Staying Strong During This Time of Stress

It has been several years since I’ve posted—I thought my days of blogging were behind me. But I’m reaching out because I know we are all trying to stay strong during these very stressful times, and I’d like to help out, even if it’s in a tiny way. Over the next several posts, I’m going to share some of the tips and techniques I’ve found that have the biggest positive effect on my mood. My hope is that some of these ideas will help others as they are struggling to stay mentally strong during this time of great stress.

The stresses are many… of social isolation, the disruption in routine, possible job loss/financial stress, being forced to face unaddressed hurts from increased time with family members, existential angst, and of course the risk and reality of physical illness and the fear of death.

Many of us need to stay strong—physically and mentally—for ourselves, our children, our partners, our parents, our siblings, and our neighbors. So I hope that the tips I share will be of help to you.

Why am I choosing this topic?

Two struggles have defined my life over the past five years, since moving from Austin to Berkeley: 1) my shame and feelings of failure as a mother from living apart from my oldest son, and 2) my efforts to heal from the autoimmune disease affecting my thyroid. The latter was tangled up in the former in ways I didn’t expect; I ultimately realized I was in fact trying to save myself from myself, both literally (autoimmune diseases involve self attacking self) and figuratively (from my self-blame, self-shaming, and lack of self-love).

Over these five years, I have experimented with so many strategies to heal myself: anti-inflammatory and elimination diets, food as medicine, meditation, supplements, herbal treatments, exercise, nature immersion, eliminating toxins in my environment, standing up for myself in relationships, and speaking my truth.

As I began to heal, I grew stronger in myriad ways: physically (reduced thyroid symptoms and elimination of chronic infections), mentally (increased mental sharpness—I taught myself to code and am now relearning math), and in terms of my mood (reduced sadness and shame and increased calm and confidence). I also began to forgive myself and others. Improvement in each of these areas depended and built on the others, each inching forward bit by bit like one big, multi-dimensional zipper.

One of my biggest takeaways from the past five years is that mood (happiness, sadness, worry, shame, anxiety, negative or positive self-talk, and even ability to love) is rooted in our physical health or lack thereof. By extension, our mood is often within our control—but not immediately in the moment, and not in the ways we’ve been taught to think. For example, our mood cannot be controlled by mental willpower alone (e.g., “turn that frown upside down” or “just let it go”). We can, however, take many steps every day that will, in time, inch us ever forward toward a version of ourselves that is strong in body, mind, and spirit.

So during this time of isolation, I will attempt to share bits of what I have learned about how my mood is affected by the food I eat, the toxins in my environment, the levels of vitamins and minerals in my body, exercise, the amount I sleep, being in nature, my connection to others, and my love and forgiveness for myself. I hope you find it helpful!

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