21 Days to Less Anxiety Challenge Wrap Up

In May we focused on natural remedies to reduce anxiety. During the 21 Days to Less Anxiety Challenge we used exercise, meditation and food to bring a little more calm into our lives. These small adjustments can make a huge impact on lowering overall levels of anxiety. Here are a few small shifts you can think about incorporating into your everyday life.

1. Be mindful. Not just while you’re practicing meditation, but all the time. Limit distractions – music or TV constantly playing in the background, screen time before bed, always having a phone on you, etc. – and take the opportunity to really be present in whatever it is you’re doing. Pay attention. Stop trying to multitask. Listen. Observe. Breathe.

2. Eat real food. With lots of protein. Remember that protein doesn’t just come from meat. Beans, nuts, tofu, fish, eggs, cheese, yogurt and milk are good sources, too. Try to start your day with around 20 grams of protein at breakfast. Reduce consumption of caffeine, alcohol, preservatives and added sugar if you want to take it a step further. Think about swapping coffee for green or chamomile teas. Focus on eating mostly real foods in their natural state – fruits, vegetables, unprocessed meat and fish, whole grains. This is the perfect time of year to plant a garden or take advantage of local farmers markets.

3. Move. Studies have shown that it only takes 20-30 minutes of exercise to trigger a release of mood-boosting endorphins. Exercise can be a powerful tool to help manage anxiety and depression. Choose an activity you enjoy. It can be anything that elevates your heart rate. Aim for at least 20 minutes of continuous movement every day.

4. Be prepared. Planning is a major key to adopting new habits. Plan meals for the entire week or several days at a time and shop accordingly. Don’t bother keeping junk food around if you’re trying to avoid it. Keep your fridge and pantry stocked with healthy choices to avoid temptation. Come up with a schedule for exercise and meditation, and be consistent.

5. Think moderation. It’s fine to do an occasional cleanse or fast to eliminate certain things from our diet. But I think it’s better to adjust to figure out how to make those changes sustainable in our everyday lives. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t think you can say goodbye to added sugar, coffee, alcohol or processed food forever. Instead of total elimination, think about ways you can cut back. Know that every little bit helps. Of course it’d be great if we could meditate for an hour every day and go to the gym 5 times every week. But that’s not always practical. Don’t be discouraged. Do a bodyweight workout at home. If you only have 5 minutes to meditate. Then meditate for 5 minutes. If you can only fit exercise in 2 days a week. At least it’s a start. You can build from there. Don’t get so overwhelmed by the thought of not having enough time that you end up doing nothing.

6. Use mantras. The longer we allow ourselves to dwell on anxious thoughts, the harder it can be to let go of them. Repeat your mantra when you start to feel yourself getting anxious and take a few slow, deep breaths. You can use any word or phrase that brings you back to the present moment to help release your anxious thoughts. Choose something that resonates with you.

7. Write it down. Keeping a journal to write down what you eat and any reflections on meditation or exercise only takes a few minutes, but can be a huge help to keep you motivated and accountable. Knowing that you’ll be writing down everything you eat introduces an element of mindfulness into your food choices. It’s not about shaming yourself out of eating. It just makes you think about whether you’re actually hungry vs. using food to fight off boredom or emotions. Reflecting on your exercise and/or meditation will give you insight about yourself. It’s also a way to acknowledge milestones and set/track goals.

Weekend Warrior: Forward Folds

Every weekend I share a yoga pose related to the youryoga.tips monthly theme. In May we focused on natural remedies to help with anxiety, so all of our poses have been super calming.

Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottana) stretches the entire back of your body – from your shoulders all the way to your calves. Like pigeon pose, it’s a great counter for sitting hunched over a desk. It’s also a good pose to help relieve back pain. Plus, forward folds produce a calming effect on the nervous system. Some of my teacher clients use a variation of this pose to get their elementary school students to calm down.

Start seated with your legs extended in front of you. Feel your sit bones firmly connected to the floor or yoga mat. Prop a folded blanket under your seat if it feels more comfortable that way. Keep you legs active and ankles flexed so toes point to the ceiling. Try to keep your legs straight and connected to the floor for the entire stretch. On an inhale raise both arms over your head and keep your spine long.

Exhale hinging from your hips keeping your spine long and lead with your heart center towards your legs. When you’ve reached your limit relax your hands either beside or on top of the legs. Only reach for your ankles or feet if you’re able to do so without any pain and without bending your knees. Relax the weight of the head, but try not to collapse the shoulders and chest. Breathe into any areas that feel tight or tense. Use your exhale to help your body relax. Hold the stretch for at least one minute to get the most out of it. Remember to keep your body relaxed and use your exhale to help you gently relax deeper into the stretch as it becomes available to you. Take slow, deep breaths in and out of your nose. Exhale through the mouth for a deeper release.

Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana) is a variation that allows gravity to do some of the work for you. Start with both feet firmly planted on the floor or yoga mat about hip-distance apart. Inhale sweeping your arms up overhead and then fold forward allowing your arms to hang down towards the floor. Keep your knees soft – maybe it’s a slight bend or a deep bend depending on what feels comfortable for you. Allow the head to hang heavy and and let go of any tension in your neck, shoulders and upper back. Feel free to hold on to your elbows and sway gently from side to side. You could also gently turn the head back and forth if it feels good. Remember to breath in and out of your nose and allow your entire body to relax completely.

Forward folds not only stretch tight hamstrings, soothe back pain and calm the nervous system, but according to yogic philosophy they also help us to let go of things from the past that no longer serve us. Relax and enjoy!

Photo Jun 28, 12 59 29 PM

Links I Love: May 29th 2015

On Fridays I share a list of links that caught my interest over the past week. Some are related to the youryoga.tips monthly theme or challenge – in May we’ve explored natural remedies for anxiety using food, mindfulness and movement. Others I just think are helpful. Enjoy!

Midweek Mindfulness: A forgiveness ritual

“Resentment is like drinking the poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

So true. When we hold grudges, we’re the one who ends up getting hurt the most. We force ourselves to relive the negative emotions over and over again. We spend our precious time and energy thinking about something we can’t change – the past. I know firsthand. Forgiveness is something I’ve always struggled with. Meditation has been a huge help, but it’s still something I’m working on.

This forgiveness ritual was inspired by an upcoming post I wrote for COOP online lifestyle magazine.

Forgiveness Ritual

  • Let it out. Write a letter to the person you’re upset with. You won’t give them the letter – feel free to say what you need to say. This is the last time you get to brood over the situation, so take your time to get it all out.
  • Let it go. Now that you’ve had the chance to get everything off your chest, destroy the letter. You could rip it up and throw it away or burn it outside. Close your eyes, take a few slow, deep breaths and imagine that you’re inhaling a bright white light and exhaling a dark cloud. Say “I forgive you.”
  • Remember your intention. Come up with a mantra you can use if you find yourself thinking about the grudge again. It could be any word or phrase that reminds you of your forgiving intention. Maybe something like “I forgive you”, “Sending love and light”, “I choose to live in the present”…anything that resonates with you. Repeat the mantra while taking slow, deep breaths to help divert your attention away from negative thoughts.
  • Meditate. Practicing meditation has been proven to increase compassion. Loving Kindness Meditation is a technique that’s meant to do just that. Check out the link for full instructions.

Practice some or all of the steps as often as you need to. Know that with time and intent eventually it gets easier. And remember, in the end you’re doing this for your own benefit.

2-Minute Tip: Anti-anxiety foods in a nutshell

In May we’ve been exploring natural remedies to reduce anxiety. During the 21 Days to Less Anxiety Challenge we’ve focused on mindfulness, movement and whole food to help introduce a little more Zen into our lives. As the challenge comes to an end I wanted to share a few tips for using food to help manage your mood.

Anti-anxiety foods

A few of my favorites from the list of anti-anxiety foods: quinoa, avocado, tomatoes, salmon, black beans, eggs, spinach, tomatoes, nuts, berries, Greek yogurt, chamomile tea.

1. Eat a high protein breakfast. Aim for at least 20 grams of protein to start your day. Think eggs, breakfast burritos, smoked salmon, cottage cheese, turkey, quinoa with honey and soy milk, Greek yogurt with berries, oatmeal with nuts. This list of 19 Vegetarian Ways To Eat More Protein For Breakfast is a great resource. Eating a high protein breakfast keeps you full longer and helps keep your blood sugar steady. You’ll feel more energized and hopefully less likely to experience mood swings related to hunger (hangriness).

Strawberries, homemade granola and Greek yogurt  make a delicious high protein breakfast using 3 foods from the list.

Strawberries, homemade granola and Greek yogurt make a delicious high protein breakfast using 3 foods from the list.

2. Swap out coffee for tea. Caffeine can be a major trigger for anxiety in some people, myself included. Think about trading your coffee for a cup of green tea (naturally caffeinated) or chamomile tea (naturally decaf). Both have been shown to produce a calming effect in the body. If you absolutely can’t live without a cup of coffee to start your day, think about reducing your intake and switching to tea after 12pm.

A chamomile/mint blend is one of my favorite teas.

A chamomile/mint blend is one of my favorite teas.

3. Reduce added sugar and preservatives. Of all the elimination diets I’ve tried – gluten free, meat free, dairy free, sugar free, juice fasting – I notice the single change that makes the biggest impact on my mood and energy is getting rid of preservatives. By default cutting out processed foods reduces your sugar intake, too. Preparing and eating meals made with whole foods doesn’t have to be complicated and time intensive. It just takes some additional planning. Be sure to stock your fridge and pantry with healthy foods and don’t bother keeping junk food at home. And remember fruit is a great way to satisfy a sweet tooth.

Smoothies can be a sweet treat packed with anti-anxiety foods. This one has frozen berries, a banana, soy milk, Greek yogurt, flaxseed and a little bit of honey.

Smoothies can be a sweet treat packed with anti-anxiety foods. This one has frozen berries, a banana, soy milk, Greek yogurt, flaxseed and a little bit of honey.

vegan banana peanut butter muffins

These vegan banana peanut butter muffins are easy to make, don’t have any added sugar and taste amazing. Plus it’s my own personal recipe!

Bonus Tip: These 3 supplements may help reduce anxiety naturally. I recently had the opportunity to spend a day with Michael Lara, MD and a group of health care professionals learning about medicinal properties of food. Based on that information my husband and I decided to start taking this combination of supplements to boost our mental health. It’s been about a month and we’re so happy with the results that we plan to continue the daily routine.

  • Vitamin B12 – Found naturally in meat, fish and dairy, B12 boosts mood, concentration and energy.
  • Probiotics – Found in yogurt and kefir, probiotics not only ease digestive issues, but recent studies have linked the levels of good bacteria in your gut to mental health. Look for a supplement with a diverse culture, not just 1 or 2 strains.
  • 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) – This naturally occurring amino acid is a chemical precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin and sleep hormone melatonin. It helps regulate sleep, mood and appetite.
These are the supplements we take at my house daily.

These are the supplements we take at my house daily.

***Please remember that I’m not a medical professional and this is only my opinion based on my personal experience. It’s alway best to consult your physician, a nutritionist or a holistic health care professional for advise about dietary changes and supplements.

Back away from the smartphone

Smartphone Monday Mantra-01

Small screens have taken over our lives. From smartphones to tablets to laptops – our eyes are glued to a screen for most of our waking hours. Waiting at a stoplight? Check the phone. Going to the bathroom? Can’t forget the phone. Out to dinner with friends? Better leave the phone out so we can get notifications from our Facebook/Twitter/Instagram posts about hanging out.

There’s just one problem. Using our phone/tablet/laptop/whatever to stay constantly connected to the rest of the world leaves us disconnected from ourselves and those closest to us. More and more and we’re gauging our self worth on how people respond to us online instead of how people respond to us in person (in real life). When we turn our attention outward the second we open our eyes and roll over to start checking emails or Facebook, we lose touch with what’s going on inside of us. We’re so distracted by all the external stimulation that we never have to bother facing our own hopes/fears/insecurities – we just judge everyone else’s online instead.

I challenge you to unfill the gaps in your life where your smartphone has taken over. Build time into your day to step away from the screen. Early morning and late night are a good start. But also think about putting the screens down when you’re spending time with friends and family, in the car or waiting for someone. Give your mind time to settle down, to wander aimlessly. Give yourself more opportunities to make meaningful connections with the present moment and spend less time concerned with less-than-meaningful connections online. Keep calm and look away from your smartphone.

Weekend Warrior: Pigeon Pose

Every weekend I share a yoga pose related to the youryoga.tips monthly theme. In May we’re focusing on natural ways to reduce anxiety, so all of our yoga poses will be super calming.

Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana) is another one of my favorite asanas. This yoga pose counters the effects of sitting all day by stretching your hip rotator and hip flexor in one move. It’s especially great for runners and cyclists. Yogic philosophy says that the hips are the place in the physical body where we store our pent up negative emotions. When we open the hips in poses like Pigeon, it feels good in the physical body, but can also give us a much needed emotional release.

If you’re new to Pigeon pose you may want to grab a yoga block, pillow or blanket to help you find your comfortable and stable position. Start in Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). Inhale lifting the left leg up behind you into 3-Legged-Dog then bring your left knee towards the left wrist on an exhale. Extend the right leg onto your yoga mat resting on the top of the right foot. The left knee stays bent and the shin is resting on the yoga mat.

Bring your hands in line with the left knee. Come up onto your fingertips and lengthen your spine bringing your shoulder blades together lifting through your collarbone. Keep the spine long as you exhale melting down towards the yoga mat leading with your heart center. Start by resting on your forearms before going deeper. Use your fists, forearms or a yoga block to support your forehead. If it feels available you can exhale letting the chest melt a little deeper towards the left leg and yoga mat.

If your left hip feels too tight to allow you to relax in the pose, then try stacking a yoga block, blanket, pillow or bolster underneath it so you feel more supported. This is a relaxation pose. You should feel a stretch through your left buttocks, but it shouldn’t be painful. Experiment with the position of your arms and props under your forehead or hips to find the place where you feel comfortable, stable and supported. If you crave a deeper stretch, then move the left foot towards the upper right corner of your yoga mat.

Be gentle with yourself. Hold for 1-2 minutes and then repeat on the other side. Remember that both sides of your body are different, so the expression won’t always be the same. Make any necessary adjustments to feel comfortable. Relax and enjoy the release!

Pigeon Pose

Links I Love: May 22nd 2015

Every Friday I share a few resources related to the Monthly Challenge. In May we’re focusing on natural remedies to reduce anxiety. During the 21 Days to Less Anxiety Challenge, May 8th-28th, we’re using a combination of movement, mindfulness and whole foods to introduce a little more calm into our lives.

21 Days to Less Anxiety Challenge: Week 3

We’re going into the final week of the 21 Days to Less Anxiety Challenge. Hopefully you’re feeling great and it’s getting a little bit easier to stick to your resolve. Here are the adjustments for Week 3 + some delicious recipes using anti-anxiety foods.


For the first week our goal was to meditate for 10 minutes each day. Last week we upped it to 15 minutes. And this week we’ll aim for 20 minutes of daily meditation. My favorite times to meditate are either first thing in the morning or to take a break from work when I’m feeling stuck or frustrated, having bad writer’s block or let’s be honest, when I’m just feeling unmotivated. It may seem counterintuitive, but taking time out to be still and quiet is the most effective productivity tool I’ve ever used – hands down.

The next time you notice you’re beginning to feel anxious or stressed out (it doesn’t have to be at work), stop whatever you’re doing. Close your eyes. Observe your breath. Practice a 4-7-8 Breath if you want to. Maybe set a timer or use a meditation bracelet. Take the opportunity to reground yourself and the effect is like a reset button.

Shake up your eating routine for the last week and try a new recipe