The future used to terrify me

There has been an overarching theme weaving through my life lately. Either myself or someone close to me has experienced (or is currently experiencing) loss. Businesses. Sports matches. Jobs. Partners. Close friends. Family members. Pets. Elections.

No matter the source or severity, the instinctual response seems to the same: grief, pain, worry. A deep, heart-wrenching ache that makes it hard to breathe and impossible to swallow. When tears and moans pour freely from the soul and the mind gets lost wondering if it will ever be okay again.

When I was young I had a paralyzing fear that something bad would happen to one of my five family members. I’d get stomach-turning nausea the instant a horrifying thought entered my mind and took the reigns. Car accident, house fire, missing person scenario…creativity was my worst enemy whenever expectation didn’t meet reality (Ie. when Mama was 5 mins late to pick me up from soccer practice).

I didn’t talk to anyone about it, instead I tried everything on my own to make it go away. I’d hide the glowing digits of the alarm clock because knowing how late it was perpetuated the anxiety and insomnia. I’d visualize every step of their journey home or try to distract myself with books. I’d pray. Nothing worked and I was beside myself at the thought of eventually raising my own children. How could I bear the daunting task of managing anxiety then, if it was this bad already?

I felt doomed to be a worrier forever.

It lasted a good decade, and took another several years before it dawned on me that I’d been living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder – undiagnosed and unmedicated. As I learned about psychological assessments among my future naturopathic colleagues, I finally “got” that not everyone was living in near constant terror like I was.

I’m telling you this because I’ve spent the 8 years since engrossed in understanding mental illness and determined to get to the root of how the mind relates to every other aspect of health, especially the physical.

It was critical that I wrap my head around solving my own issues so that I could be of use to my patients, students, friends, family members and peers who suffered as well.

Just when I thought I was getting a handle on it, my life started falling apart. A few years ago I made a string of decisions that resulted in losing close friends, quitting all my jobs, moving from Vancouver to my small hometown on the East Coast, enduring heartbreak after heartbreak and going broke. Then to cap it off, my worst fears materialized as I witnessed my beloved dog’s back legs slowly lose function until I had no choice but to regretfully say goodbye last Fall.

Despite how awful it sounds, I know I’m not the only one who has struggled with fear and loss. Like others before me, I came close to falling into the trap of attracting pity and competing for the award of “who’s life sucks the most.” Luckily, I had the wherewithal, knowledge and support to dive deep, explore the pain and determine what I could pull from these difficult times to become more aligned with myself and what I value most.

The truth is, my losses set off a cascade of transformations that have been a long time coming and I’m happy to report that I’ve arrived on the other side stronger, happier and healthier – with a newfound energy to share the lessons I’ve embodied.

Throughout this challenging process I repeatedly came across an underlying phenomenon that separates those who thrive after suffering disappointment from the ones who take years to recover (or never do). It’s called resilience and it affects all four dimensions of self – mind, body, heart & soul. It resonated so well with my being that I named my business after it.

There is promising research developing all over the world, across multiple industries which highlights the characteristics and skills needed to strengthen resilience – individually and globally. It sounds complicated, but relative to all the garbage people lose days of their life devouring on the internet, the concepts are surprisingly simple.

To showcase these ideas, I’d like to introduce you to 3 handsome men who were major contributors to waking me up to the fact that, actually, The Obstacle Is The Way. Enter:

Jason Silva – Marie Forleo interviewed him a couple years ago…they talked about Idea Sex and I fell head over heels for his mind and charming delivery. Get lost in his Shots of Awe YouTube series and you will see what I’m talking about. Those who know me won’t be surprised that my favourite channel is the one on Sex, Love & Relationships.

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Dan Savage – I’m forever grateful to Dr. Marisa Marciano (also known as the Naturopathic Herbalist), my good friend and former classmate, for telling me about Dan’s podcast, The Savage Lovecast, back in naturopathic college. He’s gotten me through some life-changing break-ups and taught me a helluva lot about sex and healthy relationships.

In this photo taken on May 22, 2013, author Dan Savage is in his home in Seattle. Savage's latest book, "American Savage," was released on Tuesday, May 28. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Wim Hof – This amazing man, his compelling story and unique, empowering philosophy will make you wonder and (possibly) change your life. I’ve been recommending his simple breathing technique to almost all of my patients because it quickly demonstrates that we have more control over our mind and body than we tell ourselves.

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These are just a tiny sample of the communities forming to stand up for a more humane world, including a safer place for us to live amongst all the plants and animals.

Does any of this sound encouraging to you? If so, that’s intuition grabbing your attention. Now is the time to start honing your internal compass and make decisions that vibe with who you are so you can gain a new perspective on fear and loss.

Here are a few ways to do just that:

  1. Consume mindfully. Your relationship to food, nature and money is reflected in your dietary choices. By choosing to eat local, organic, sustainable, whole foods you can show yourself (and the planet) what you value and appreciate. Revisit your in/out balance: forget about calories, focus on what you eat and what goes in the trash can. Let your gut guide you and your plate become a beacon of self-love, not self-loathing. So much of what drives our cravings is rooted in feelings. Address those and eating can be fun again.
  2. Slow down so you can hear yourself think. Be who you want by listening to your thoughts and emotions. What lies are you telling yourself? Belief is a habit of thought – train your mind to focus on the positive. Take note of what you’re doing when you feel good…do more of that. Have what you want by watching your words (replace “hope” and “should” with “can” and “will”). Quit complaining! Tell the story of the way you want it to be, not the way you wish it wasn’t. You, yes even you, are worthy of everything you desire.
  3. Speaking of which, what exactly DO you want? It’s easy to let marketing gurus steal your attention and convince you that you must have whatever they’re selling. These cues distract us from our true power which comes from our passions and curiosities. By getting in tune with how we hope to feel on any given day, we take the blinders off and are able to see the grander vision of what our life purpose is. When we know this, frustrations and disappointments take a back seat, stress is released and smooth functioning returns.

Pondering the imminent loss of my most loyal companion for over a year forced me to take a long hard look at what love is all about and what the point is. I think, in the end, the last (and most important) lesson that my dog Monte taught me was that pain is a measure of how deeply you can love. When you go all in, you risk losing everything, including yourself for awhile. Amidst that vulnerability is an opportunity to be reminded of what you already know…

In trauma, we all have a choice: respond with fear, or with love; be the victim or step into your role as a hero for someone else. The future will always seem scary because life is crazy and we never know what’s around the corner. If we can summon the courage to keep our hearts open though, love will fill us back up and build unshakeable trust that we can make it through anything. Not only that, but in time, we’ll learn that it is these setbacks that create the character and resolve necessary to become stronger, healthier, happier versions of ourself.

Being a worrier for all those years played a key role in showing me what I really care about. It led to me pursuing what I can honestly say is my dream life and career. You have this power too – are you willing to do the work to unleash it? Don’t hesitate to contact me if you want support.

3 things to gift (yourself) this holiday season

Over the years, I’ve presented to groups numerous times with the goal of motivating people to quit smoking, join a yoga class, drink filtered water, start meditating and eat real food. It took awhile though, for me to realize that listing all the stress reduction techniques was causing overwhelm and inaction – just the opposite of what I was going for!

Although I certainly stand behind those recommendations, I’d sooner focus on the first most important step required to move towards optimal health. This one simple truth often gets hidden under the “shoulds” we are suffocated by in day-to-day life.

In reality, the last thing people need right now is another so-called authority’s opinion on which habits must absolutely be picked up and what needs to drop in order to feel good again.

What most of us really need is a reminder that we already have what we are looking for – and, you guessed it, it’s inside. We already know what we need to do – what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s good what’s bad. In fact, we are programmed for it.

My goal is to remind you of 3 key ways to release the pressure and harness the stress of the season to pursue joy and health.

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Christmas is just around the corner and with it comes a tidal wave of demands. Because I’ve been living away for the better part of the last decade, being home this year is extra special. Primarily due to the fact that I won’t:

1) need to take time away from my studies or my business, buy a thousand dollar plane ticket, and hope for nature to get me across the country; or 2) opt not to fly home and dread hearing the sound of my dear mother’s heart break when I tell her the news.

No, no, not this year! Instead, I have new stresses to deal with!

  • First winter without my beloved dog (his favourite season)
  • First winter with a house to look after…and keep warm
  • Missing my friends and family who aren’t near me this year

I know I’m not alone here. My patients, students, colleagues and friends, even strangers seem easily annoyed and on edge these days. It dawned on me that the holidays, although the hap-happiest season of all, also represent a microcosm of humanities greatest problems.

The flood of emotions when you’re surrounded by family and friends coupled with treats around every corner, maxed out credit cards and copious amounts of alcohol bring out a rawness that’s impossible to hide from. Not to mention the pile of garbage left behind for the planet to deal with.

Throw in extreme weather conditions, power outages and the intense drive to go deep inside, it’s no wonder Seasonal Depression is so common.

When stress enters the human system it causes a cocktail of hormones. The problem is, over long term (ie. more than a few mins or hours) the sets the stage for dysfunction (in the body and all around it). Read this recent article by Aviva Romm MD – who I am a huge fan of – for the dirty details of what anxiety and stress are doing to our bodies and minds.

So should we just succumb? Peace out to a tropical beach or suffer in agony?

Hold on…are those actually our only options? Or could we decide to befriend stress this year, as Kelly McGonical suggests in her TED talk? Could we let the spirit of Christmas shine through us, instead of resisting it and turning into scrooge?

When you think about it, this festive time can actually be an awesome opportunity test yourself – overtly and repeatedly, with important life lessons. Because of the heightened tension in the air, this is an ideal chance to assess your strength and resilience in all 4 dimensions of health – mind, body, health, soul. To learn. To live. To learn to live.

  • To smile, when all you want to do is hit someone (perhaps a senile aunt who pointed out your growing army of grey hairs)
  • To wave calmly at the driver who just cut you off in a storm
  • To say something positive about the weather, in response to a complaint
  • To swallow the lump in your throat when it’s not appropriate to grieve
  • and to ugly cry when you get some space alone. 

Is it really that easy? Yes, but the question to ask is: What is under my control? Let’s have a look at that list of major stresses and see what we have control over:

DIET CHOICES – yes, ultimately it is, even though it feels like it isn’t when we aren’t balanced

GARBAGE – yes, mindful consuming is not as hard as it seems when you block out marketing

FINANCIAL WOES – yes, some costs are unavoidable but we can learn new beliefs that help – sign up for this amazing free webinar tonight with my money coach and one of my faves.

FAMILY – yes & no, you can’t control them but you can choose who you interact with and how you respond

WEATHER – no. Ironically, the one thing we truly have NO control over, seems to be what everyone gets stuck on, and in it, provides the perfect analogy for how we respond to stress.

Just like our reaction to “unfortunate” weather, our reaction to stress can be helpful or not. You can hide from it, but it won’t change the fact that you have to shovel the driveway, or deal with that lingering anger eventually. You can scream at it but that sharp wind, or harsh comment from your partner will still take your breath away.

Alternatively, you can dress appropriately and make the most of it by building a sweet snow fort with your kids or neighbours. Do you see? Everything is a choice. And what goes on around you, is a library of lessons to grow closer to your highest self.

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How we respond to situations that are outside of our control is the key to taking action and moving towards health (and wealth). You can do this starting today by gifting yourself and those around you with these:

  1. Balance – just by becoming more aware of how you respond, you will start to regain balance. Tune into music that soothes your soul, take yourself for a walk in nature. Learn to say no. Gain some awareness of where you spend energy & money. Start reflection rituals.
  2. A Break – welcome stillness and look inside to discover what you want. You’re trying your best, be kind and compassionate. Lead with love, not fear. Respect your choices, don’t second guess or “should” on yourself & others. Use positive self-talk. Give yourself a break.
  3. Breath – Lastly I’ll finish with recommending you all try this breathing technique that I learned from an incredible human named Wim Hof. He has scientifically proven that his method resets the body’s stress response and allows you to regain control of your life. 

For more info, you can find me on Facebook where I’ll be posting a daily wellness tip everyday from Christmas to New Year. Also keep in mind that you likely have coverage for naturopathic services on your health plan that will renew in January – please schedule an appointment now if you are looking for one-on-one treatment.

I wish you the most peaceful, joyous holidays spent honouring what you want and need most.

3 Ways to Tell if Your Supplements are Garbage

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One of the most frustrating things about my job is helping people grasp that, with few exceptions, you pay for what you get when it comes to supplements. Despite growing up on chewable Flintstones multivitamins, I have since gathered loads of evidence that goes against this and similar practices.

I’m with ya, I go nuts over a great deal too. The problem arises when you see just how much money is getting flushed down the drain after being spent on something that won’t get results (plus, lots of people aren’t even sure what results look or feel like).

I applaud folks who do their own research and take health in their own hands; that said, it pains me to hear that they’ve invested in a self-prescribed protocol that’s doomed to fail. The health product industry is expanding every minute and unfortunately, the majority of companies are banking on your lack of knowledge so they can get and stay ahead of their competitors.

The blunt truth is, not all natural medicines are the same. In fact, most of what’s out there is glorified waste, taking up precious space in our overflowing landfills and recycling depots. To cut through all the confusion, today I want to share 3 ways that you can quickly determine the quality of supplements you find online and on the shelf:

  1. Look at the non-medicinal ingredient list:
    • AVOID: hydrogenated oils, artificial colours, sugar (of all types), corn, dairy, wheat, gluten, soy and fillers (which generally appear as long chemical names)
    • NOT-SO-HARMFUL: vegetable grade magnesium stearate (used as a lubricant to keep formulas uniform), vegetable capsule (when possible choose caps over tablets as they are more easily broken down and absorbed)
  2. Check form of vitamin and part used of herbs – this is important! Unless you have been trained in this, it will be hard to tell which is best. Instead, learn what brands you can trust. I’m a fan of CanPrev and Orange Naturals, which is why I’ve been working as a consultant for them since I graduated. There are many others though – feel free to ask in the comments below if you want an opinion on a product or company.
  3. Dosing is critical – how much is in there and how often you take your medicine will affect it’s impact on your health. When it comes to herbs and vitamins this is big! A lot of products have nowhere near the amount needed to have an effect. You could buy the textbooks and study up or, as above, discover which companies have credible practitioners formulating for them and funnel your money to them instead.

Remember, the most expensive supplement is one that doesn’t do anything. With patients who have strong digestive systems and consume clean, real food, supplements are often unnecessary and may actually get in the way of true healing. As with most of this stuff, getting professional guidance can make or break your treatment plan.

Have a look at your medicine cabinet…is it built for health or getting in the way of progress?

 

Earth Day Hangover Cures

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It’s Friday and just like most people I’m about to meet up with some friends for a drink or many. Before I go though, I wanted to share a few thoughts I had on this gorgeous Earth day as I sit in the park, grateful for the trees that shelter my big old dog from the April heat.

Despite knowing what I know about the effects of more-than-moderate amounts of booze on my system, it still takes a lot for me to turn down a drink. For research purposes only of course, I’ve taken the time over the past several years to test what really works to combat hangovers. Scroll to the bottom to get the low down.

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How a river cuts a rock

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What do Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandela, Michael Jordan, George Washington, Muhammad Ali, Bob Marley and Will Smith all have in common? 

(no it’s not that they all have male genitalia, but I think that is also correct)

Scientist, Nerd, Activist, Athlete, Politician, Fighter, Musician, Actor – each excelling in completely different domains yet all had the capacity to muster the tenacity to be brilliant, despite poor odds.

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Stuff you might not know about me

I recently threw my hat in for the wellness expert host on a new daytime TV show that CBC is set to air this Fall. Unfortunately, I didn’t make the cut but the application was an exercise in clarity and I thought some of the material might be interesting for people who want to get to know me better.


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#1 Rule for a Clean(er) Diet – video!

 

Just like trying to build a house on a poorly built foundation, you’ll have a tough time reaching your health goals if the crap you’re putting in your mouth is void of nutrients…or worse!

Here’s a video that describes the most important thing I’ve ever learned about nutrition and one super easy tool you can start using right away to protect yourself:

 


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Beating shame with a stick of authenticity

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Something’s in the air…and it’s not the scent of natural cleaning products.

Maybe it’s the sensation that this summer of fun is coming to an end as we gear up for a new school and/or fiscal year.

Maybe it’s these last days of heat before the inevitable grey skies roll in and the rain starts falling.

Maybe its the fact that there’s a lot of bad stuff happening around the world and it’s making us feel driven to find more meaning in our careers and relationships as we get older.

In any case, a lot of folks in my world are either making babies or breaking up. The phrase “shit or get off the pot” seems particularly fitting.
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Show love to your biggest organ

The last thing I want to do with this post – and the website as a whole – is make you think what you’re currently doing is wrong. I don’t know about you, but when someone makes me feel bad about the decisions I make, it makes me want to do them even more.

This makes things a little bit difficult in the health world, because it seems sometimes like my job is to tell people to stop doing things that are bad for them and start doing more things that would benefit their health. It’s usually not that straightforward (I do a lot of educating people about why they’re getting symptoms and what could help), but the fact remains that no one likes having their current behaviours judged in a negative way.
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