new year

Healing, au naturale.

from Health Fitness Revolution

Health. It’s a cliche resolution, but this year I want to take note of the weaknesses in my health and make changes to my lifestyle to improve it. Everyone wants to eat less, move more, and lose a few pounds – but my physique is not my focus this year. I’ve tried that – the dieting, the brutal workouts, the self-critique and anxiety – and it worked..until it didn’t.

This year I’m focusing on where I don’t feel healthy. My first major issue was headaches. I used to get these frequent, excruciating, torturous headaches that would make it nearly impossible to get out of bed, let alone work or study. Ibuprofen to the rescue; sometimes 2, but more like 4, 6, 8, 10 in a day. If felt like my head would literally explode if I didn’t hold it down and I would often get sick to my stomach. I even went to the emergency room last winter. I didn’t really know what to do about it, long term, so I depended on my high doses of ibuprofen and hoped for the best.

The second major issue is sleep. I toss and turn for hours before falling asleep. My mind is just on super speed all night and it makes it impossible to feel well-rested in the morning.

I realized there could be a different, more holistic, approach to my issues – naturopathy. My mum had mentioned she was going to start seeing one and I thought, “Hey, I want to try that.” At my first appointment I told her all about the headaches and the sleep issues. She probed for more details on my symptoms and my lifestyle habits. I was honest and mentioned that I had a caffeine & diet coke habit that was hard to beat. Coffee fueled me. I would wake up, drink a cup, get ready then drink a cup with breakfast, get a cup to take to morning class, get a cup before the second class, get another cup during the break if the class was long, go home unwind with a cup, have another cup after dinner. Insane, I know!

My naturopath broke the bad news as gently as she could – I needed to eliminate aspertame from my diet – and I needed to limit my coffee intake to AM only. These may seem like “obvious” changes I should have made a long time ago, but when you’re putting that stuff in your body day in, day out, you don’t think it could possibly be hurting you. She also prepared a herbal mixture to take daily, along with some vitamins.

The first couple weeks I put reminders on my phone to check off as I got through one day at a time without coffee after noon, diet coke, and gum (aspertame galore!). I took it one day at a time, and I did have 2 or 3 days when I indulged in a diet coke (I sure did pay for it the next day), but it got easier. Now, it’s pretty much automatic. If someone offers me a piece of gum, I say, “No, thank you”. And when I’m at a restaurant, I got for Perrier or water.

The question is, did it work?

Yes. My headaches are not nearly as frequent or intense as they used to be. I get my usual PMS headaches, but other than that I only experienced 2 other days with headaches. Life without ever-looming headaches is a vast improvement to my daily functioning. I’m more alert and focused. I’m less stressed and depressed. I sleep better (not for as long as I should, but that’s my own doing).

So far, all the changes have been positive and I don’t feel like I’m sacrificing much. I still enjoy my morning cup of coffee, and now I chew “pur gum”, an aspertame-free brand found at most health food stores – and I was lucky enough to find it during a 2 for 1 sale at Rachelle-Bery in Montreal over the winter break.

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Flirting with Minimalism

According to The Minimalists,

Minimalism is a tool used to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.

I started thinking about “ridding myself of life’s excess” (a.k.a de-cluttering) a month ago when final exams were winding down and I needed to fill the void with another form of productivity. I wouldn’t consider myself a “hoarder”, per se, but I definitely hang onto things – this would become blatantly obvious whenever I moved (5-6 times in less than 4 years).

Rewind to December 2013, when I moved back home. I had numerous storage bins full of stuff. I filled two dressers and a closet with stuff. I had more storage bins in the basement with stuff. I had a shelf full of stuff. I bought two of those plastic drawer sets to fill with stuff. And for the most part, that’s all it was: stuff. They cluttered my room for an entire year before I decided I was going to rid myself of life’s excess (I can’t get over how beautiful that sounds).

My first small project was my “Make Up” drawer set. For someone who wears the same look every day, I had accumulated a shit ton of make up “stuff”. For example, I found at least 9 eye shadow quads that all looked almost the same (nude, nude, nude)!  I gave it some thought and kept two that I frequent the most, and one for “fun”. I repeated the process with every drawer and category of make up (eyeliners, mascaras, foundations, blushes, nail polish) and by the end, my drawers were a lot emptier and a lot more organized. What I have in there is what I use and I don’t need to search for any of it anymore.

I repeated this process with the various storage bins in my room and in the basement – sorting what to keep, throw out, and donate. I came across a lot of nostalgia and enjoyed the trip down memory lane, but ultimately, I only kept what was truly important to me (ex. souvenirs from the 2005 International Children’s Games – a once-in-a-lifetime experience!).

After that week of ridding myself of life’s excessI had only one box of momentos tucked away in the basement and many boxes of donations. The experience was an all-around win-win: I took back space in my room, reminisced on my childhood, donated lots of books/clothes, and felt a new-found sense of freedom and mental clarity.

I’m no full-blown minimalist – my worldly possessions don’t fit in carry-on – but I am enjoying flirting with its philosophy and applying it to my life in baby steps. Will I ever whittle my wardrobe down to a handful of items? Maybe, maybe not. But, I am more aware of what I own and more conscious of wanting something, versus needing it.

I encourage everyone to re-evaluate what they own, why they own it, and whether there’s a true need to add to it. It’s beautifully liberating.

Side note: Here’s a minimalist you’re probably familiar with

Who doesn’t love a comeback?

Snow Covered Fence - Rachel Kramer Flickr

Snow Covered Fence – Rachel Kramer Flickr

Oh, January. The fresh start we all wait for (guilty as charged). Any day or month would have been a good day to start blogging/writing again, but here we are at the beginning of 2015, and for some reason I feel “inspired” by the abundance of resolution-type posts I keep seeing.

I think the motivation to write now is because of how much changed in 2014 and I want/need to reflect on it.

I’m not going to lie or sugar coat: 2014 had a rough start. It was an uphill battle with depression for the first few months. It was dark and it was lonely as I transitioned from the bliss of “college living” to moving back home with no job prospects and debt. I thought it was the worst possible way my life could have gone and I felt ashamed and embarrassed. I know there are literally thousands of people who met the same outcome of post-grad life, but it felt like I was the only one.

It was a college program calendar and a drop-in therapy session that “saved my life” just when I needed it. I can’t remember exactly how I found the Paralegal program, but when I did, I knew it was for me. I was quickly accepted and that gave me a light at the end of the tunnel.

Looking back, I’m conscious of how far I have come and I’m proud of it. I overcame inner struggles to get up in the morning and find something to do with my life. I could have easily sunk further down into depression, but I didn’t. (For anyone that’s fought that battle, you know how significant that is.)

This week I started semester 2 of 3 in my program. In semester 1 I surpassed my personal GPA goal and I hope to do it again. (I don’t just hope, though, I plan on working hard for it). I made good connections with other motivated people. I feel confident this was the right choice for me.

That being said, 2015 is probably going to be a year full of growth and change and I figure it’s a good year to start blogging and reflecting at more frequent intervals.