Tag Archives: mental health

Life with anxiety.

spring flowers at kew gardens

I’ve written a bit about anxiety on the blog before, but never really told my own story. Since it’s Mental Health Awareness Week, here in the UK, it’s time for me to share.

I recently ‘outed’ myself in a consultation with a friend at nutrition school.

She asked to describe how I felt when I felt anxious.

I described a fist clenching, gut wrenching experience, at its worst. A feeling that makes it necessary to prep myself for everyday situations, such as meeting new people, meeting new friends of friends. A feeling that makes it necessary to give myself pep talks to get through situations I would ordinarily be able to manage. A feeling that makes everyday situations seem insurmountable.

I don’t have anxiety, everyday, all day.  It’s at its worst when I’m not taking care of myself, when I’m drinking too much, not getting enough sleep, indulging in all of my food cravings. It’s during these times, my anxiety gets better of me and I go into crisis mode.

Over the years, I’ve learnt how to manage it. Eating well and getting enough sleep are key. Eating well to me, means eating at least 7 servings a day of vegetables (especially green leafy and cruciferous veg!) and fruit, adding in some nuts and seeds in different forms, getting good quality protein, mainly meat and some fish. It also means not having much sugar and drinking lots of water, some kombucha and lovely, warming  herbal teas.

I’ve discovered recently that alcohol exacerbates my anxiety. Which makes sense, knowing that alcohol depletes vitamin B6, a key vitamin for the production of serotonin, the feel good hormone. I was sad to say goodbye to my evening glass of red wine, but even happier to spend the day on an even keen mentally.

How you manage your anxiety? The more I research, the more I discover. There are so many different tools that folks tend to use, from deep breathing techniques, to CBT, to adding and subtracting food to and from their diet, to taking various supplements.

I supplement with a good women’s multivitamin, an omega-3 fish oil with a good DHA to EPA ratio and magnesium, which helps me relax and ‘unclench’ a little. On the advice of a collegue at school, I’ve recently started supplementing with inositol, a substance produced by plants and animals, that belongs in the B family of vitamins. It helps mood regulation and can reduce anxiety.

Fingers crossed, my cobbled together approach seems to be working well so far. What do you do to manage your anxiety on a day to day basis?

Eating to improve anxiety


Anxiety seems to be a growing problem these days, especially amongst young people. Various pressures – societal, economic, physical, technological, emotional, political – mean that people are being pulled in many directions, increasing their day to day anxiety and decreasing their ability to cope.

When you add in increased alcohol intake too, it’s wonder that anxiety is one of the fastest growing self-help categories.

The good news, is that there are foods you can eat that can help ease anxiety.

First a bit of science: serotonin (the happy hormone) is synthesised from an essential amino acid called tryptophan, which cannot be synthesised in the body. Eating foods abundant in tryptophan throughout the day can naturally help increase / balance serotonin levels and can have a positive effect on your mood and anxiety levels.

So what foods are high in tryptophan? With all of these foods, go organic and free-range wherever possible.

Almonds: A personal favourite, you can get the benefits through whole almonds, ground almonds, almond butter or almond milk. Buy organic and local wherever possible, as almonds are notoriously resource heavy during farming. Also, when you’re using almond milk, read the ingredients to make sure you’re not buying one with loads of fillers like carrageenan, oils and sugars. I like Plenish or Rude Health Ultimate Almond.

Poultry: Poultry is generally high in tryptophan, however the winner in this category is turkey, which has the highest amount. This explains that happy feeling after feasting on turkey during Christmas dinner, right?

Avocado: This wonder fruit (or is a vegetable?) is also high in B vitamins, which help convert tryptophan to serotonin.

Salmon: The ideal choice is wild Alaskan salmon (which is also high in vitamin D!) to avoid the antibiotics and growth hormones in farmed fish. It’s very important not to go overboard with fish (my recommendation is 2 x weekly, maximum) as its goodness must be balanced with the realities of what fish are absorbing from 0ur very polluted water.

Organic, free-range dairy products: They are also a good source of healthy fats and B vitamins.

Pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds: These seeds are also high in B vitamins and zinc.

Green tea and matcha: A new favourite of mine, they are both high in l-theanine, a calming amino acid that helps reduce stress.

To get more bang for your buck, eat these foods with a carbohydrate food (i.e. fruit and veg, gluten free grains like oatmeal, buckwheat or quinoa), as they will improve absorption of tryptophan.

Other ways to manage anxiety

Vitamin D: Make sure to get enough vitamin D, either from the sun or a supplement during the winter. If you’re not sure what your vitamin D levels are, you can get tested for £25 from http://www.vitamindtest.org.uk

Deep breathing: Taking a long deep breath, in for three breaths through your nose and out for three breaths through your mouth is a brilliant way to shift your nervous system out of sympathetic (fight or flight) mode, back to the calming parasympathetic rest and digest mode.

Stop telling me to be nice.

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I wrote this on Instagram this morning and wanted to expand it out a little.

In the last three days, I’ve been seeing many posts talking about the need to ‘be nice’ to others as we all process the result of the US election. These posts frustrate me.

What I wonder is – how does it help, in moments of grief, of anger, to hear calls to ‘be nice’, to ‘turn the other cheek’?  It strikes me that these calls to ‘be nice’ are a way for people to hide their discomfort with what’s happening around them. It can be hard to grapple with an uncomfortable conversation about the true beliefs and inherent biases in those that surround you, to hear challenging words, words that may challenge core beliefs and biases.

Rather than ‘being nice’ and sweeping things under the rug, I’m a firm believer that people need an opportunity to process their emotions, especially in these macro moments of shock and horror. Let them feel what they need to feel as long as they’re not hurting anyone.

When you see the increase in racism and xenophobia, it’s hard to hear ‘be nice’. People are suffering and we need to take care of each other.

We need to try and to understand each other more. Let’s constructively challenge assumptions and build new understandings, that are based on truths. Change is messy, uncomfortable and not very nice. But it can be incredibly effective, life-changing, even. Let’s try.

Stories I loved this week.

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The news of Prince’s death hit me like a tonne of bricks. It’s hard to describe how much his music has been a part of the key moments of my life. I Would Die 4 U helped me recover from a major emotional blow, Purple Rain, Diamond and Pearls, Cream, Little Red Corvette and so many others were the soundtrack of my childhood and teenage years and Sexy MF and Erotic City would always get me onto the dance floor at university. He will be missed.

The 13 most important essays about Prince. (Buzzfeed)

I adore this Questlove / Prince story. (Slate)

I’ve been eyeing up the bikinis here in anticipation of my holiday to Crete in a few weeks. (J. Crew)

Refinery 29 are running a series called ‘Rag Week’, full of insightful pieces on how women experience periods and menopause. This is a great piece from Caryn Franklin on embracing the change of life that is menopause.

Parenting outdoors like Phoebe Buffay runs. Made me chuckle. (Aka Peachie)

I’m going to try this spiced lamb and lentil stew for dinner this week. (Every Last Bite)

Stories I loved this week.

colourful buildings

We’ve had a few warm days in London this week and now I’m itching for summer. London is so great in the summer, with the many parks, rooftop patios and riverside pubs. My husband and I had a day off this week for his birthday and we discovered a fabulous rooftop pub / garden on top of the South Bank Centre. And it was utter bliss to sit in the sun with a book, a glass of wine and a bit of peace. Looking forward to going back with J so he can run around the garden.

The life changing magic of tidying up for new parents. Made me giggle. (The New Yorker)

An interesting first-person view on the body dysmorphia of the men in her life. (Refinery 29)

So cool. This British astronaut is running the London Marathon in space. (CBS News)

Do you have a negative voice inside, with a running pessimistic monologue? I do and it drives me crazy. Here are some good tips on how to quell that voice. (Well + Good)

5 easy ways to overhaul your nutrition. (Elle)

How many workout leggings are too many workout leggings? Not sure what the answer is but I’m obsessed with this pair from Sweaty Betty and want to add them to my collection.

I’ve never understood ‘gingerism‘. In Canada, where I’m from, we call them redheads and it’s generally considered quite unique and interesting to have redhead. (Aeon)

Photo by Samuel Zeller

Stories I loved this week.

Beautiful farm vista

Photo by Richard Smith

A sick child for me, usually means, lots of cuddles and lots of down time. I have to accept that I’m not going to get a huge amount done and I have to slow down.

Here’s what I wrote on my Instagram:

“I don’t tend to post many photos of myself on this account, primarily because I want to focus on sharing my adventures in food, health, fitness and wellness. My little boy has been really sick today and I’ve been either holding or laying down with him all day. I’m not really one for resting as I’m always focused on the next thing I need to tick off my to do list – the next chapter to read in my textbooks, the next meal to cook, the next blog post to write, the next outing to plan, the next freelance gig, and so on. Today, I’ve been forced to stop, focus on the present and just be with my son. And I appreciate it. I’m not saying I’ll change because I have a lot on my plate right now. But it’s nice to just be in the moment. #realtalk”

Little J is finally back to his sprightly self and we’ve got an adventure filled weekend – Winter Wonderland, Christmas tree shopping and of course, trimming, visiting friends and the first of a few carol services. What are you up this weekend?

Would you join an alternative book club? I love the idea of a walking book club. (Guardian)

The health effects of loneliness. (The Atlantic)

Have you seen The Man in The High Castle yet? Great television from Amazon Studios. (Amazon)

Could you spend ten days without speaking? This writer went on a 10-day silent meditation retreat. (Summer Tomato)

Can’t wait to see Sisters. (New York Times)

Being mixed race with Afro hair texture, I totally related to this author’s reticence at cutting her long hair. I’ve done it twice in my life and cried / regretted it both times. (The Pool)

We’re also in the middle of potty training (what a fun week, right?!) and I stumbled upon this very funny and true list of thoughts all parents have whilst potty training. (Buzzfeed)

Stories I loved this week.

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Photo by Austin Schmid

Thursday was my last day at my freelance job and I feel like the person in the picture. Jumping for joy and ready to take on new challenges. I’m looking forward to taking the time to find a new contract, getting a lot of studying done and getting off the hectic London treadmill for a bit and into the slower life of being a mother, wife and student. I won’t just have my head in the books the entire time – I’m looking forward to getting stuck into my mindfulness practice and trying a few new exercise classes, including Barry’s Bootcamp.

A fascinating piece on how we got so hooked on avocados. (Guardian)

The loneliness that happens after bariatric surgery. (Salon)

Have you tried switchel? (Well + Good)

I for one cannot wait for the third installment of Bridget Jones. (The Pool)

Do you have wine, gluten or dairy face? Snarky titles aside, it’s fascinating to know that you can see what a person is eating by where acne appears on their face. (Elle UK)

Don’t wash your hands. Yes, yes, yes. People are way too fearful of bacteria – they are so beneficial to us. (The Times)