10 Unconventional and Overlooked Strategies to Boost Your Mental Health

Health & Lifestyle

Shared by Hazel Bridges

Ms. Bridges is the creator of Aging Wellness, a website that aims to provide health and wellness resources for aging seniors. She’s a breast cancer survivor. She challenges herself to live life to the fullest and inspire others to do so as well.


Improving your mental health can be challenging, especially when traditional methods such as therapy and medicine fall short. But there are also many unconventional mental health strategies that you may have overlooked! These outside-the-box approaches can be very effective at boosting mental well-being. Let’s explore 10 ideas and activities to give your mental health a boost!

  1. Give Back to Your Community

Starting a local nonprofit is a great way to give back to your community and enrich your life with purpose and fulfillment. By registering as a nonprofit, you’ll be able to apply for grants and public funding. Be prepared to create bylaws that will govern how your nonprofit will operate. These bylaws will ensure your nonprofit remains effective at meeting your goals so you can feel good about the impact you’re making.

  1. Plant a Garden

Gardening can be a therapeutic and meditative activity that promotes mindfulness and reduces stress. Growing your own fruits and vegetables can also provide a sense of accomplishment and contribute to a healthy diet! Before planting a garden, consult online resources such as Home Garden Hero for gardening advice from experts.

person in brown shorts watering the plants
Photo by Karolina Grabowska
  1. Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

Sleep is essential for good mental health, and practicing good sleep hygiene can improve the quality and quantity of your sleep. Good sleep hygiene includes activities like sticking to a regular sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed, and creating a relaxing bedroom environment.

  1. Join a Laughter Yoga Class

Laughter yoga combines deep breathing, gentle yoga stretches, and laughter exercises to promote relaxation, reduce stress, and elicit feelings of happiness. According to Healthline, laughter yoga can also increase social connectedness and strengthen relationships! Joining a laughter yoga class is a fun and unique way to improve your mental health.

charming diverse girls on rugs during yoga
Photo by Monstera
  1. Experiment with Sensory Therapy

Sensory therapy involves using different sensory stimuli to promote relaxation and reduce stress. These stimuli may include aromatherapy, sound therapy, or tactile stimulation. Experiment with different sensory therapy techniques at home to find what works best for you.

  1. Do Some Coloring

Coloring has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety by promoting mindfulness and relaxation. Coloring is a great way to exercise focus, attention to detail, creativity, decision-making, and a range of other cognitive skills. You can find adult coloring books in a range of styles and themes to fit any artistic interest.

close up shot of colored pencils
Photo by Jul Chi
  1. Commit to a Digital Detox

According to Happify, taking regular breaks from technology can go a long way toward reducing stress and improving your ability to focus. Commit to a daily or weekly digital detox by setting aside time to unplug and engage in activities offline. For example, you might use this time to read, spend time with nature, or connect with friends.

  1. Take a Guided Therapy Hike

Combining therapy with hiking or walking in nature is a great way to enjoy the whole-body benefits of exercise while chatting with a therapist about your mental health concerns. Hiking therapy can help you work through issues in a supportive and natural setting and may help you feel more comfortable about opening up.

two person wearing hiking shoes
Photo by Noel Ross
  1. Try a Sensory Deprivation Experience

Sensory deprivation involves removing external stimuli to promote relaxation and reduce stress. This can include floating in a sensory deprivation tank, which is an isolated, soundproof, dark tank filled with saltwater that suspends your body in a weightless environment. Many people find sensory deprivation experiences to promote relaxation and mindfulness.

  1. Schedule Solitary Time

Alone time is essential for self-reflection and stress reduction. Try to schedule at least 30 minutes of alone time every day and use this time to recharge and do something you enjoy. Don’t feel like you have to be productive during your solitary time. Just relish the sweet silence for a while!

woman sitting on window reading book
Photo by Thought Catalog

If you want to improve your mental health, look beyond traditional, well-known strategies. Try incorporating a few unique mental health activities into your routine, such as planting a garden or starting a local nonprofit company, to enjoy a more comprehensive approach to wellness.


What helps you to boost your mental health and well-being? Share them in the comments below!


WEBSITE DISCLAIMER

This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

Beyond Skin Deep: Holistic Health for Glowing Skin

Health & Lifestyle

Presented by Rhiannon Lytle, RHN with Organika (source)

The skin is a reflection of what’s going on inside the body. 

What’s causing my skin issues?

Some common triggers for skin issues include:

  • An unbalanced gut
  • Sluggish detox pathways (i.e., liver)
  • Food intolerances/sensitivities
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Lack of sleep
  • High-stress lifestyle
  • Hydration 
slices assorted fruits near water bottle

Balancing Your Gut

  • Your gut is made up of good and bad bacteria
  • When it’s imbalanced, we can have trouble absorbing the right nutrients and getting rid of toxins
  • When it shows up on your skin, you’re not moving it through your body (extra toxins, additional hormones)
  • Skin is another organ of elimination

What to look out for:

  • Acne, eczema and/or rosacea 
  • Mental fatigue/brain fog
  • Inability to focus
  • White coating on the tongue
  • Digestive issues 

Keep Things Moving 

  • Regular bowel movements are KEY – at least one daily
  • Constipation can lead to poor skin health as we are unable to rid toxins and excessive hormones
  • Constipation can also create an imbalance of our good and bad bacteria (dysbiosis) 

Gut Disruptors

  • Sugar intake (refined sugars)
  • NSAIDs (like Advil)
  • Excessive alcohol
  • Nutrient deficiencies 
  • Inflammation
  • Stress
  • Yeast overgrowth
  • Antibiotics (can wipe out good bacteria) 
  • Certain medications (Birth Control Pill & PPIs)
  • C-sections 

What does detox have to do with my skin?

  • Our skin is our largest organ of elimination
  • When we’re not working optimally inside, this can show up in skin issues like:
    • Acne
    • Early signs of aging
    • Eczema
    • Rashes
    • Rosacea 
woman in black shirt holding white towel

The Liver

  • Detox pathways need to be working well for good skin health 
  • Drinking isn’t the only thing that can affect your liver
  • What else should you look out for?
    • Environmental toxins 
    • Cleaning products
    • Beauty products 
    • Food sensitivities 
    • Poor diet 

What does my liver do?

  • Primary detox organ 
  • Removes toxins and flushes out excess hormones 
  • When it’s overburdened, toxins and hormones may be re-circulated back through your body
    • Regular bowel movements are also essential
  • Our liver deals with a lot of additional pollutants that we are surrounded by every day 
  • Since our skin is another detox organ, we can see signs of liver congestion with skin issues 

Foods to Include

  • Plants: high in antioxidants to combat free-radical damage
  • Cruciferous vegetables: cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage to support liver detox
  • High-fibre foods: slow carbohydrate, leafy greens, low-sugar fruit 
  • Probiotic-rich foods: kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, miso paste
  • Clean protein sources: legumes, eggs, unprocessed soy, meat, collagens, bone broth 
white ceramic bowl with yellow liquid

Foods to Avoid

  • High sugar-foods
  • Dairy (can be inflammatory for some people)
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee
  • Foods you are sensitive to
    • If you’re unsure, take a food sensitivity test or do an elimination diet

Lifestyle Tips 

  • Use natural homemade cleaning products
    • All-purpose cleaners
    • Hand and dish soaps
    • Laundry detergents
  • Check your beauty routine and products
  • Add in some stress-management practices
  • Get quality sleep
  • Move your body daily  
set of natural reusable cosmetic products

Collagen

  • Is the most abundant protein in mammals
  • Makes up:
    • 70-80% of our skin
    • 80% tendons
    • 60% muscle mass
    • 60% cartilage 
  • You need Vitamin C to create collagen in your body 

Do I have to supplement?

  • Our body makes collagen on its own
  • As we age, our body doesn’t create collagen like it did when we were young
    • This starts to happen at around 25 years old
  • Supplementing with collagen as we age is extremely important
    • Collagen can also help repair our gut lining
    • Collagen and bone broth contain glutamine

Choosing the Right Collagen

Enhanced Collagen

Marine Collagen

  • Comes from Canadian, wild-caught fish in the North Atlantic ocean
  • Great option for pescatarians
  • Bio-available: body absorbs it a little differently 
  • Hair, skin, nails, gut support 
  • Organika’s Marine Collagen

Plant-Based Collagen Booster

Bone Broth (Chicken)

  • Comes from cage, hormone & antibiotic-free chickens
  • Contain Type 2 collagen which is primarily found in cartilage
  • Bone broth is high in glutamine, which also supports better gut health
  • Organika’s Chicken Bone Broth

Pre + Probiotics

  • Prebiotics: feed and nourish good bacteria
  • Probiotics: provide beneficial bacteria 
  • Together they help to provide and nourish our guts with beneficial bacteria 
  • Organika’s Probiotic + Prebiotic Powder

Better bacteria = better bowel movements and less toxins re-circulating in our body. 

Tremella Mushroom

Chlorophyll

  • What gives leaves their green pigment
  • Helps to activate liver detoxification
  • High in antioxidants
  • Pair with lemon for extra detoxifying and digesting 
  • Can also reduce body odor
  • Can help boost energy as it “oxygenates” our blood 
  • Organika’s Chlorophyll

Organika Recipes


More from Organika
More from Rhiannon Lytle, RHN

WEBSITE DISCLAIMER

This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

10 Ways to De-Stress Your Life

Health & Lifestyle, Self-Regulation

Presented by Ella Woodward with Erin Zammett Ruddy (source)

  1. Don’t Put It Down, Put It Away
  • Saying you’re going to do something later is how clutter begins
  • Anything that can be done in 1 minute should be done right away
  • Tidy house, tidy mind
  • The more often you clean, the less you have to clean

2. Don’t Hit the Snooze Button

  • We should be going to bed and waking up around the same time
  • Get outside and into the sunlight ➜ tells your brain to wake up
  • Set yourself up for a great day ➜ how you wake up matters
  • Create a morning routine
brown couch beside clear glass panel door

3. Be Kinder to Yourself

  • Review and reflect at the end of each day
    • What went good? What went bad? What could have been better?
  • Do so from a place of gratitude
  • Everyday is a new day for new opportunities
  • We are all works in progress

4. Declutter Spaces

  • Focus on yourself, not the stuff
  • Think about the vision you have for your life and a space
    • E.g., a place of creativity
  • There are 2 types of clutter (Peter Walsh, author of Let It Go):
    • Memory: things we save because it reminds us of someone, an achievement or event
    • “I Might Need It One Day”: things saved for an imagined future
  • Re-name your “junk drawer” and organize it
    • 15-Minute Wins: 15 minutes is the time you should spend cleaning out this drawer
      • Dump, sort, divide, put back and away

5. Set Yourself Up For Success When Working from Home

  • Give yourself a specific area or corner to work from
  • Don’t start work the moment you wake up (have a morning routine)
  • Dress and feel like you’re working
    • If you’re out of your pajamas it signals to others you’re working
  • Don’t multi-task, set boundaries
    • Treat your workday like one and take real breaks
      • Give your brain a rest (e.g., go for a walk; don’t do a load of laundry)

6. Manage Your To-Do List

  • Don’t put things on a to-do list you know you won’t do
  • Transferring your list onto a calendar with a specific time frees it from your mind
  • “Eat a frog” (Mark Twain): it’s best to do big tasks first things in the morning when you’re more awake/alert
    • Wake up early, be productive, knock things off your list
brown framed eyeglasses on a calendar

7. Manage Your Inbox / Emails

  • Get new emails out of the way first
  • Focus on writing clear emails in the subject line (start with the conclusion in mind)
    • Use bullet points and white space (people are usually reading emails on their devices)
  • Reply All if you’re on a chain (so everyone knows they have your buy-in)
  • CC only the necessary people when sending emails
  • Give specific deadlines
    • Don’t use “by end of day” (everyone’s “end of day” is different)
    • Give a specific time (e.g., Friday at 3:15 pm)  
  • Write efficient emails
    • Bold certain things, get to the points
    • Write emails that are easy to respond to

8. Meditate

  • “If you want to make your body stronger, you have to move it. If you want to strengthen your brain, you have to keep it still.” – Suze Yalof Schwartz
  • Practice a 5-minute meditation in the morning (see: Meditation Tools & Tips)
    • Close your eyes, quiet your mind, focus on your breath (putting hand on chest helps)
    • Be in the present moment
    • Name it (thoughts, feelings) to tame it
serene plus size female meditating in lotus pose

9. Take Naps

  • Put yourself in a quiet room, remove devices
  • Keep room cool (a slight drop in body temperature signals sleep to your brain)
  • Set yourself up (e.g., sleep aids: sleep mask, white noise)
  • Have a piece of paper to write things down that may come to mind right before you go to take a nap
  • The best time to take a nap is when you feel you need it and are able to

10. Say No

  •  Ask yourself: “Would I be willing to do this tomorrow?”
  • Think about your future self
  • Remind yourself that your time is valuable
  • Being busy is different from being productive
    • Fill your calendar with things that are important to you and that you have to do
  • As soon as you know you’re going to say no, say no (Book suggestion: Set Boundaries, Find Peace)

Final Reminders

  • Be considerate of your future self (e.g., when waking up, spending money, with what you’re eating)
  • Focus on how you’re doing things
    • Be more mindful and conscious
    • Find joy in the tiny areas of life that are apart of life (e.g., washing dishes, making the bed, etc.)
  • Make small changes that have a big payoff on your well-being

Resources:

The Little Book of Life Skills by Erin Zammett Ruddy



WEBSITE DISCLAIMER

This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

Let’s Talk About… Rejection

Health & Lifestyle

Presented by Jeremy Godwin, host of Let’s Talk About Mental Health (source)

I am no stranger to the feeling of rejection. Whether it be for a job or opportunity I applied for and was turned down from, a date that resulted in being friend zoned, or a text that went unacknowledged. I could go on and on about other moments of rejection in my life, but instead, I want to share a podcast episode I came across after looking for one specifically on this topic. Wondering why I was searching for information on rejection? Well, for one, it’s an uncomfortable feeling that I’m sure we all have experienced and don’t spend much time talking about. Secondly, one thing I know for certain is that we humans are social beings. We seek connection and a sense of belonging. When those needs are met with being rejected, left out, or unaccepted, it can leave us feeling deeply hurt. I know this because not only have I experienced it, but I’m sure it has been felt by many in the wake of the pandemic and the social isolation we experienced, or that was heightened for others. In this post, I will share some notes from the episode Let’s Talk About… Rejection with Jeremy Godwin, host of the Let’s Talk About Mental Health podcast. In this episode he shares a definition for what rejection is, why understanding its impact matters for good mental health, and how to deal with it.

What is Rejection?

  • Rejection is when another person avoids or ignores you
  • Related to words such as: abandonment, exclusion, shunning, desertion
  • Examples:
    • Being pushed away based on personal aspects that another person doesn’t like or agree with
    • Someone you’ve dated deciding not to see you again
    • A friend deciding the friendship has run its course
    • A family member not agreeing with who you are
    • A work colleague excluding you
    • A million and one other scenarios . . .
  • Goes against our instinctive desire to belong, feel seen, valued, and respected as a human being
  • Can follow a major argument or can come out of nowhere
  • Results in confusion, anger, hurt, sadness, self-doubt
  • Rejection is painful and can activate insecurities, doubts and deepest fears
expressive multiethnic couple having conflict on street

Understanding the Impact of Rejection Matters

“As far as your brain is concerned, a broken heart is not so different than a broken arm.”

Naomi Eisenberger, PhD
  • People who routinely feel excluded have poorer sleep quality and their immune systems don’t function as well as those of people with strong social connections
  • Rejection can cause emotional and cognitive consequences
    • Social rejection increases anger, anxiety, depression, jealousy, sadness
    • Reduces performance on difficult intellectual tasks and can contribute to aggression and poor impulse control
  • Identifying what you’re feeling and taking action is essential
  • The pain of rejection is felt because we are hardwired to want to belong
  • See rejection as a sign that something needs to change, whether you want it to or not
  • Only you have control over what you do, say, feel and what happens next
  • Learn from rejection in order to grow

How to Deal with Feelings of Rejection

  • Feel What You Need to Feel
    • Strong feelings of rejection or sadness happen to us because we care
      • For example, an emotional connection such an intimate or family relationship, or,
      • Wanting approval at work or maintaining a reputation
    • Feelings and thoughts are not facts, but reflections of our emotional state and if our needs are being met (e.g., the need to be accepted)
    • There is no right or wrong when it comes to your emotions, and how you feel is how you feel
    • The only way through it is through it
    • Process and work through your feelings (e.g., with a counsellor or therapist)
crop ethnic psychologist writing on clipboard during session
  • Remind Yourself It’s Not Personal
    • Hard to do when it feels personal
    • When someone rejects you it is about them and their choices
      • For example, the other person is fearful about a relationship moving too quickly and they’re not ready for that, or,
      • A family member set in their ways and not willing to accept others as they are
  • You May Never Know Why
    • Rejection can come with no warning or a surface level explanation
    • Closure is not a given
  • Healthy and Positive Relationships
    • Spending time with people you have healthy and positive connections with can lift mood
    • Positive social interactions can release opioids which give you a natural mood boost, such as with exercise
    • Seek healthy relationships or lean into the ones you already have
      • Take time for yourself and spend it with supportive people
  • Journaling
    • Can help to get emotions out
photo of person holding cup

Sometimes rejection in life is redirection.


Affirmations for Moving On by Ashley Diana

Rejection hurts, but it doesn’t define me.

I’m OK with rejection. It means I took a chance. I took a risk. I stood up for myself.

Rejection simply means that that thing is no longer meant for me.

I’m OK with being led in a different direction.

I happily accept that they were the wrong direction.

Source: Reframing Rejection: Affirmations for Moving On! Don’t Let Rejection Keep You Down


Let’s get comfortable talking about rejection.

What are some ways you have dealt with rejection?

Share them in the comments.

👇🏾


WEBSITE DISCLAIMER

This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

Sleep & Stress Management

Health & Lifestyle

Presented by Rhiannon Lytle, RHN with Organika (source)

How Much Should I Sleep?

  • Adults should get 7-9 hours daily of quality sleep for proper repair
  • It’s important to sleep more, especially during times of stress or illness
  • Don’t hit snooze!
    • Your body re-enters a REM cycle and gets ready to sleep
    • Tip: Set alarm 1.5 hours before you want to wake up; go back to sleep for a 90-minute REM cycle (the average REM cycle for most people) 
man in crew neck t shirt lying on bed

When Should I Sleep?

  • According to the Traditional Chinese Body Clock, our body has certain hours targeted at certain organs
    • E.g., 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. is the time our liver is functioning at its highest;
    • If we’re staying up until 2 a.m., our liver is not getting the support needed to detox the things in our body which can cause inflammation, our immune system to not function at its best, and/or poor bowel movements 
  • In Western culture, we recognize the natural cortisol curve
    • Should be highest first thing in the morning and tapers off mid-day (groggy feeling we experience)
    • Can shift with your body, such as if you work nights
  • Ideally, you should be asleep by 11 p.m. and wake around 7 a.m. (at least 8 hours; can be adjusted depending on your schedule) 
  • Why?
    • Detox support
    • Works with our natural cortisol curve 

How to Practice Good Sleep Hygiene 

  • Nighttime routines are essential to prepare for bed 
    • Putting phone away 1 hour before bed 
    • Turning off notifications while sleeping 
    • Sleep with phone outside room 
      • Quality is just as important as quantity 
    • Have room as dark as possible (e.g., eye mask, blackout curtains) 
    • Try white noise or ear plugs
    • Avoid alcohol close to bed so body can digest it before you sleep
  • Supplement support:
    • Magnesium
    • Herbal teas (chamomile, passionflower, valerian root)
person pouring liquid into brown ceramic cup

Magnesium 

  • An essential mineral for overall health 
  • Involved in hundreds of body functions 
  • Allows body tissues to relax, from the muscles to digestive tract and the nervous system
  • Commonly found types of magnesium supplements:
    • Magnesium Citrate
      • Magnesium bound to a salt, like citrate 
      • 30-40% is absorbed, relaxing muscles and nerves 
      • Used for issues with constipation
        • Helps the digestive system 
    • Magnesium Bisglycinate 
      • Magnesium combined with the amino acid glycine 
      • High absorption, less digestive side-effects
    • Magnesium L-threonate 
      • Another magnesium + amino acid combo 
      • Most effective at reaching the nervous system 

Stress & Immunity

  • Sleep and stress are linked
    • When stressed, increases in cortisol can shut down body functions that aren’t deemed “essential”, such as:
      • Digestion
      • Reproduction
      • Immune function

Short vs. Long-Term Stress

How to make stress your friend (TedTalk)

  • Short-term stress
    • Natural – we’re supposed to experience it 
    • Beneficial to our immune system and can boost inflammation response
      • E.g., Inflammatory response helps to heal wounds faster 
    • Can boost energy (fight-or-flight response)
      • In fight-or-flight mode, your body shuts down functions that aren’t deemed “essential” (digestion, reproduction, immune function)
  • Long-term stress
    • More apparent in society today
    • Can lead to:
      • Chronic inflammation
      • Poor digestion
        • We need a lot of nutrients to ensure our immune system is in shape
        • If we’re not digesting properly, we’re not absorbing properly (supplements can be helpful)
        • Develop stress management techniques before eating 
      • Imbalanced hormones
    • Adaptogens may help support chronic stress
      • Helps us to adapt and find “homeostasis” (balance)
      • Needs to be taken consistently to see the affects 
      • Powders absorb better than capsule 
    • What to look out for:
      • Feeling “wired but tired”
      • Having no energy to do anything
      • Unable to focus
      • Crashing extremely hard
      • Physically fatigued 
depressed black man touching face in frustration near window

Simple Tips to Manage Stress

woman doing cobra pose

More from Organika
More from Rhiannon Lytle, RHN

WEBSITE DISCLAIMER

This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

Eating Mindfully

Health & Lifestyle

Presented by Jason Wrobel with Commune

Glossary

photo of vegetable salad in bowls
Photo by Ella Olsson
  • Macronutrients – a class of chemical compounds which humans consume in the largest quantities; carbohydrates, protein, lipids.
  • Fletcherizing – a term introduced by Horace Fletcher, also known as “The Great Masticator,” in which one thoroughly, and slowly, chews their food making it easier to digest, as chewing creates more amylase in the mouth, which is the primary carbohydrate-digestive enzyme.
  • Amylase – the primary carbohydrate-digestive enzyme found in saliva and pancreatic fluid, that converts starch and glycogen into simple sugars.
  • Digestive enzymes – substances produced by our bodies that help us to digest the foods we eat. These enzymes are secreted by various parts of our digestive system and helps to break down food components such as proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. 

What is a Food Journal?

  • Taking inventory of what you’re eating each day
  • Recognizing diversity is important when it comes to nutrition (“eating the rainbow”: as many colours in each meal; vitamins, nutrients, phytonutrients)
  • An awareness to what you’re eating and why
    •  Is it for nourishment and fuel or emotional comfort?
    • Recognizing what emotional states are motivating food choices (when feeling happy, sad, stressed, etc.)
    • Paying attention to the body and how you feel 30-50 mins after each meal

How to Keep a Food Journal

acai bowl on a wooden tray
Photo by Taryn Elliott
  1. List what you ate
  2. List ingredients in a meal
  3. Calculate range of calories, proteins, macronutrients
  4. Identify feelings before, during and after a meal
  • Example:
    • Before: Ate a chocolate bar because was feeling lonely
    • Look for consistent patterns (e.g., always eating chocolate when lonely)
    • During: Distracted on phone, forgot the taste of meal, not present; ate too fast
    • After: Bloated from almond milk; gluten sensitivity (bloated, sluggish)

5. Set intentions, changes, and goals for next meals:

  • Will go for dark chocolate or an alternative snack when feeling lonely 
  • Will be more present, eliminate distractions 
  • Will slow down, savour more
  • Will try a different type of milk; will go gluten-free

Why Keep a Food Journal?

  • Gives you a snapshot of what you’re feeling (before, during and after a meal)
  • Allows you to make necessary goals or changes for your next meals
  • Helps you to determine your relationship with food (e.g., eating based on emotions)
  • The aim is to create a positive, loving relationship, being as present as possible

Fletcherizing – Horace Fletcher

  • The more you chewed your food, the easier it is to digest
  •  Chewing creates amylase in mouth
  • For optimal nutrient absorption of food over the course of digestion, it must be reduced to tiny particles and blended evenly with saliva

Benefits of Keeping a Food Journal

brown ceramic cup beside notebook and pen
Photo by Madison Inouye
  • Keeps track of what you’re eating daily
    • Helps to see if there are opportunities to create more diversity in what you’re eating
    • Develops a better understanding of how you’re feeling when you eat foods
    • To see if you’re present or not to what you’re eating
  • The journal can be created in your own way
  • Establishes a practice of being more present at every meal
    • To enjoy feasting with your eyes first, by taking in the food before you consume it (e.g., close your eyes even before your first bite)
    • To take in the smell, relax, breath, and sink into the experience
    • Allows yourself to be undistracted
    • Unlocks gratitude and appreciation for the meal
    • Allows you to eat slower, chew mindfully, allowing for more nutrients absorption (helps to pre-digest the food)
    • Allows for a deeper connected experience to what you’re eating by being more grateful to the fact that you’re nourishing yourself with amazing food every single day!

More from Jason Worbel

WEBSITE DISCLAIMER

This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

How I Got Through Some of My Lowest Days in Lockdown (Repost)

Early Childhood, Health & Lifestyle, Self-Regulation

With the stress of the holiday season mostly behind us, I figured what better time than now to repost this article that I wrote during the height of the 2020 global pandemic, when the whole world was under a great deal of stress. With the new year approaching, my hope is that this article might be helpful to readers with understanding how to navigate through times of stress.


Originally published July 2020

I never for a second thought I’d be writing about the days I struggled through during lockdown, with all that I know about the human brain, body, its response to stress and stress management. But, here I am and here you are reading this.

A little over a year ago, I came across The MEHRIT Centre, an organization focused on grounding learning and living in self-regulation. I completed two courses with them and I share many of their resources throughout the self-regulation sections of this website. One of their many useful resources is the Thayer-Matrix. I discovered the Thayer-Matrix last year (2019), but it wasn’t until recently when I revisited its connection to motivation.

Being in Lockdown

Around mid-May 2020, as I was nearing the end of the school year, there were days when my motivation was so low that I found myself mentally checking out from online teaching. I had missed being in the classroom and with my students. Prior to school closures in March 2020, I was spending many hours at school each day, so working from home was quite the adjustment for me. As the school year progressed through online learning, I struggled with transitioning into a new routine and there were days when I didn’t even feel like getting out of bed.

Now let me explain what the Thayer-Matrix is.

The Thayer-Matrix

The Thayer-Matrix was created by Robert E. Thayer, an American psychologist known for his work on the connection between mood, energy, tension and stress which is reflected in his energy/tension (Thayer-Matrix) model (see image below).

(The information and examples provided below are entirely my interpretation of how I’ve applied this model to my own experience, what I’ve learned, and how I understand it.)

High-Energy/Low-Tension (HE/LT)

When our energy is high and tension (i.e., stress) is low, we are in a High-Energy/Low-Tension state. In this state we might tend to feel:

  • Well-rested and energized
  • Calm and relaxed
  • Ready to start the day ahead

An example of this state might be waking up on a day-off, or while on vacation, feeling well-rested (high-energy) and ready to ease into an open-ended kind of day (low-tension).

High-Energy/High-Tension (HE/HT)

When our energy and tension are both high, we are in a High-Energy/High-Tension state. In this state we might tend to feel:

  • Motivated with complete concentration and focus
  • Able to remain at a task for longer and with the most effort
  • Positive and productive

An example of this state might be waking up feeling well-rested (high-energy) and motivated to tackle a busy day ahead (high-tension).

Low-Energy/Low-Tension (LE/LT)

When our energy and tension are both low, we are in a Low-Energy/Low-Tension state. In this state we might tend to feel:

  • Tired, especially towards the end of a long and busy day
  • Ready to wind down and relax
  • Prepared to sleep and replenish our energy

An example of this state might be arriving home, tired from a busy and productive day (low-energy), and ready to ease into the night with a hot cup of tea (low-tension).

Low-Energy/High-Tension (LE/HT)  

When our energy is low and tension is high, we are in a Low-Energy/High-Tension state. In this state we might tend to feel:

  • Drained and exhausted
  • The least motivated (i.e., listless)
  • Stressed, possibly with lots still to do or on your mind

This was how I was feeling on my lowest day. Super drained with little to no motivation (low-energy), but with a lot on my plate (high-tension). These were the days where I struggled with getting out of bed, starting my workday or working towards getting things done.

Moving Through the Thayer-Matrix

Naturally, we should be moving through each of these states and not get stuck in any one of them for long periods of time. If stuck in a HE/HT state, this is likely being sustained through stimulators such as caffeine or energy boosters, and the natural production of adrenaline that works to keep you at a high-energy state to deal with high-tension. However, high-tension naturally drains our energy reserves. When we aren’t restoring enough through natural and essential sources of energy, such as through a restful sleep, eating healthy foods, and engaging in sustainable routines and practices, we may tend to seek alternative (and often maladaptive) ways to do so, especially at times when we really need to, or simply to cope. From what I learned in my course, being chronically stuck in a LE/HT state can lead to mood disorders. Having a support system and stress awareness and management practices are essential. While staying in a HE/LT state might seem nice to some, that is just not how life flows. Stressors from all around and inside us is what keeps us going, and when effectively managed, thriving. Lastly, we also don’t want to get stuck in a LE/LT state, becoming passive and listless. Humans (as well as animals) have a seeking system that exists in the brain and drives us to meet a need, craving, goal, desire and ultimately, to survive1.

Now, here’s how I was able to get through some of my lowest days in lockdown.

Moving from a LE/HT to a HE/HT State

Leading an online learning session with my students

First to begin, I needed to be aware of when I was in a low-energy/high-tension (LE/HT) state and what that felt like for me. I knew I had low energy because I felt physically, emotionally and mentally drained, listless, and a lack of motivation or desire to do anything. At the beginning of lockdown, a telltale sign of this was when I started losing track of the days. I woke up one morning thinking it was Sunday, when in fact, it was Thursday. I eventually realized this was happening because I wasn’t getting outside and in the sun. The sun sends signals/cues to regulate our circadian rhythm which is our internal sleep-wake 24-hour body clock. It also gives us energy, makes us feel good, and increases serotonin, a neurotransmitter in our body that is responsible for mood, well-being and feelings of happiness. BINGO! So, I knew I needed to get outside more, or as much as I possibly could, considering the circumstances. In addition, the sun is our ultimate source of energy and if we could eat it, we probably would! Instead, we must settle for eating the foods that absorb the sun’s energy for us (to learn more, google: “high vibration foods”). As I think back to it now, that seemed so obvious, right? But at that point in time, it actually wasn’t as clear cut, and I guess that came with adjusting and transitioning to being at home, rather than at school, teaching and preoccupied for most of the day. While I was getting enough sleep, I wasn’t waking up feeling energized and refreshed. (I highly recommend this podcast episode: How to Sleep Well). Having been physically active my whole life, my body wasn’t used to not moving around as much. Because I wasn’t moving around as much as I had been (I was working with toddlers), I wasn’t exerting as much energy, nor was I able to reach a high-energy state. As a result, I knew I needed to resume more physical activity which had always been an energy booster for me. I recognized I was in a high-tension state because of the stressors that were affecting me. Not being able to leave the house as much, see my friends or go out. The list can go on. I was looking at a screen way more and for longer periods at a time for online learning, meetings, program planning, corresponding with colleagues, attending webinars, social media, etc. Because my eyes were feeling strained near the end of the day, I knew I needed to be as mindful as possible of my screen time. I couldn’t change the fact that I still needed to work, be online and in front of a screen, but what I could change was my energy state to match it. Therefore, once I started getting outside (while taking the necessary precautions), working out at home and managing my screen time better, I was able to move myself from a low-energy to a high-energy state in order to meet the demands of my high-tension work week.

Moving from a HE/HT to a LE/LT State

As soon as I was able to balance my energy and tension to a HE/HT state, I began feeling motivated, greater concentration, was able to remain working for longer and with more effort, and overall, I felt good, productive and accomplished. By the end of my workday, my meetings and online learning were done for the day. This is where I transitioned from the high-tension state I was in throughout the day into a low-tension state. By the end of a busy day, our body naturally transitions into a low-energy state, depending on the amount of energy that was exerted, and the tension experienced throughout the day. When the things that are a source of high-tension (i.e., stressors) in your life are recognized, managed and reduced, you can begin to move into a low-tension state. Although this may not always be the case, ideally, LE/LT is where you want to be at the end of the day and it’s all a matter of finding what works for you to maneuver your way in, out and through these states, while knowing your stress load capacity. Some people can cope with and under more stress than others. It’s important to note that children experience and transition through these states as well, but their capacity to deal with stress is much lower than adults. Therefore, supporting them with navigating through these states is very important.

Strategies for Moving through Energy & Tension States

  • Become aware of what your mind and body feel like in each state of energy and tension. For example:
    • High-Energy:
      • Energized (e.g., during or after a workout)
      • Feeling well-rested and healthy
      • Having positive feelings (e.g., when laughing or talking with others)
      • Feeling motivated
      • Having complete concentration and focus
    • High-Tension:
      • Having lots to do
      • A busy day ahead (e.g., a heavy workload, working on tasks)
      • Feeling stressed or overwhelmed (see: Stress & Stressors to identify the source of your tension)
    • Low-Energy:
      • Feeling tired and exhausted
      • Lack of motivation
      • Feeling sick (when we are sick, our body naturally produces chemicals that make us sleepy)
      • Drained from high-tension
    • Low-Tension:
      • Feeling calm, relaxed, at ease
      • Having stress management strategies in place (e.g., meditation, yoga, deep breathing, prayer, listening to music)
      • Relying on a positive support system, such as family, friends, community and/or professionals
      • Maintaining effective routines and practices
  • Know what personal strategies work to move you to the state you want or need to be in:
    • Getting into a High-Energy state:
      • Getting good sleep: amount, quality, timing, state of mind (these are mentioned in the podcast)
      • Eating healthy and nutritious (high vibration) foods and drinking lots of water
      • Movement (e.g., working out, going for a walk)
      • Re-fuel by practicing self-care (see: Self-Care Begins With You)
    • Entering a High-Tension state:
      • We usually don’t choose to enter this state. Our body naturally enters high-tension states because of the stressors that exist within (e.g., hunger) and around us (e.g., morning traffic). Stressors affect each of us differently, so it’s important to know which ones have the most impact on you. For example, feeling too hot, feeling sick, excessive screen time, watching the news, changes in routine (see: Stress & Stressors).
    • Entering a Low-Energy state:
      • Again, we don’t choose to enter this state. Our body naturally enters low-energy states as we exert energy and experience stress, which is what drains our energy reserve throughout our day. However, we can settle into this state at the end of a long day with an evening routine that might consist of low-tension practices such as reading a book, drinking a cup of tea, praying/spiritual practices, expressing gratitude in writing, meditating, taking a bath, or doing bedtime yoga.
    • Getting into a Low-Tension state:
      • This requires recognizing your stressors, reducing and/or managing them. Engaging in self-care and low-tension practices is also important here. This isn’t always easy, but with time and support, you can develop these practices and habits. For example, I know that too much time in front of a screen strains my eyes so I balance and manage my screen time by taking breaks from it, adjusting display settings, and shutting my devices down at the end of the day and long before bed.
  • Build and maintain a routine:
    • Humans like routine; however, the pandemic disrupted what our normal routines used to be. People lost jobs or had to shift to working from home. When our schedules are different than we are used to, we may be doing less (or more) than we had been before. Develop a morning and an evening routine to move yourself through the energy and tension states you want or need to be in to be productive, make the most, and meet the demands of your day.
  • Engage in movement and physical activity:
    • Our bodies are designed to recover from energy exertion through our parasympathetic system. When we don’t move, our body doesn’t know what to do with the extra energy and this can impact sleep. Go walking, running, bike riding, to the gym, do gardening, spend some time out in nature, sweat and burn energy whenever and however you can.
  • Don’t be so hard on yourself:
    • We are human and we do the best we can in each moment. Remember that the human body consists of a nervous system that responds to stress. What’s most important is understanding this and how to manage it. A great place to start is by learning about self-regulation (see: What is Self-Regulation?) and reframe your understanding about how your body naturally responds when under different types of stress. You can then start to identify what are sources of high-tension (stressors) for you and develop personal stress management strategies that help you navigate through energy and tension states. Realize when things are beyond your control and when needed, seek professional support and connect with people you can talk to and that you trust.

I hope that this article was helpful or useful to you in some way or another. Please feel free to share it with others. Wishing you the very best for 2023. 💞


Reference: 1Shanker, Stuart. Reframed: Self-Reg for a Just Society. University of Toronto Press, 2020.


More Articles & Resources:

What’s Self-Regulation?

Stress & Stressors

Self-Care is Never Selfish

Self-Reg Toolkit

A Guide to COVID-19 and Early Childhood Development

Ontario Mental Health Supports

School Mental Health Ontario

Mental Health Commission of Canada Blog

Mental Fitness – Wondermind

25 Motivational Journal Prompts – Wondermind

Got questions? Contact Me


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WEBSITE DISCLAIMER

This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

Meditation Tools & Tips

Health & Lifestyle

Presented by Lilly Balch (The Morning Ritual Podcast)

Meditation Practice Tools & Tips

1. Time & Place

woman in black tank top sitting beside man in black shirt
Photo by cottonbro studio
  • Start first thing in the morning
  • Choose the same spot every day
  • Consistency is key
  • Do 2 minutes every morning vs 20 minutes once a week
  • Practice in a space free of clutter, distraction and noise
  • Show up!

2. Get Comfortable

  • Set yourself up for success
  • Feel physically supported

3. Don’t Worry If You’re Doing It Wrong, You’re Not!

  • There is no perfect way to meditate
  • Be at ease with the fact that you’ve showed up

4. It’s Not about Clearing the Mind

  • Thoughts are normal and can’t be shut off
  • Practicing is about focusing attention and strengthening mindfulness and awareness muscles

5. Approach Meditation with a Beginners Mind

  • Don’t compare to previous meditation practices
  • Hopes, fears, desires and expectations can interfere with meditation
  • Release the desire to control the outcome
  • Simply be!
More from Lily Balch

WEBSITE DISCLAIMER

This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

Five Stress Healing Solutions

Health & Lifestyle, Self-Regulation

Presented by Proven

Yoga

  • Four major researched components of yoga:
    • Posture and Exercise 
    • Pranayama: breathing practices (long, slow, deep breathing)
    • Relaxation
    • Contemplative: meditative focus of attention
  • An effective way to boost mood and achieve emotional wellness
  • Yoga helps you to pay attention and become aware of your body and thoughts
  • See: The Science of Yoga

Herbs, Adaptogens & Supplements

  • Ashwagandha 
    • An adaptogens that helps the body “adapt” to stressors
    • Studies have shown:
      • Reduction in anxiety 
      • Reduction in cortisol levels
      • Helpful with weight
        • Increases feelings of satiety (feeling full)
        • Decrease in stress eating
    • See: Let’s Talk Adaptogens!

Mindfulness Practice

Jon Kabat-Zinn Teaches Mindfulness and Meditation
  • The practice of bringing full awareness to the present moment (e.g., meditation)
  • Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
    • Consists of doing a body scan (brings you to the present) 
  • Mindfulness Self-Compassion 
    • How to be more compassionate, loving and kind towards self
    • Being a better human being starts with you!
  • See: The Foundation of Mindfulness Practice

Qigong

  • An ancient Chinese exercise and healing technique
  • Qi = energy 
  • Internal & external energy work
  • Deep stances that build up quads and glutes 
  • Can increase the powerhouses of energy in the body 
  • Want more energy? Build up the big muscles in your body 
  • The coordination of eyes, mind, body, breath
    • Activates the brain 
    • Attention turns inward 
    • Awareness of what is happening inside the body
    • Can modulate and control the parasympathetic (rest & digest) nervous system

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)

How to Tap – with Nick Ortner of The Tapping Solution
  • Originated by Nicolas Ortner (CEO of The Tapping Solution) 
  • Tapping on end points of meridian on the body to calm body and release stress and overwhelm (example)
    • Meridians on the body:
      • Pathways in which qi (our energy) flows 
      • When there’s pain there’s a blockage of qi
      • Meridians connect all of the organs and qi flow
  • Tapping on end points sends a calming signal to counteract fear responses from the amygdala

What are your stress healing solutions?


WEBSITE DISCLAIMER

This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

A Gratitude Exercise

Health & Lifestyle

Presented by Danielle LaPorte (Canadian author)

“Appreciation is a form of wellness. It’s also what keeps us moving through difficult times and what brings us back to love, time and again. More importantly, when we tie our gratitude to the ‘why’ of it, we develop new forms of appreciation and depths of connection for living.” (Commune)

Gratitude, Appreciation & Connection 

Photo by Created Stories
  • Consciously focusing on our blessings have emotional and interpersonal benefit
  • Appreciation is a form of wellness
  • “ I am grateful…. because.…”
    • Being specific increases the sensation of appreciation; gives you access to more positive, life affirming feelings
    • Allows you to go deeper into the meaning behind the circumstances and people in your life you are thankful for
    • Expands your awareness of gratitude; illuminating the positive feelings

5 Gratitude Life Areas

  • Livelihood + Lifestyle: career, work, money, home, possessions, fashion, travel
  • Body + Wellness: fitness, food, relaxation, healing modalities, mental health, sex, sensuality
  • Creativity + Learning: culture, creative expression, education, interests, hobbies
  • Relationships + Society: romantic relationships, partnership, friendships, family, children, community, social causes
  • Essence + Spirituality: soul, inner self, faith, devotional practices 

What are you grateful for?


WEBSITE DISCLAIMER

This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.