Updated: Oct 8, 2019
October 6 - 12 is Mental Health Awareness Week, so today I’m going to share my unconventional journey of recovery from mental illness, how I learned the hard way that mental health is just as important as physical health, and 5 hacks I learned to heal the mind & body connection.
I had no idea what anxiety was until I was 27! After going through years of trying to fix my chronic back pain, It wasn’t until I was sitting face to face with a psychiatrist and he said, “It’s in your head.”
I was diagnosed with anxiety and prescribed Prozac for treatment. After about a year, the back pain and anxiety were gone. However, I was left with other side effects that were just as painful: Depression and Weight Gain.
Think: Zombie Cookie Monster. I constantly felt like I was in a trance and ate everything in sight.
Anxiety is one of the leading mental health disorders in the US affecting 19.1% adults (estimated 48 million people)
19.3% of U.S. adults with mental illness also experienced a substance use disorder in 2018 (9.2 million individuals)
Did I mention that I was an emotional eater as well as a recovering alcoholic? That’s me in those statistics!
According to Addiction Expert Dr. Gabor Mate, people who abuse substances or have addictions can be trying to self-medicate their mental illness.
The average delay between onset of mental illness symptoms and treatment is 11 years.
Because I had no idea what mental health was all about, I discovered I could find relief from my emotional stress with food and alcohol. Self-medicating with substances went on for more than 11 years until the chronic back pain incident cleared a new path to my recovery.
Because the antidepressants didn’t work for me long term, I searched for an alternative treatment. That’s when I was introduced to Medical Marijuana also known as Cannabis.
That was a hard switch to make because, at the time, I was in Alcoholics Anonymous and using Cannabis was not “clean and sober.”
There was a lot of fear and shame, which I now know perpetuates more mental illness & can trigger substance abuse and physical pain. Conventional methods of healing were not working for me and I knew deep down that there was another way of recovery.
The following are 5 holistic health hacks that dramatically improved my healing & happiness while becoming the foundation of my recovery.
1. Psychedelics & Cannabis - In September 2019, John Hopkins launched the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research to study compounds like psilocybin for a range of mental health problems including addiction and anxiety. Interested in learning more, check out the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies that is currently funding research for the 2nd round of clinical trials using MDMA to treat PTSD. This organization is also funding research on Cannabis as treatment for PTSD specifically among Veterans.
2. Yoga & Meditation - Inner engineering takes place when we can learn how to shine awareness on the present moment. When we do that we can make conscious choices. Our thoughts affect our behavior and our subconscious mind has the body mostly driving on autopilot throughout the day. Yoga & Meditation are practices that deepen the connection to mind, breath and body. This has a physiological response that switches the nervous system from “fight or flight” to “rest and digest.” When this happens we restore health and healing by deepening the mind and body connection.
3. Sing and Dance - I recently learned that the endocannabinoid Anandamide (aka the Bliss Molecule) increased by 40% when we sing and dance! No wonder why I felt amazing after every Zumba class. It's one of the reason's I love teaching! I get a buzz, a feeling of bliss! Endocannabinoids are molecules made up by the body and are part of the Endocannabinoid System. Plus, there's the natural endorphins like Dopamine and Oxytocin that get released when we shake our hips!
4. Love & Connection - Let go of resentments, heal relationships, and find a tribe. Having a heart to heart with a bestie is beautiful! The feeling of compassion is total bliss. We're wired to connect. When we do we have natural chemical reactions in our body's that increase feel good hormones like Oxytocin. I’ll never forget what one woman said to me at my first AA meeting, “Let us love you until you learn how to love yourself.” It dawned on me that I had no idea how to love myself. In addition, I learned that resentments were eating me alive. Try a daily inventory (list resentments) followed by a loving kindness meditation for 1 week and see how you feel. Join a tribe and build community with those that uplift you.
5. Stigma Free - Brene Brown said, “Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.” Stigma is judgement that can harm someone’s recovery by triggering shame. It can also prevent people from reaching out for help or trying alternative methods. To encourage healing, we need to let go of judgement, criticism, and create a safe space for vulnerability and inclusivity. Take the Stigma free pledge by visiting The National Alliance of Mental Illness.
I've used these 5 mental hacks personally to overcome substance abuse disorders, mental health illnesses, and chronic pain. I learned from that experience that sometimes you have to think outside the box.
Ready to uncover the hidden blocks that are causing pain so that you can transform your health?! Want to learn more about Cannabis? Click HERE to schedule a free discovery session.
*Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.