BEST PRACTICES WHEN GOING THROUGH CHALLENGING TIMES

Hello there! Thanks for stopping by! As some of you may know, I have dealt with depression all throughout my life. With that said, I have accumulated a pretty good tool box of best practices when it comes to dealing with the challenging times in life with ease! These best practices can help ease the stress of challenging life situations and have helped me through breakups, the death of my daughter, depression and the general stress of everyday life. These are my tried and true best practices and although they may not bring you completely out of your funk, they have been super helpful for me!


FEEL THE FEELS!

“Your emotions make you human. Even the unpleasant ones have a purpose. Don’t lock them away. If you ignore them, they just get louder and angrier.” 

Sabaa Tahir, A Torch Against the Night
“Natalia Brava” by José Castillo is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 

I know this seems obvious, but as someone who has been known for suppressing challenging feelings/emotions it might not be obvious. We live in a society that shames negative or challenging emotions so it can be hard to sit with these emotions. According to this study, suppressing negative emotions can lead to poor health. My suggestion would be to name the emotion and sit with it, feel it. This way, you can actually process these feelings! Feeling negative emotion can be challenging and uncomfortable, but there is also room for learning and personal growth. I find that it is very helpful to journal my challenging emotions! Be gentle with yourself while going through challenging times and also keep in mind that you have a 100% success rate for getting through challenging times. You got this!


GET OUTSIDE!

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.” 

– Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
“WOW Nature – The World Of Web” by TheWOWClub is licensed under CC0 1.0 

There is something magical about nature that reminds us that everything is constantly changing! Nature reminds us to slow down and trust the process. The fresh air and sunshine remind us of natures epic beauty. If you can, spend some time outside! Some of the benefits of spending time outside are:

-being outside boosts your energy

-natural sunlight helps mitigate pain

-being outside boots your immune system

-the outdoors boost creativity

For more information on why spending time outdoors is beneficial click here.


MAKE A HAPPY PLAYLIST!

“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.”

Confucius
“Sheet Music” by Gord Bell is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0 

Music is one of those things that can change my entire mood! There have been times in my life when I have done the opposite and made sad playlist, sat in a dark room and just cried, and that’s ok too! If it helps you to process challenging emotions, I’m all for it! What I have found these days is that listening to uplifting music makes the dark days seem a little lighter! My favorite uplifting songs are:

Golden by Jill Scott

Juice by Lizzo

Soulmate by Lizzo

I Got You by Jessie J

Soulbird Rise by India Arie

Worthy by India Arie

Unstoppable by Santigold

Never Give Up by Sia

I Wish by Stevie Wonder

Don’t You Worry Bout A Thing- Stevie Wonder

The Greatest by Sia

Can’t Stop The Feeling by Justin Timberlake

Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen

This Must Be The Place by The Talking Heads

Nothings Gonna Stop Us Now by Starship

3 Little Birds by Bob Marley

LOVE by Nat King Cole

Almost There by Anika Noni Rose

Fiyah by Wil.i.am

Good Vibes by Chris Janson

Happy by Pharell Williams

Let’s Go Crazy by Prince

Wonderful by India Arie

Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars

Victory by Janelle Monae

Lettin’ Go by Janelle Monae

This playlist is just an idea to get the ball rolling as far as inspiration goes! Everyone has their own musical taste, so do what feels right for you! I’d also like to mention, the songs on your happy playlist don’t necessarily have to be “happy” or “uplifting”, they could be songs that remind you of happier times. The benefits of listening to music are:

-increased happiness

-decreases stress

-improves sleep

-reduces depression

For in depth information on the benefits of listening to music, click here.


CALL A FRIEND!

“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”

Albert Schweitzer
“Friendship” by Corey Ann is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0 

This is another “no duh” item but sometimes when you’re going through challenging times its not something you think about! I would suggest being mindful of what your friend may be going through in their own life by asking “do you have the space/time to have a deep discussion?”. If a friend is not available, it is useful to record your thoughts either by journal or voice memo. The benefits of talking to a friend include:

-sorting through your feelings.

-talking out loud about what’s going on in your head and explaining it to someone else, even if you think it doesn’t make sense, helps you to clarify the things that are worrying you.

-putting things in perspective.

-releasing tension.


MOVE YOUR BODY!

“An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” 

Henry David Thoreau
“Warrior on the edge” by lastbeats is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

That’s right! Exercise has been proven to have a positive impact on they way we feel! Keeping a consistent exercise routine can help:

-balance mood

-increase energy levels

-help you feel more in control

-improve your self esteem

-regulate sleep patterns

-relieve stress

Although I love the gym, I realize that it is not for everyone! Some of the best workouts you can do for free at home or a park!

-go for a walk around your neighborhood

-go for a bike ride

-if it’s too cold, walk the mall

-practice yoga

-make a playlist of dance fitness videos on YouTube. Some of my favorites are The Fitness Marshall (so freaking fun), Dance Fitness with Jessica, Shine Dance Fitness


BE MINDFUL OF WHAT YOU CONSUME

Let food be thy medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food.

Hippocrates

“Cute dog eating watermelon :)” by Portik Lorant is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


This can be applied to all aspects of life but for this tip I’m referring to food! It can be so easy to get stuck in a unhealthy eating cycle when dealing with the challenges of life! I have learned that doing this only makes me feel worse. I encourage you to be mindful of how certain food makes you feel! One of the last times I felt myself slipping into a depression, I started looking for foods that have been proven to increase happiness! I have compiled a list of happy foods that I reach for when I feel my mood shifting!

BANANAS


“bananas” by malias is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Fully Loaded banana with peanut butter, chocolate sauce, shredded coconut and chia seeds.

I have always had a deep love for bananas, and after finding they are a food that promotes good moods, my love for them has grown. We all know that bananas are rich in potassium a vital nutrient we need to help regulate fluid balance, muscle contractions and nerve signals. Bananas are also contain tryptophan, a brain chemical the helps regulate mood! Bananas are also a great source of the B vitamin folate which is necessary for healthy cell growth and metabolism. My favorite ways to eat bananas are in smoothies, with peanut butter and on toast!

BERRIES

Fresh picked blackberries.

Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are high in vitamin C and antioxidant polyphenols that reduce inflammation, improve or help treat digestion issues, weight management difficulties, diabetes, neurodegenerative disease, and cardiovascular diseases. My favorite ways to eat berries are in smoothies and topped on oatmeal!

QUINOA

Quinoa made with vegetable broth. Served with roasted zucchini, Beyond meat Italian sausage, onions and peppers.

Oh quinoa, how I love thee! Quinoa is a grain that has gained popularity over the past decade for its nutritionally rich profile. A flavanoid found in quinoa, quercetin has been found to have an anti-depressant effect! My favorite way to eat quinoa is took cook it with vegetable broth instead of water and serving it with my chickpeas and broccoli.

DARK CHOCOLATE


“Chocolate” by John Loo is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Dark chocolate is a great source of antioxidants and has been found to reduce the stress hormone, cortisol. When choosing the best dark chocolate for it’s mood boosting benefits, choose chocolate with at least 70% cacao.

TURMERIC


“Spoonfuls of spice” by spurekar is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Turmeric is a spice that comes from the turmeric plant. The most active compound in turmeric, curcumin has many scientifically proven health benefits such as the potential to reduce heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer. Its a potent ant inflammatory and antioxidant may help improve symptoms of depression. My favorite way to use turmeric is in soup, tofu scrambles and curries

GREEN TEA


“Green Tea” by bkajino is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Green tea is an antioxidant rich powerhouse that has been known to increase fat burning, increase energy, lower risk for cancer, lower your risk of chronic illnesses and so much more! I prefer to have my green tea in the form of matcha powder, mixed with coconut milk and sweetened with agave. Its a delicious combination!

SPINACH

Smoothie flat lay. Spinach, banana, cacao powder, dates and toasted black sesame seeds.

Before looking for foods that actually improve mood, I would have never guessed that spinach is known for its mood elevating benefits! Spinach contains folic acid which is can alleviate depression and fatigue! The simplest way to get more spinach in your diet is to add a handful or two to a smoothie! I also love sauteed spinach with salt, pepper and garlic!

MUSHROOMS

Shiitake mushrooms, brown rice and avocado.

Mushrooms are packed with vitamin D which is associated with anti depressant qualities. The main role of vitamin D is converting tryptophan into serotonin. The right amount of serotonin can ward off depression and anxiety. I love eating mushrooms in all of the ways!!! Baked, fried, sauteed, raw! My favorite mushrooms are oyster, cremini and shiitake.

WALNUTS


“Walnuts” by Jonas Tana is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Walnuts are packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and contain a large amount of linolenic acid, a plant based omega 3. Those vitamins and minerals play a huge role in improving brain function, keeping mood balance, fighting fatigue, stress, tension and irritability.

ORANGES


“Orange” by chriscom is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Just cutting in a ripe juicy orange improves my mood! Oranges are packed with vitamin C which has been linked to boosting antioxidant levels, reducing blood pressure and boosting immunity! My favorite way to eat oranges is in smoothies!

MANGO


“P1370210.JPG” by Hella Delicious is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


Mango was one of those exotic foods I never had until I was in my mid twenties! I ate so many mangoes that season!!! Just like oranges, mangoes contain a great amount of vitamin C which has been shown to help fight depression ans stress. My favorite way to eat mango is cut up with a squeeze of lime juice. They also make their way into a fair amount of smoothies!

AVOCADO


“avocado” by Elsa4Sound is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Avocado is one of my absolute favorite foods of all time!!! This creamy deliciousness can be used as a toast topper, sandwich spread, or eaten alone with salt and pepper. The reason avocado made the list is because like many of the others on the list, it contains tryptophan a brain chemical the helps regulate mood!

PUMPKIN SEEDS


“Toasted, Salted” by mellowfood is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Pumpkin seeds are another that made the list because it contains the mood regulating chemical tryptophan. I will definitely be adding more pumpkin seeds to my diet! A great way to add pumpkin seeds to your diet is by sprinkling them on a salad or avocado toast, YUM!

TOMATOES


“Tomatoes” by markhig is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Tomatoes have become one of my favorite foods! I love chopping up tomatoes and sprinkling them with a bit of salt and pepper, its so refreshing! Tomatoes are packed with the antioxidant lycopene which aids in fighting inflammation in the brain. Since lycopene is fat soluble, eating tomatoes with avocado will help the body absorb the lycopene.

FLAX SEEDS


“Brown Flax Seeds” by Evelyn Parham is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Flax seeds are one of those foods I had never heard of until going vegan and I was using ground up flax seeds as an egg substitute(which works perfectly when baking cookies). Flax seeds are packed with omega 3 fatty acids, while they have a wide variety of benefits including lowered risk of diabetes, cancer and heart disease the main benefit is combating depression and anxiety.


WRITE IT OUT!

“A personal journal is an ideal environment in which to become. It is a perfect place for you to think, feel, discover, expand, remember, and dream.”

-Brad Wilcox

“Handwriting is Dead [2009-060]” by kittell is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

If you don’t feel comfortable telling anyone your innermost private thoughts, write it out! I have kept a journal for the past 25 years and it always makes me feel a little better to get my thoughts out on paper! There are so many benefits to journaling some of them include:

-boosts your mood

-enhance your sense of well-being;

-reduce symptoms of depression before an important event (like an exam);

-reduce intrusion and avoidance symptoms post trauma

-improve your working memory


GRATITUDE

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” 

Melody Beattie

“Petal Love” by KateWares is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Last but certainly not least, gratitude! Gratitude has gotten me through so many challenging times! It can be so easy to get caught in the spiral of everything that has gone wrong or ruminate on the things you don’t have. Gratitude is a way of shifting your perspective and focusing on everything that has gone right and what you do have! Practicing gratitude has even been proven to increase happiness! A tip that I like to use is to write down a few things that you are grateful for every morning. Practicing gratitude has many benefits that include:

-opens the door to more relationships

-improves physical health.

-increases mindfulness


So there you have it, my tried and true list for getting through challenging times in life with a little grace! I am hopeful that they will help you as much as they have helped me!

So much love, Andrea.

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