every inch of our emotional plane is under assault by a feeling that is completely outside of our control, we can look for the sliver of space, just a crack. One millimeter of space is enough… This is where we can respond.

By placing our power in the sliver of space, by focusing on cultivating love and peace in that tiny part of us where we have control, we can coexist with our emotions while allowing them to run their course.

My experience with working within the sliver of space, the 3% of my emotional space, has been that eventually, the intensity of the 97% diminishes and what’s left is the peace and love.

Try not to judge yourself and just understand that we are each born within family, friendship and social systems that indoctrinate us with a variety of thought-patterns. Some of them create pain… It’s okay. All you need to build your peace is space as wide as a single strand of hair.

 

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food · Uncategorized

How I Proactively Prevent Stress Eating and Choose to Thrive Instead :D

Over the years, I have become very good at managing my mood-induced eating. I personally think I am a great candidate to write about this topic because I am emotional and I do have a history of emotional eating. I’m not the type of person who can really go any amount of time (days or weeks) sticking to a perfect planned diet. That’s because I do use eating to cope! I mean, I could technically go all healthy, if I had nothing else to do, but what I mean is that it would affect other areas of my life.

Lately, I’ve noticed the urge to cope with food more strongly. This is because one of the courses I am taking is really personally triggering. It’s something I haven’t dealt with before… School on its own can be stressful if we don’t have a good method for managing time (something I’ve worked on and thankfully have!) but this is a whole new type of struggle. The actual content of the course is triggering to me.

Since I’ve taken notice of my new food issue, I’ve been working to be really mindful about the choices I make, and I wanted to share some of my tricks. They’re really common sense, but they work. As well, I will be making a list of other coping strategies for this particular problem in a later post, but the purpose of that is to ease the burden and not rely on just ONE way of coping, especially one that can have health consequences.

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One of my strategies is to take the time to really check in with myself before making the plunge into eating. Historically, one of my worst food choices for emotional eating has been bread. Bread is high in calories, low in nutrition, and for me, it takes quite a lot of it to “hit” the spot and give me the soothing that I look to feel. So I try to stay away from bread when I do emotional eating.

If you are in a situation in which you feel that food might help you to cope, take several deep breaths with your eyes closed and try to really visualize and taste what will help to soothe your emotions and your struggle in that moment. Maybe it’s a burger and fries. Whatever it is, take a sensory survey of it in your mind’s eye. Then move on to the next thing; what else would help your emotions? Maybe it’s a falafel. Do that as many times as you can and try to give your choice a health rating. in the end, find the least harmful thing of the bunch that is still very satisfying and get that.

For me, today, it was dark chocolate chips. They are creamy, sweet and satisfying, but also relatively low in calories (I don’t need too many to feel good) and chocolate is thought to have health benefits. When I arrived at the bulk foods store, I stepped in with intention. I analyzed the food labels and chose to purchase 100 grams of their best dark chocolate chips. I am particularly satisfied with this choice because, only for these chocolate chips, the ingredients list begins with cacao rather than sugar.

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Something else I do is to try to combine health with tastebud stimulation. I’m genuinely a health-food nut, despite being an emotional eater, so I really have to keep an eye on my budget and stay away from a lot of goji-berry type purchases that can run pretty deep into my pockets. But when I feel the stress of emotional eating, I know that not only for my health but also the ensuing extreme guilt that a cycle of unhealthy eating would inspire, I need to indulge my tastebuds in some of the fun healthy foods.

One of those treats for me is dried apricots. Okay, stay with me. My favourite way of eating dried apricots is first thing in the morning. I prepare them through the night by placing five or six in a bowl and filling the bowl with boiling water. I cover the bowl and leave it in the fridge overnight. The next morning, I eat the rehydrated apricots and drink the apricot-water. Literally one of the best treats I can think of! So delicious.

This is not a call to start soaking apricots, by no means. Rather, I’m trying to encourage you to explore the health-food aisle snacks before reaching for a bag of Lays or turning up at your McDonald’s drive-thru window. There are many healthful, plant-based yummy snacks and treats by companies that are genuinely trying to create something healthy. Let yourself indulge in those mindfully.

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Another strategy that makes me less likely to “go off the rails” in times of emotional difficulty is to add variety and excitement to my meals. As a mostly plant-based eater, my diet consists of a lot of rice-and-bean type dishes, with a side of steamed veggies or salad. They’re super healthy and yummy, and there’s nothing wrong with those choices, but they can also get boring to the point where while the meal is physically satisfying, it’s not emotionally satisfying.

Tonight I decided to make something that would be more fun for dinner. I blended a large banana with pea protein, spinach, plant milk, ice cubes, and some peanut butter and garnished a smoothie bowl with some of my favourite toppings (goji berries, shredded coconut, and the chocolate chips).

 

 

Life · Uncategorized

Things That Make Me Happy

A few weeks ago, I stopped my job hunt and decided to settle into a routine with my remote work and to take on a larger course load with school. Having spent so many months in limbo, often overexcited or worried about one interview or the next, and feeling as though my entire life routine and even place/city of residence could suddenly change, I didn’t take a lot of time to just enjoy life. Now that I know that for the next year or so, this will be my life, and I will not need to look for another job, I can just settle into this and focus on everything good.

I can’t describe what a relief this realization has been; I feel like I can stop waiting to live and just live now. And this post is a list/celebration of the simple, accessible things that bring me joy.

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— A good hike with friends. I stipulate “with friends” because I recently had an awkward experience with a member from a Meetup hiking group—generally things were fine with them, though, so this is not meant to reflect badly on the website. I love hiking and getting out in nature. Depending on the season, the same trails can look completely different, and the Bruce Trail in Ontario has over 880 Km, so exploring new sections is a favourite hobby. Winter hiking is an especially satisfying experience. I feel twice as adventurous going out when it’s snowing outside (though if you plan to do the same, please read about safety and don’t go alone).

— Writing dates with myself! I’m genuinely surprised I like this one so much, but it’s true. I feel so, so good going to a coffee shop and working on my creative writing project. I am working on a story outline, but it’s been getting pushed back because it seems like there’s always something else to do. Home is just not a place where I can leverage my focus when it comes to things I don’t have to do, unlike studying or work. Well, it turns out that going to a coffee shop does the trick; it’s just so official, and once I’m there, I can focus on my project with abandon, without feeling like there’s something else I should look up or do. It feels like I’m taking time for myself, even though it’s productive time, and finishing this project would be a win professionally and personally.

—Meditating after a Tone it Up workout (and the Tone it Up workout). Hear me out! I don’t have a gym membership, and no fancy exercise equipment (I own a Weslo bike I bought two years ago for $120 CAD and some dumbbells and a yoga mat). The Tone it Up app subscription runs at about $12 CAD per month, and it offers so much. There are daily workouts that are 20–30 minutes long, and daily and weekly schedules. In addition to that, there are guided meditations available. Sometimes I’ll go a few days without working out with my TIU trainers, and I forget how amazing I feel after one of their workouts. The combination of the vocal encouragement and the exercise moves leaves me feeling like I’ve taken a plunge into a pool of endorphins and drank it all. To turn on one of their 10-minute guided meditations after that and enhance that feeling is amazing. It’s definitely the type of thing that can turn the day around for me; the hardest part is convincing myself to actually go for the workout on those days (they’re not always easy!).

—Salads and protein smoothies because they represent the purest, truest form of self-care to me. It’s true that positive/constructive self-talk and a good attitude are realistically even more important to me, but I feel a nagging sense of pride eating a salad. And as someone who eats a lot of salads and drinks a lot of smoothies, it’s weird that I STILL get this feeling every single time. But it’s been years, and the magic is still alive. That probably has something to do with why I keep going back to my super green, super “earthy” tasting smoothies. I feel like I’ve won a competition when I eat well, and that’s a positive feeling of joy that nothing else other than winning an actual competition can give me.

—Mindful Youtube or Netflix watching. That little adjective at the beginning of this is SO important. Here’s a little tid-bit on me: left to my own devices, I fluctuate between over-control and eventually, after a crash and exhaustion, under-control. So it’s important that I intentionally create balance between work and “life,” times when I put in concentrated, hard work and times where I can take it easier and live more slowly. One way I genuinely enjoy taking it slowly is watching TV shows or my favourite videos. But that can easily turn into a binge if I’m not careful, and not only is that potential lost time that should have been dedicated to other things, but it also makes me feel really guilty. So instead, I like to plan exactly what I’m going to watch before I do: is it two episodes of Lucifer? Five Youtube videos I can chuck into a playlist? Whatever it is, I make a plan for when to stop and what to do after. And then after that,  I grab a blanket and a mug of tea and rid myself of every distraction and just relax. This can be so therapeutic if done with intention and mindfulness!

I’d love to know what everyday parts of your life you find joy in. I think sometimes it takes looking over our day and finding out where we can make space to do the things we already do a little more intentionally that can make the difference between a meaningless routine and a space/time of joy. Would you agree?

 

food · Uncategorized

The Only Way I Can Eat Chia Pudding

Chia seeds are nutritious and a source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, and protein. But for me, they’re not easy to eat. You could put them in a glass of water or juice and then quickly down the whole thing before the seeds soak and form their gelatinous shell. But a much better way is to make a chia seed pudding bowl.

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This is a great breakfast option, especially if you’ve done a workout beforehand—since it can be just a tad high in calories. It’s crunchy, thanks to the granola, and the fruit is sweet and nutritious.

You will need:

  • 1/4 cup of chia seeds
  • 1 cup plant milk (I used soy)
  • 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract (I doubled this because I love vanilla!)

Note that 1/4 cup of chia seeds contains 280 calories. So if you want to (or need to based on your dietary habits) save on some of those pesky little things, consider halving the pudding recipe, or even cutting a quarter (3 tbsp of chia seeds blended with 3/4 cup milk).

Once you have your ingredients, go ahead and blend them for a minute or two. You’ll want to blend on the highest setting possible. And that’s it—that’s your chia seed pudding! But that’s not where the magic starts (or ends) for me… I personally don’t love the texture of chia seed pudding. So the toppings make all of the difference for me, and the most important, non-negotiable one is about a 1/4 cup of granola. Getting a bit of the granola crunch with every spoonful makes all the difference.

[If you do not have a blender, you do not need one! Put the ingredients in a container and shake, then place in the fridge for a couple of hours; the seeds will expand and absorb the milk. Just make sure to mix everything really well before leaving it to set in order to avoid clumps.]

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Today, in addition to the granola, I added cup banana and thawed wild blueberries. But you could add any combination of complementary fruits that you would like. And then to finish, you can top the whole thing with just a little bit of sweetener. I used one tablespoon of maple syrup.

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This bowl was seriously such a treat! Even though chia seed pudding is one of those uber healthy, health-nut type snacks/meals/foods, incorporating the proper textures and flavours can make a world of difference.

There are so many ways of making the pudding and this is by far my favourite. I’ve seen lots of recipes that recommend simply blending everything together, including the fruits. But having the fruits as a topping just makes this less of a boring meal and provides some variation with each spoonful.

In whatever way you can, consider adding chia seeds to your diet. They are considered a “functional” food, thanks in large part to their fibre content, which can help lower cholesterol and improve digestion. You deserve to protect yourself against cardiovascular diseases while warding off gastrointestinal problems (and remember that simple irregularity can increase your chances of developing colorectal cancers!).

It would make me so happy if you tried this recipe and then let me know what you think! Do this for you.