How Living a Healthier Lifestyle Saved My Life

Three years ago I made a decision that changed my life for the better. I was 80 pounds overweight, extremely depressed, and was struggling to stay alive. I had hit a low point with my depression and anxiety where I had stopped caring about myself that I allowed to let myself go. Food had become my best friend causing me to gain so much weight back then.

Three years ago was when I had my wake up call. I remember that moment when I worked up the courage to step on the scale for the first time in over a year, I knew deep down I was gaining weight, I just didn’t want to acknowledge it. When I saw that number on the scale, tears immediately filled my eyes. I began to feel embarrassed and upset with myself. I was upset that I had allowed myself to do that to myself. I was ashamed of what had happened. It was that day when I made the decision to get my life back on track.

I was living in such a haze, going through the motions day after day I didn’t realize what I was doing to myself. I had stopped loving myself and it was taking a toll on my mental and physical health.

I wasn’t taking medication either at the time and made an appointment with a psychiatrist to get started on medication again. That was when I received the correct diagnosis of Bipolar II disorder and got put on proper medication that has helped my recovery process.

Along with getting back on medication, I changed my diet and added exercise into my routine. I was eating a lot of fast food (mainly Taco Bell) and a lot of junk food. I wasn’t eating any natural whole foods and was only putting junk into my body.

I started with cutting out the fast food first, then the junk food, and replaced those with natural whole foods. I did it in a slow transition so it helped me build that habit to create a healthier diet.

I then started to exercise three to four days a week. I would either go to the gym or I would go on a run in my neighborhood. Every week I started to increase the length of time I would spend exercising to build my strength and stamina up again. About three weeks into my lifestyle change was when I started to notice the positive changes it was bringing me. I was feeling happier again, I wasn’t as anxious anymore, I had more energy, and I was starting to feel alive again. It made me realize that it wasn’t only helping me physically, but mentally as well.

By staying consistent with my exercise routine I was building up my strength and was starting to lose the weight I had gained. With the new medication I was on and my new lifestyle was helping my mental health immensely.

I truly believe that it was because of fitness that helped save my life. Three years ago I was at my lowest point. Everyday was a fight for me to stay alive. I was struggling with the negative thoughts everyday and wanted to give up so bad. When I had that wake up call and made the choice to change my lifestyle is what brought me back to life again.

Exercise has become a non-negotiable part of my lifestyle now. It’s become a part of my healing and recovery for mental health. With taking medication, exercise, and eating healthier all helped save my life and got me onto a better path.

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Living with Bipolar: Tools for Success

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It’s been three years since I was officially diagnosed as having Bipolar 1 with mixed episodes.  The last three years consisted of numerous ups and downs, and many lessons learned.  Through the time there have been countless therapy sessions and psychiatry appointments, sleepless nights and sleep filled days.  Days of crying without ceasing as well as weeks feeling so numb I was certain that I would never feel another emotion again in my life.  Needless to say, I have been all over the map.

Looking back, I can see that I have learned an abundance.  I have been privileged to attend two vastly different treatment programs, one in mid 2016 and one recently in late 2018.  As well as spending hours upon hours in weekly therapy sessions.  We have worked through adjusting medication for the bi polar as well as adjusting my hormones, the combination being an exhausting battle.

During this time, I have been given many gifts.  The gifts have been in the form of talking, crying, yelling and there’s been quite a bit of cursing.  A huge gift that has been given to me is the gift of being given tools.  Through my sessions I have been taught how to use new and different skills that have allowed me to process my thoughts, emotions and feelings and have allowed me to heal, forgive and in some cases forget (and I never thought that would ever happen).  I have learned to breathe, to pause, to allow things to bubble up and then calmly allow them to simmer back down.  And in each lesson, focus on the gift that I am being given, the healing, the warmth, the peace and the calm.  It’s been absolutely the most transformational events of my life.

I wanted to share with you some of the tools that I have learned to use that allow me to better manage the diagnosis’ that I was given and what have helped free me from the captivity that had been keeping me in bondage for oh so many years.  With sharing, I hope that you are able to use one, or perhaps two of the items and migrate them into your life and begin to see improvements like I have.  As with anything, please always talk with your doctor before making a change to your daily routine.  I am not a doctor, I am a regular person simply sharing what has worked for me.

Reciting Three Positives Each Day

  • At the conclusion of each day, as a family, we share three positives that occurred during the day and expand about how it affected us. I have found that by doing this activity my brain stays on the positives of each day and I do not allow negativity to permeate my brain.

Meditating

  • I use the app “Calm” on my iPhone and use the daily calm feature as this provides me with ten or so minutes of relaxation and meditation. A time to destress from the day I had as well as regain my positive, balanced mindset.

Mindfulness Practice

  • I am currently enrolled in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Class where I am learning how to utilize mindfulness as a way to control and decrease my stress. The class and it’s teaching is assisting me in adding another tool in my tool box in managing my mental health.

Yoga/Mindful Movement

  • Incorporating the practice of yoga and mindful movement (a slower version of yoga) has helped me in slowing down and spending time caring for my body. Spending time connecting with my body has allowed me to appreciate my body for what it is and to eliminate the frustrations I have for what it isn’t or for what I may lack as result of the mental illness.  The stretching and movements as part of the practices provides much needed fluidity and releases tension and pain as well as increases mental clarity.

Happy Thoughts/Affirmation Jar

  • I make happy thoughts/affirmation jar which brings me much joy as I love to craft as I view this as a way of spending time in self-care. Plus, spending time focusing on positive mantras forces my brain to stay in that place of positivity and therefore eliminates the time that is available to focus on anything negative

Exercise

  • A walk around the block, a hike along a trail on a mountain or thirty minutes on the elliptical at the gym are all things that I do to take care of my physical health. I may not go as often as I would want to, but I try to go once a week as a way of taking care of my mental, physical and emotional health.

Reading

  • Currently, I struggle to sit down and have my nose in a book, so I rely on audio books that I listen to while laying down resting or while commuting during the week. The books that I choose to listen to are those that are uplifting and motivating.

Hobbies

  • I have found that having hobbies is an amazing way to increase the time that I spend in self-care. My hobbies include writing, crafting, cooking, baking, photography and hiking.  I find that I can do all items alone, for the days when I need alone time, or with others, for the days when I want to spend time with others, and all items that are produced are shareable, which is a way I show my love to others.  I have found that engaging in my hobbies helps bring joy and happiness into my life, and also helps me feel like I have grand purpose and value.

I hope that these tools are ones that you are able to incorporate into your toolbox and they can help benefit you in ways like they have positively benefited me and my life.

Cupcakes and Sprinkles,

Bella~

http://www.bellasbabbles.com

Living Well With Bipolar Disorder

1 in 4 Americans suffer from a mental disorder, and out of those millions of Americans, 5.7 million Americans suffer from bipolar disorder, characterized by erratic moods consisting of mania (an elated state of being) and the more familiar depressive episodes. I am one of those 5.7 million Americans.

Bipolar disorder is often considered the “artist’s disease,” from Sylvia Plath to Vincent van Gogh exemplifying the creative bursts of energy, severe depressions, and unstable highs and lows that come with the disorder. There is a range of creative treatments that safeguard mood stability, including traditional medications and therapies that are universally recommended to treat bipolar disorder. Often, mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and psychotherapy are the first lines of defense, alongside a good support system, to prevent mania and depression. However, three simple life changes can safeguard against serious bipolar episodes and help those who suffer from bipolar disorder maintain a stable, healthy lifestyle.

Early to Bed, Early to Rise – Healthy and Wise

Sleep is perhaps the most important preventer of manic relapses and a strong source of mood stability. Bipolar disorder is directly related to insomnia. The fewer people with bipolar disorder sleep, the more likely they are to become manic. The Center for Disease Control recommends seven hours of sleep daily for adults. Having a healthy sleep routine, such as an established bed time and avoidance of caffeine after 2:00 PM can help people with bipolar disorder achieve a good night’s rest. As someone who is diagnosed with bipolar disorder and has worked for years to combat insomnia, I have found that turning off screens (from televisions, phones, computers, tablets, etc.) an hour before bedtime and having a strong sleep routine where I turn in around the same time each night works wonders. If insomnia persists, one can talk to a doctor about sleep aids available by prescription and consider using Melatonin or a Circadian rhythm stabilizer (available over-the-counter).

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

Exercise is another great mood booster, especially during depressive episodes and to combat the side effects of bipolar medications that often cause weight gain. The NIH recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. When you are active, dopamine floods your brain and gives you feelings of happiness similar to a runner’s high. This is especially important for bipolar disorder sufferers, whose serotonin levels are often imbalanced. However, staying active can be a challenge during depressive lows. I like to hike or cycle, which leaves me feeling satisfied and helps keep the pounds off from medicine. Find an activity you enjoy, whether it is biking or running, and watch as your mood improves.

Nourishing Your Brain, Nourishing Your Soul

Finally, good nutrition is directly linked to mental health, especially for those with bipolar disorder. Nourishing one’s body with healthy foods like whole grains, veggies, and lean meats, while reducing intake of fatty and sugary foods, and using probiotic supplements can improve mental health, buffering mood swings. I rediscovered my love of cooking healthy meals and have seen vast mood improvements since choosing a diet that works for me, specifically the low carb diet. Perhaps the Mediterranean or vegetarian diets will suit you? Experiment with food groups you like and remember to take probiotic supplements for a happy gut and brain.

Your brain, body, and emotions are all linked, bipolar or not, and with these healthy lifestyle changes, supplemented by the proper medication and therapy, bipolar disorder patients can not only survive but thrive.

The Cure for Depression: Don’t Skip What Works

We are very close to the end of our list of cures for depression. We’ve covered everything from connecting with a person to talking to a professional to medicating to exercising to last week’s post on mindfulness.

So… that pretty much makes you an expert now, right?

I’m going to take a really wild guess that you haven’t implemented any of these suggestions. Yes, I’m psychic. Or… I know this because I also haven’t moved from my lazy habits one titch. In fact, I’ve actually worsened in …um…. about half the areas.

My negative self-talkers are in process of lighting torches and hefting pitchforks. “You’re a failure!” They chant, preparing to run my motivation out of the forest forever.

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“Hold up there!” I reply. I’m actually not. Remember when we decided on a title for those with mental illness? We’re not failures. We’re HUMAN!

Instead of giving up, I’m going to brush forest moss from my coat and pick the leaves out of my hair. I’m fine. You’re fine. We’re all fine with -nevermind.

But no more slacking, fellow human. Sit up. Pick an item from the list. Close your eyes and point if you need to. Let’s see: you got “exercise.” That’s easy! Read the blog post I wrote and follow along with my simple step-by-step directions. I even kept it short just in case your attention span wanders like mine….

Where were we? Oh. Attention stuff. Yeah, so, if you could go ahead and pick one that would be great, mmmkay?

Just one. Do it and stop excusing.

If you are more motivated than I and have already completed one or more of the suggestions, bravo! Pat yourself on the back and eat a bit of chocolate unless you’re reading this after 8 p.m. Get to bed at a reasonable time, and pick another idea to try tomorrow.

Pick another idea after that one.

And again.

The main idea is to try. I don’t even care if you stop after a bit; it’s the trying that matters. After simply trying a few, you are going to notice something important: what helps, and what’s not-so-helpful.

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Let’s say that aerobic exercise stressed you out more, yoga in the morning helped you want to keep working your crummy job, eating organic got really expensive, and your psychiatrist moved to another state. Which of these items needs to stay, class?

Don’t red marker them out of existence; this is more of an “edit the sentence to make it correct” exercise.

Cross out aerobic exercise stressed you out more, and write I will walk outside for half an hour at lunch. Change the yoga bit to a simple I love doing yoga before work. Organic got really expensive can now read Healthy foods don’t have to be organic; I’ll pick up some produce on sale and eat it with my meals. As to your psychiatrist? I’m going to ask around for a new psychiatrist, including asking mine for a good referral.

See how that works? Great! Homework time! Your assignment, due soon, is the following:

  1. Try! That’s all: try one of the cures for depression.
  2. Try another.
  3. Ditto, for about 11 more items.
  4. Look at what worked. Edit your observations in a positive manner.

Now for the most difficult part: DO what works.

Which, of course, is NOT difficult. We just make it that way. Change really isn’t the mountain we see it to be. Change is actually a few small steps to a shortcut we can’t see from the trailhead. That shortcut may require climbing gear and a sherpa, but it’s there and it’s possible.

You’re stronger than you think -but not invincible. Don’t get lazy by dropping the practices and routines that made your life more tolerable. That make your life happy.

Keep at it. You are worth it.

Vinicius Amano
Esther Tuttle

The Cure for Depression: Meditate, Pray, Journal, etc.

Welcome to suggestion #12 on curing depression. I’ve got a word for you fellow depressors: Mindfulness.

Have you heard that one lately? I don’t even social media that much since realizing it contributed an unhealthy amount to my negative self-image and my -sorry; rambling. I don’t get around much, and even I saw that word everywhere.

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I think it means being full of yourself, right?

Mindfulness is meant to be synonymous with introspection, self-awareness, inner peace, and self-acceptance. It’s a calming state of mind similar to where one gets with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, but with more calming and less control.

In fact, CBT is the more-chosen recommendation of professionals at the moment. We mental types can get a little crazy when we meditate incorrectly. Who knew?

Anyway…. why practice mindfulness?

A calm mindset in which we have learned to meet and release negative situations and impulses is very beneficial. This mindset reduces stress, keeps us healthier physically, tends to decrease depressive thoughts, helps when we feel bullied or belittled, improves learning, and gives us a general resilience to negative life situations.

Sounds great, right?

Let’s get some stretch pants on, then, and get ready to lotus right into it. Here are the top ways to get yourself mindful:

  1. Meditation.
    Set aside just a few minutes around the same time each day for a little calm introspection. Yes, you can sit cross-legged and hum if it’ll make you laugh. Then, you’ll need to get a tad serious for any inner peace type moments. I also recommend calm music and limited distractions.
    A very important warning I found online is that meditation can have a dark side. If you’re going to look into yourself, do it with guidance (like with the directions of a psychologist). If you’re extremely depressive and want to go 24 hours into deep meditative prayer, get professional instruction first. I have many addictive habits and negative thoughts, so learning that we can actually go a bit haywire delving into our psychosis didn’t surprise me all that much.
    A peaceful reconnection with ourselves for a few simple minutes each day, however, is great.
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  2. Prayer
    I grew up in an organized religion that I am still a part of. We were taught to pray daily. From this, I know both the positive sides (divine help, meditative benefits, divine worth, etc.) and the negative ones (anxiety, trust issues, etc.).
    Thing is, I’ve been reading about a lot of non-religious people finding some suspiciously-religious results from their definition of praying. Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in Eat, Pray, Love about writing to herself in a journal but that it wasn’t herself who answered. Whilst binge-listening to TED Talks, I heard a woman describe coincidental inspirational thoughts and events that led her to positive directions in her life.
    Prayer can work. Perhaps like the meditation, do it in a small, beneficial amounts -maybe even with guidance.
  3. Journaling
    “But, I’m not a writer…” “But, someone might see….” “But, but..” as your grandmother might say, “Buts belong in ashtrays, sonny!” Who cares about your skill as a writer? Just burn the journals when you’re done if you want. Journaling is for YOU.
    Despite the technically-advanced society we live in, consider an actual journal with actual paper and pencil or pen. We’re still very primal and tactile homo sapiens so the behavior of actual writing can be therapeutic.
    What should you write about? How about: guided CBT strategies you and your paid friend are working on, positive thoughts you had, goals for the day, hopes, dreams, and dark poetry …that ends with an inspirational message.
  4. Yoga
    When I think of yoga, I think impossible stretches and smug people with long hair and smoothies made from grass. Yoga doesn’t have to be that way, however. The wonderful world of online videos gives us simple stretches to do in your jeans, advanced positions you need to work up to, and even quick morning routines.
    It’s the marriage of meditation and exercise, so may be the perfect solution if you just want to get this mindfulness crap out of the the way quickly.
  5. Other things
    Like: Self-massage, visualization, rhythmic exercise, progressive muscle relaxation and deep breathing.
    Depression is the continual weather forecast of cloudy skies with scattered showers (in terms of hygiene and crying fits). Most calming activities that break us into relaxation and positive self-awareness are good. They’ll provide a sunbeam, or a full-on clearing of gray matter.

As always, start small and consider working with your doctor and/or counselor for any of these suggestions. Pay attention to how your body responds to each relaxation technique. You may not respond the way 75% of case studies do and it’s super important to do what does work.

Use your inner voice to channel light against the darkness of depression, young Care Bear. You can do it.

Namaste.

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Photo credits:
Lesly Juarez
Le Minh Phuong
Jacob Postuma