Monday, February 23, 2015

Joy to the World: Winning the Fight Against PMDD

I've never held back on my blog from talking about my struggles with depression. Recently I learned that what I've had the last few or maybe several years since having my second child isn't exactly clinical depression, but rather its hormonally-induced cousin, PMDD. 

Over the course of the last year, since I changed my diet, really committed to physical fitness, and started enhancing my health by using Young Living Essential Oils, I've come close to conquering this beast. Sometimes she rears her ugly head and I have to regroup and think about which aspect of my holistic treatment is lacking, but I've mostly managed to keep this PMDD in check. Now that I've put this protocol into practice for over a year, I feel confident in sharing it with any other women fighting this battle.

I really want you to learn about the particular "protocol" I'm using now because it has really changed my life and continues to help me every day. Plus, I'm treating myself without the worries of the dangerous side-effects associated with antidepressants

It's actually pretty simple. The first thing I did was change my diet. Last January, I began a low-carb, high-fat, moderate-protein diet, also known as a ketogenic diet. This concept runs contrary to popular medical wisdom which advocates a diet high in "complex" carbohydrates, with very low fat and moderate protein levels. A diet that fails most people miserably, leaving them hungry and grouchy. There is a lot of new research that shows there is no link between saturated fat and heart-disease.  Don't forget that the brain requires fat and cholesterol to function properly. If you're already cloudy from the effects of PMDD on the brain, you need to be eating a diet that provides the nutrition you need to function properly. The benefits of giving up sugar have surpassed what I hoped for and I was surprised by how quickly the cravings for it passed. I can't say I never look at a milkshake and think, "Gee that looks delicious!". It's just that I'm able to resist it now, even in all my PMS/PMDD glory. Cutting out sugar really was the first step in eliminating the need to "comfort eat" my way through one week out of every month.

Now, hand-in-hand with diet goes exercise. I have become a big advocate of strength training for women. First and foremost, it provides a terrific outlet for stress release. Take your anxiety and irrational anger and all your frustrations, leave them on the gym floor in a pool of sweat, and don't look back. I can wake up thinking I can't work out because I feel so miserable and sad and tired and life sucks, but every single time I make myself go to the gym and do a workout, I walk out feeling like I have slain a dragon. You don't have to start lifting heavy weights. Shoot, you don't have to lift weights. Go for a walk. Go for a run. Just get moving in some way that burns up the stress and anger you're feeling. I know you feel overwhelmed and don't think you have time, but you have two choices. I know from PMDD. I know you can't concentrate on your to-do list anyway. So you might as well take 30 minutes or an hour and throw down a little yoga or lift a few weights or walk the dog while you're outside soaking up the sunshine. Physical activity helps reduce tension and stress and can dissipate Cortisol levels which affect the body's ability to regulate the balance of Progesterone and Estrogen. 

In addition to using exercise to help battle stress and tension, both in general and related to PMDD, I have also begun taking a Young Living Supplement called Women's Cortistop which is formulated to help reduce Cortisol levels.
It really is hard to pinpoint what the most important aspect of my PMDD Protocol has been because every aspect has had a distinct and important impact on my health and well-being. However, I think the use of two specific Young Living Essential Oils has made a dramatic difference for me...the kind of difference I can feel if I stop using either oil for more than a day or two.

The first of these oils, Progessence Plus, has the most direct relationship to female hormone production and health. It is a natural bioidentical progesterone oil that helps restore a woman's natural hormonal balance without many of the dangerous side effects of synthetic hormonal treatments. It is vital, however, that you only use a pure therapeutic grade oil when using a progesterone, or any other type of aromatherapy or essential oil. The difference in my premenstrual emotional state before and after starting on Progessence Plus is, for lack of a less clich├ęd descriptor, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Before I began using Progessence Plus, I experienced horrible mood swings, intense anger, uncontrollable crying jags, exhaustion, and deep anxiety that left me unable to think or concentrate on anything important. These intense mood swings showed up exactly one week before my period and would vanish as quickly the day Aunt Flo came to town. Then I'd enjoy a week with some physical discomfort as I tried to pick up the pieces scattered during the emotional thunderstorms that blew through the previous week, followed by two weeks of feeling awesome! 

The second oil really has been almost as much of a life changer as Progessence Plus. It is actually a blend of several oils called Joy. The name says it all. I wear Joy daily. It has replaced my perfume, which I loved, but which was made with synthetic fragrance and other harsh chemicals. No wonder so many people get headaches from perfumes! Joy has such a delightful, uplifting aroma. I wear it daily over my heart and sometimes on my wrists or neck. Any that is left on my hands after I apply gets brushed through my hair. Each time I smell it, I get a little rush of happiness. And I've noticed that it seems to make those around me who smell it happy, too. Plus, I get a ton of compliments whenever I wear it. If I have a day when I notice I'm starting to feel a little down, I just pull out the Joy and take a whiff or apply a drop over my heart. It really is joy in a bottle and my secret weapon against depression.

If you're fighting the good fight against PMDD or even just PMS and want more information about any of the Young Living products or have questions about my diet and exercise routines, please feel free to e-mail me or leave a comment. I would love to chat with you and introduce you to healthy, all natural alternatives to prescripton and over-the-counter drugs that can help you win this war.

In health and prosperity!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

(Wo)Man in the Mirror: On Self-Esteem and Positive Change

One of the hardest things to do when you grow up hating your body is to learn to look at it without cringing, crying, thinking horrible things about yourself, or just turning away in shame.

Today, for the first time in my life of 45 years, I let myself take a long – and for once – loving look at myself in the mirror during a yoga class. I almost couldn't help it, ending up on the front row in a classroom with a mirrored wall.

When we began the class, doing pranayama, or yogic breathing exercises, I caught a few glimpses of myself and my first thought was "Oh my goodness! Am I really that big? Are my shoulders that broad? My boobs that large? My thighs that thick? Really? I want to die."

But then, I told myself that a yoga class was the worst place to indulge in such negative thinking. If you can't let go of stinkin' thinkin' in a yoga class, where can you free yourself from such useless ideas?

So, as we began moving through our flow I started using the mirror to correct my alignment and form and I realized that maybe I was wrong. I mean, yes, I am bigger than the ideal I hold in my head. But suddenly, I realized the girl, the woman, I was looking at wasn't fat. She wasn't grotesque or someone I needed to shield my eyes from. She was actually kind of beautiful, kind of strong looking. As I moved into cobra, I noticed the strong and defined muscles in her shoulders and the smooth tanned skin.

Moving into pigeon pose, I was aware of how seamlessly I transitioned from downward dog with an extended leg right into pigeon, my favorite pose. I love the way it stretches and opens my hips. Then, the teacher said we could do pigeon with arms extended overhead if we felt strong enough. Asking if I'm strong enough to do something is a challenge I can never resist. I don't know why, but when I hear that phrase I am compelled to try. I often fail, but so what? So, sitting in pigeon I straightened my spine and slowly and carefully raised both arms over my head and balanced myself. I looked straight in the mirror and smiled. I was doing it! And it was easy! Well, sort of. It wasn't easy, but it felt amazing. And I looked strong as fuck doing it and I was also the first one in class to try it! Yay me! And yay for the other women who tried it when we switched to the other leg.

In another pose, balanced on one knee and one hand with the opposite leg and arm extended, I did catch sight of my abdomen curving underneath me and for a split second my heart sank and I felt myself falling into the rabbit hole of despair and self-hatred. Suddenly, though, there was another voice calling to me to pull me up and out of that hole. She said, look how strong you are, look at that balance! And look, when you contract your muscles like you're supposed to that belly vanishes. And it's way smaller than it was a few weeks ago.

This inner dialogue continued off and on throughout the class. While I know the goal with yoga is to push the thoughts away completely, I simply tried to replace bad thoughts with good ones, a feat for me. At one point, toward the end of our vinyasa flow, standing in mountain pose with arms reaching up toward Heaven – embracing the Universe as our teacher called it – I looked at that woman in the mirror and in that moment I felt strong and beautiful and confident, perfectly imperfect with strong legs to carry me, a heart strong enough to keep on loving, a mind capable of change, and arms ready to take in and love all the world including myself.

It's a journey. I didn't get here overnight or without working to become the woman I want to be. I work out 3-5 times a week, eat healthy, and try to surround myself with positive influences. More importantly on this journey to self-esteem, I stopped comparing myself to others and I've stopped listening when others want to compare me or put me down.

And you should to... Are you trying to learn to love yourself? Then remember this: tune out the negative voices, whether they're your own, your partner's, your mean sister, your mom or your dad, or the queen bee who thinks her shit smells like rose petals. Every time one of those negative voices tries to get inside your head, just take your thoughts somewhere else. Find one positive thought or idea to hold onto. Look in the mirror and find one thing you love about yourself. Your friendly smile. Your gorgeous grey eyes (or brown or blue, you get the idea). Your shiny hair. Your strong arms. Your fast legs. And every day, look yourself in the eye and remind yourself that you are awesome and lovely and perfect in all your imperfections right now. If you want to change, that's great and I will cheer you on and support you in your efforts. Just be sure you're doing it for you and not those ugly voices.

Now...go love yourself. Do great things for yourself and others. Be mighty. Be you!