Author Archives: Eliza Watts

About Eliza Watts

Eliza graduated with a degree in Psychology and a specialization in research from Wilfrid Laurier University. She is a passionate mental health advocate whose goal is to help others through her own personal experience.

Simple Breathing Techniques to Calm Down

Often when we become stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious, the simple act of breathing can become difficult. When our bodies experience these symptoms, muscles that help us breathe tighten and in turn make our breathing faster and shallower. Breathing has the power to affect your entire body. Controlling our breathing, by slowing it down, helps relieve our muscles, lowers our blood pressure, and relaxes our nervous system, which all help us to feel calm!

To feel the benefits of controlled breathing, try out a few of these simple breathing techniques and implement them in your daily routine!

  1. Breathing through your belly: This one is best felt when lying down (especially before bed). Put one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Inhale, expanding your belly, and count to five before exhaling, collapsing your belly. Continue for 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. Alternate nostril breathing: This technique is best felt when at work/when out. Close your right nostril, breathe in, and count for 5 seconds before breathing out. Repeat this step 3 times with your right nostril closed and then alternate nostrils by closing your left nostril and repeating the same steps.
  3. In through your nose, out through your mouth: This technique is best felt at home when lying down or while out! Breathe in through your nose, count to 6, open your mouth and let out a long exhale! Repeat 5 times.

If you find that these breathing techniques are working and you would like to practice longer, more controlled breathing, then you can pull up a breathing video and follow along. These videos are created to provide a visual breathing pattern and are great for focusing on your breathing and nothing else! A great example can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXItOY0sLRY

By: Eliza Watts

Eliza graduated with a degree in Psychology and a specialization in research from Wilfrid Laurier University. She is a passionate mental health advocate whose goal is to help others through her own personal experience.

 

 

 

 

Eating Healthy For a Healthy Mind


Over the past decade scientists have been delving deeper into how our stomachs and our brains are connected. Asking questions such as: What types of food can help healing? What should we eat to help our brain function better? Why are some foods better than others? Scientists have yet to pinpoint exactly how eating unhealthy affects our ability to function, but the link between eating unhealthy and the health of our mind has been seen time and time again. In fact, scientists have discovered that with the presence of an unhealthy diet, symptoms of depression and anxiety increase dramatically. On the contrary, when we fill our bodies with healthy, nutritious food, studies have shown a positive increase in mood and a decrease in depression and anxiety.

One hypothesis assumes that the bacteria found in your stomach after eating relays messages to various areas within our brain through our vagus nerve. The body then reacts to these messages by activating or suppressing specific neurotransmitters within our brain. Depending on the reaction that this bacteria elicits, we can either be helping our bodies function or hindering it. That being said, this is only one hypothesis!

I encourage you to spend some time researching ways you can regulate your gut and find foods that will make you feel good from the inside out! Below I have included a few tips to help kick-start your way into a healthier lifestyle that will make your mind, your gut, and your heart feel good!

  1. Make a list of all your favourite fruits, vegetables, and meats.

Many people associate eating healthy with tasteless food that is hard to enjoy. But eating healthy doesn’t have to mean cutting everything you enjoy out of your diet. It’s all about moderation. Start by making a list of your favorite foods and then looking up the health benefits of each one. If you find that it’s good for you, look up some recipes that include those foods. If you like the taste of what you’re eating, you’ll be much more inclined to eat it from day to day, so pick your favourites!

  1. Start your day with a glass of water.

Someone gave me this tip about a year ago, and nothing has ever made me feel better! Drinking water when you first wake up helps wake up your organs and helps their functioning throughout the day! Try drinking a gallon of water a day and I promise you will start to feel the benefits!

  1. Skip the sugary desserts.

Like most people, skipping out on desserts can be the hardest thing to change. But the recommended daily intake for sugar is 6 teaspoons because increased sugar intake has been linked to depression, anxiety, fatigue, difficulty thinking, and compromised cognitive abilities! At first it will be hard to cut out that sugar, but eventually your body will stop craving sugary foods. A tip to help with your sugar craving is to eat fruit, since fruit contains natural sugars. 

  1. Never skip breakfast.

Breakfast is SO important! I remember when I first started learning about our brain and its caloric intake. One of my professors noted that most people think they are eating enough in the morning to sustain their bodies, but they don’t realize that only specific parts of the brain get fed! The last part of our brain to receive nutrient is our prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision-making, thought processes, and social behavior. So you’re compromising all of these functions when you skip your breakfast! But you want to make sure that your eating a nutritious breakfast. Studies have shown that people who eat a nutritious breakfast show a significantly more active prefrontal cortex! 

  1. Stop snacking 2 hours before bed.

Eating close to your bedtime throws your bodies’ natural rhythms off! It affects your hormones, your quality of sleep, and studies have shown that you may actually be hungrier the next day!

  1. Cut the caffeine in half.

The last and likely most difficult tip of them all is cutting your caffeine intake. Adjusting to lower levels of caffeine WILL be hard, but it will ALSO be rewarding! Quitting coffee or at least reducing the amount you have little by little will eventually decrease anxiety, increase your mood, increase your quality of sleep, increase productivity, and lower blood pressure! This takes time, but I have to say that this is one of the most noticeable differences I have felt when I made this change in my own life. I no longer feel as if I need coffee to get through my day, and have finally slept soundly during the night! A feeling I haven’t felt in a very long time!

By: Eliza Watts

Eliza graduated with a degree in Psychology and a specialization in research from Wilfrid Laurier University. She is a passionate mental health advocate whose goal is to help others through her own personal experience.

Learning to Take Care of Yourself

It was around January when I came to the decision that I needed to start doing what I wanted to do, for myself and no one else. I had spent the past year of my life consumed by work, graduate school applications, job searches and resumes. When I look back now, I realize that somewhere along the way I had stopped doing the things that I loved and stopped taking care of myself because I was so focused on being “successful” so soon after graduating from university. Ultimately, this took a toll on my health and well-being. My days were centered around emails, applications, and coffees. I lost sleep worrying about whether or not I had done enough to advance myself during the day. Ultimately, I neglected my own feelings and desires for my future. After experiencing one of the most overwhelming days of my life, I decided to take a step back and walk away from the routine I had gotten myself into for the past few months. I decided that something needed to change because my happiness had become so inconsistent.

The first thing I did was I bought a blank journal from our local bookstore and wrote down all the activities I wanted to try during my spare time. Soon after, I found a volunteer position at my old yoga studio, where I could attend as many classes as I wanted to in exchange for helping out the instructors a few times a week. As you will soon realize, I love yoga and I swear by its magic-like remedies. Practicing yoga is something that I’ve been doing since I was young to help with my anxiety, as it helps me find clarity. In addition to yoga, I began swimming again, a sport that I started soon after I learned how to walk. Equipped with a waterproof iPod, it has been my go-to activity when I’m feeling stressed. I also decided to take up rock-climbing, which to my surprise is something that I look forward to challenging myself with every week.

After filling up my time with activities I enjoyed, I proceeded to write down my goals for the future and how I was going to achieve them. Doing this helped me realize that some goals were too unrealistic and some were goals I had outgrown. It helped highlight the goals that felt intuitively right and it gave me a place to start. With advice from a friend, I then wrote down what I most wanted to achieve. After looking at my list, it became clear that I wanted to spend more time with my family and friends, so I now dedicate my Sundays to spending time with them.

Now don’t get me wrong, these changes did not happen overnight. However, I took the time to think about what I really wanted to change in my life in order to move forward in the best possible way. I had to learn how to clear my mind and dedicate time to learn about myself and figure out what makes ME happy. But most importantly, I had to learn how to accept the place I was in and not rush things. This doesn’t mean that I no longer have bad days, because I do, but rather that by making these changes I’m slowly learning what I need and I’m at a better place than where I started.

Going through this transition, I have realized that learning how to take care of ourselves is one of the most important skills we can have as individuals. Taking care of our bodies and our minds helps keep us resilient, independent, and motivated to overcome the struggles we are faced with and achieve the goals that we set for ourselves, without taking away from our happiness. So if you’re ever feeling overwhelmed or feel that your heart needs a little TLC, first take a break. Sometimes when we get overwhelmed, we aren’t able to see the big picture or think clearly about what we need to feel better. Sit and think. Make a list. Try new things (e.g., rollerblading down the lakeshore, joining a pottery class, anything you’ve ever been remotely interested in doing). If it helps bring your stress level down, it’s worth it!

Next, remind yourself that you can only do so much. This is so important. If something is weighing you down, sometimes letting go is the best thing to do in order to start feeling better. We often hold onto too much, try to do too many tasks, or set too many goals. Try to set one goal at a time, the one you want to achieve the most, and tackle it! Focusing on one goal helps you achieve it faster and better because you’re not exerting all your energy being stressed.

Finally, listen to your intuition. Your body knows how much it can handle and it will let you know when you’re doing too much and neglecting self-care. When you start feeling overwhelmed or stressed, that is your body letting you know that it needs a break. If you remain mindful of your own needs, than you’ll be happier and more productive in the long run!

By: Eliza Watts

Eliza graduated with a degree in Psychology and a specialization in research from Wilfrid Laurier University. She is a passionate mental health advocate whose goal is to help others through her own personal experience.

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