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Embracing Mental Health on “Let It Go Day”

Embracing Mental Health on “Let It Go Day”

Mental health is such an important part of our overall well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and handle life’s ups and downs. One powerful way to take care of our mental health is by learning to let go of things that weigh us down. That’s where “Let It Go Day,” celebrated on June 23rd, comes in.

“Let It Go Day” is a great reminder that hanging on to grudges, regrets, and past hurts can really drag us down. These negative feelings can cause stress, anxiety, and depression. Letting go doesn’t mean forgetting or ignoring what happened; it’s about acceptance and acknowledgment while releasing its hold on our present and future.

Letting go can be incredibly freeing. It helps us move forward, find peace, and see things more positively. Here are a few simple ways to embrace “Let It Go Day”:

  1. Reflect and Acknowledge: Spend a few moments thinking about what you’re holding onto. Recognize these feelings without judging yourself. Understanding what’s bothering you is the first step to letting it go.
  2. Practice Mindfulness: Try some mindfulness exercises like meditation or deep breathing. Staying present can reduce the power of negative thoughts about the past or future.
  3. Express Your Feelings: Talk to someone you trust about what you’re feeling. Sharing your thoughts can help you process and release them.
  4. Forgive: Forgiveness is key. It’s not about saying what happened was okay but about freeing yourself from the burden of holding onto it.
  5. Look Forward: Set positive goals and intentions for the future. Letting go of past burdens makes room for new opportunities and personal growth.

“Let It Go Day” is all about releasing what no longer serves us and embracing a healthier, more fulfilling life. By letting go of negative emotions, we can improve our mental health and cultivate a more peaceful mindset. So, let today be the day you start to let go and move forward with a lighter heart and a clearer mind.

 

Food Is More Than Just Fuel for the Body

Food Is More Than Just Fuel for the Body

Food is more than just fuel for our bodies. It’s an essential ingredient in the recipe of a meaningful and enriched human experience. Beyond its nutritional value, food plays a major role in our ability to connect, explore, and find comfort. 

Throughout our lives, we as humans experience a variety of emotions. Whether they are comfortable emotions such as feeling powerful, inspired, happy, or heavier emotions such as feeling insecure, overwhelmed, or disappointed, food can be a powerful way to find connection throughout it all. 

I want you to think about the happiest day of your life. Was it a celebration of a personal achievement? A wedding day? A notable day exploring a new city? How did you celebrate? While answering these questions, it is very likely that food was a memorable part of your experience. Whether it is because of the emotional connection, sensory experience, or cultural significance, food is a major aspect of a holistic approach to our daily lives. 

During times of hardship, it’s also common for food to be served as a way to find connection during burdensome times. Funerals, job loss, breakups, and hard days are all examples of moments where food is used as a token of encouragement, love, and unity. We use food as a way to honor, support, celebrate, and empathize with others during all phases of life.

If we limit our food intake, what are we actually limiting when looking at the bigger picture? Our ability to adventure, show up for others, find community, and regulate the large scale of human emotions. Food elevates the human experience. By limiting food, we put limits on our ability to live freely. 

I challenge you to think about how you can use food as a tool to enrich your human experience. 

How to Find Wonder in Your Body

How to Find Wonder in Your Body

Last summer, I had the opportunity to visit Banff National Park. The scenery was breathtaking. I marveled at the turquoise lakes, which get their gorgeous emerald hue from glacial rocks. As glaciers grind against the rocks, it creates fine particles of “glacier flour,” which are then deposited in the lake. When sunlight bounces off the water, the rays reflect a stunning sparkling color. This process does not happen overnight, rather after many years and seasons of change – thawing and grinding and melting and evolving. At first glance, the annoying rock in our shoes can seem meaningless and outright irritating. How would we view that rock differently knowing it contributed to some of the most vibrant lakes in the world?

I marvel at the diversity of our earth. The mountains, beaches, and even deserts offer examples of the beauty that exists because of stretching, shrinking, and growing. For instance, the sand on the shore of the beach reveals stretch marks from the tide coming in and out. We see this design as a manifestation of movement and change over time. Similarly, the stretch marks, scars, and wrinkles on our own bodies are proof that we have lived in them, evolving through life’s ups and downs.

What if we could apply the same marvel and wonder to the forces of nature we call our bodies? What if we allowed our bodies to change just as we allow nature to adapt? We see nature and accept its changes as beautiful, miraculous even. The body is no different. This vessel houses between 206 and 213 bones, over 600 muscles, and trillions of cells (Cleveland Clinic, 2024). Our bodies have 11 different organ systems, ranging from the digestive system to the nervous system to the cardiovascular system. Each is extremely complex, working with the other systems to help us thrive.

What freedom can you gain from viewing your body in this new way? How will you appreciate your body as it evolves through various seasons? There is a certain freedom, peace, and acceptance that comes with appreciating nature. My wish is that we apply that same appreciation and wonder to the bodies that are carrying us through life.

A New Way to Think About Body Acceptance

A New Way to Think About Body Acceptance

I am passionate about body acceptance work. I teach it, practice it, and continue to learn and evolve my understanding of how to do this work. The body acceptance journey is often described using the metaphor of a ladder. In fact, when I lecture about body acceptance, I use the following image to capture the idea: 

However, when we used this image in our Body Acceptance Group this last month, my understanding of this “progressive approach” was turned on its head. So many clients share about how they can be in a more accepting or healthy place with their body one day and, the next, feel right back at “ground zero.” Others describe how they can inhabit multiple places with their body at once. For example, they can feel grateful for their body while also feeling disgust for how it looks. They can feel compassion for what their body has gone through and also resent that it refuses to change the way they want it to change. It suddenly became clear in this discussion that the ladder doesn’t fit these experiences at all. I know body acceptance is a non-linear journey, but when we talk about progress, we talk about being in different places than we were before. It’s as if we keep arriving or stepping up to somewhere new, and different, and stable. The journey is so much more fluid and complicated than that. In this group, I suddenly envisioned a better way to conceptualize the body acceptance journey. And it’s one of bubbles. 

Our experiences and relationships with our bodies are deeply rich, historical, personal, complicated, and nuanced. In a holistic perspective, we always carry with us each of these lived feelings, perceptions, beliefs, and behaviors in our bodies. Sometimes certain bubbles expand and take up a lot of room. For example, an event or interaction in our lives may trigger more negative feelings about our bodies. Or maybe we are feeling more vulnerable in general and are more prone to feel amplified negative emotions about our bodies. 

Through body acceptance work, there is active movement to amplify and grow different ways of being with our bodies. There is choice in what works for you and what you value, and this journey involves a lot of trial and error and hard work. For some people they really resonate with amplifying body gratitude and find a lot of joy and relief in this. For others, maybe they want to focus even less on their bodies and so focus on identifying and living more intentionally, their values (valued living) and feel a lot of relief in doing so. Some enjoy experimenting, growing skills, and amplifying many different ways of being with their bodies and find at different times, different tools and orientation work better than others. In this work, you will notice these other experiences you are intentionally amplifying will take up more space in your lived reality with your body. And while this doesn’t make more painful experiences or beliefs disappear completely, it changes the overall experience with yourself. 

This lived experience in your body is a moving, changing, fluid experience. As we work, we build confidence and more stability in inviting and amplifying the experiences, feelings, and beliefs we want to have in our bodies. But this doesn’t mean hard days disappear where other feelings and experiences rear their heads and dominate the day. 

There is no “falling backwards” or “getting worse” with this framework of body acceptance. It is simply awareness that certain bubbles are larger today, or this week, and this affects how we feel. We can make conscious choices to use the tools and knowledge we have to attend to the bubbles we want to grow and amplify and have compassion for ourselves on days we are simply doing our best to get by. The body acceptance journey, just like mediation, is a practice, not a final destination. Over time it is easier and more and more rewarding, and it continues to invite us to work and be with ourselves in intentional ways as we move through this messy experience that is life. 

Can I Ever Stop Obsessing About Food?

Can I Ever Stop Obsessing About Food?

I feel like I’m thinking about food all the time. From the second I wake up, I’m stressed about what I ate yesterday, feeling guilty for how much I ate and the foods I chose. Food is always on my mind. If I’m not worrying about what I just ate, or what’s on my plate right now, I’m obsessing over the next meal. It feels like I’m thinking about food 100% of the time, and I don’t know how to not think this way. I feel like my head is buzzing with numbers–calories, weight, macros, everything–and I can’t concentrate on anything else.

If you relate to the thoughts above, you know how hard it can be to feel like you can’t stop thinking about food. The constant, obsessive thoughts, the never-ending stress and worry about food, the anxiety and guilt, can all feel so overwhelming. If you’re feeling like you can’t stop obsessing about food, please know that you can find relief. I won’t pretend like there’s some magical way to stop obsessing about food instantly, but there are some things that can help.

1: Eat enough, often enough

Preoccupation with food (worrying about food being available, thinking about food when not eating, thinking about future meals) is in part, a natural, biological consequence of being undernourished. Thinking about food can be a normal, short-term hunger cue that helps you know it’s time to eat. However, if you are chronically not eating enough food, or not eating consistently, this normal hunger cue can turn into persistent preoccupation or obsession about food. Whether you have an eating disorder or not, thinking about food all the time can be a sign that you aren’t eating consistently enough. Inconsistent nourishment, whether from an eating disorder, another illness, food insecurity, or another reason, can lead to obsessive thoughts about food. The good news is that if you begin to eat enough, often enough, you are likely to start to find that you think about food less often than you do when you are undereating or eating sporadically. There is no substitute or “hack” for bypassing the psychological consequences of undereating. Eating enough, often enough, is key to reducing obsessive thoughts about food.

2: Engage with other parts of your life

If you have been stuck in a pattern of anxiety or worry about eating, it can feel hard to focus on anything but food. Focusing on food may have been an escape, a coping mechanism, or a necessity in the past for many reasons. However, continuing to put your energy into worries about food eventually ends up making life feel pretty small. 

If you’ve noticed that most of your hobbies and interests are connected to food, exercise, or appearance, it might be time to intentionally start engaging with other interests and activities. Give yourself the chance to expand your priorities and experiences beyond the reaches of obsession about food. Doing so can literally change your brain! Neuroplasticity, or the ability for our brains to change their neural networks in response to new experiences and learning, is part of how you can find relief from obsession about food. The more your actions reinforce an obsession with food, the harder it will feel to think about anything else. BUT, the more your actions and experiences reinforce connection with priorities other than food and weight, the more your thoughts and emotions will shift away from food obsession, and toward greater balance.

3: Give it time

If you are working on doing the things I mentioned above (nourishing yourself adequately and consistently, and engaging with parts of your life that aren’t connected to food) and it still feels like you’re stuck obsessing over food, remember to give it time. Changing your habits and your brain takes repetition and time to solidify. Don’t give up! Stick with it, and gather support around you as you make these changes. Changing the patterns around disordered eating and food obsession can be a long road, but with consistency and support, you can find your way through.

Harnessing the Healing Power of Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy for Stress Relief

Harnessing the Healing Power of Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy for Stress Relief

It’s National Stress Awareness Month, and I know I am well too aware of stress and the impact it has and can have. Stress has become an all-too-common companion, from demanding work schedules to personal responsibilities, impacting both our mental and physical well-being as well as those around us. Fortunately, innovative approaches to stress management are emerging, offering hope and relief to those who seek it. One such groundbreaking therapy is ketamine-assisted psychotherapy.

Ketamine, originally developed as an anesthetic, has garnered attention in recent years for its potential in treating various mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD, and its role in stress management is equally noteworthy. When used in conjunction with psychotherapy, ketamine can unlock profound therapeutic benefits, providing a unique opportunity for individuals to explore the root causes of their stress in a safe and supportive environment.

One of the primary advantages of ketamine-assisted psychotherapy is its rapid onset of action. Unlike traditional antidepressants, which may take weeks or even months to produce noticeable effects, ketamine can often bring about relief within hours. This quick turnaround is particularly advantageous for individuals grappling with acute stressors or debilitating symptoms, offering prompt relief when it’s needed most.

The medicine ketamine also serves as a catalyst for introspection and emotional processing. Under the guidance of a trained therapist, individuals can delve into their innermost thoughts and feelings, gaining insight into the underlying factors contributing to their stress. Ketamine’s ability to heighten introspection and enhance emotional awareness can deepen the therapeutic experience, fostering profound breakthroughs and promoting psychological healing.

Ketamine-assisted psychotherapy offers a holistic approach to stress management, addressing the interconnected nature of mind, body, and spirit. By integrating mindfulness techniques, breathwork, and somatic awareness practices into the therapeutic process, individuals can cultivate greater self-awareness and develop coping strategies to navigate stress more effectively. This multifaceted approach empowers individuals to not only alleviate their symptoms but also cultivate resilience and inner peace in the long term.

A Letter to My Body

A Letter to My Body

Throughout the past year, my body has carried me through many life-changing experiences. She has carried me through grief, joy, connection, and has provided me the opportunity to grow in ways that I previously doubted possible. 

As I reflect on the ways that my body has shown up for me throughout it all, I am filled with comfort knowing that I can count on her to continue putting one foot in front of the other even when things feel unpredictable and vulnerable.  

The postpartum experience has given me the opportunity to find compassion for my body in ways that I had previously yet to experience. Writing a letter to my body allows me to process these physical changes while identifying both positive and neutral experiences within the adjustments. 

A letter to my postpartum body:

Thank you for showing up for me with a lens of connection and love as I navigate changing roles and challenge fears related to the unknown. 

Thank you to my soft belly for safely housing my babies and then providing a safe place for them to cuddle. 

My tired yet strong arms for holding and caring for the two of them even on days that I didn’t think I was capable. 

My powerful legs that supported me in moving forward through the hardships, grief, and joy. 

My weary eyes that fought to stay awake throughout the many sleepless nights.

My lips for the countless kisses, asks for support, and I love yous said. 

My mind for enduring all of the changes that have occurred, physically, mentally, and emotionally. 

I am proud of you. Thank you for walking through these changes with hopefulness. Your adaptability brings me comfort and peace. 

I challenge you to engage in this exercise and allow neutrality to become a part of your life experiences, too. 

Joyful Movement

Joyful Movement

In our culture, the words “exercise” or “workout” often imply punishment, burning off calories to meet metrics on our smart watches. I prefer the word movement. Christy Harrison, journalist, registered dietitian, and certified intuitive eating counselor, describes movement as “intuitive, flexible, and unrelated to diet culture.” Those in eating disorder recovery often wonder how movement can be a part of their lives again when it has historically been used as numbing, compensation, or punishment. If you are currently struggling with an eating disorder, your body needs time to rest, heal, and recover. Taking a break from movement is often necessary. As you learn to better nourish and fuel your body, you can reclaim a new role for movement in your life. 

My relationship with movement has shifted significantly over the past five years. Growing up playing competitive soccer influenced the way I viewed movement and its purpose in my life. In my younger years, I was not thinking about what my body looked like as I ran, tackled, passed, and shot. Competing in matches and practicing with my best friends was invigorating. On the field, I felt truly embodied, defined by Dr. Hillary McBride in her book The Wisdom of Your Body: Finding Healing, Wholeness, and Connection Through Embodied Living as “to be present to yourself and your experiences from the inside out.” 

As I matured, strength and conditioning training was for the sole purpose of enhancing performance; we were always taught we could push beyond the limitations of our bodies to achieve various metrics required to compete against potential opponents. In some ways, this focus on performance helped me cultivate an appreciation for my body and all she did for me. However, in the process, I became disconnected from my body, always dissatisfied with my progress and perceived weaknesses when I did not measure up.

When I stopped playing soccer after a devastating ACL injury, I wondered what purpose movement now played in my life if I was no longer training to compete at the collegiate level. With diet culture on the forefront of my mind, it was difficult to think of movement as anything other than modifying or shrinking my body. Over the years, a beautiful journey began in which I discovered my passions for hiking, yoga, rock climbing, and group classes. I reclaimed movement as joyful and connecting, energy-producing and stress-reducing!

As you reclaim the role of movement in your life, consider the following:

-How does movement promote connection with yourself and others?

-What types of movement do you find enjoyable? 

-What kinds of movement help you feel more present or embodied? What types of movement are depleting?

-How/when do you notice your body craving movement or rest?

-How can you re-invite your body to join you in movement?