I wanted to write about my experience with anxiety and depression for the longest time, and since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to end the month sharing not only my experience but also wellness practices that you can put in place to make it better.
+ + Feedback from other Fearless Latinas that I love!
Well, sh*t… sure enough, the mere fact of writing about this is giving me a feeling very similar to what I experience when I’m feeling “that way“.
We are NEVER ALONE.
I’m committed to keeping things real for you guys -ALWAYS- I just can’t be that girl who keeps her feed annoyingly curated on pastel colors or tones of gray, posts only recipes & cute food pictures and has a perfectly happy life because that’s not real… that’s not me!
I’m in love with the community I’ve created so far -my #CandyGlowSquad– because it’s raw, it’s real and here you feel safe to talk, ask and share about anything even if is not necessarily health & wellness related. Here’s the place where you feel safe and it’s actually FUN to talk about colonics, and even asking if Maca is really called “Nature’s Viagra” because ehmmm…. you’ve been wanting to slip a teaspoon (or two!) to your hubby or boyfriend’s smoothie, but wanted to double check with me first Lol
Anxiety And Depression In Latinas
Common mental health disorders among Latinos and Latinas are: anxiety disorder, major depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcoholism.
While Latino communities show similar susceptibility to mental illness as the general population, unfortunately, we experience disparities in access to treatment and in the quality of treatment we receive.
As the National Alliance On Mental Illness (NAMI) reports, the prevalence of depression in Latino women is higher (46%) than Latino men (19.6%). But very few acknowledge it or let alone, seek help… “This inequality puts us at a higher risk for more severe and persistent forms of mental health conditions. As a community, Latinos are less likely to seek mental health treatment because of the stigma it carries in our culture. the Latino community does not talk about mental health issues. There is little information about this topic. We cannot know what nobody has taught us. Many Latinos do not seek treatment because they don’t recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions or know where to find help”.
There are parts of my life that I still don’t feel ready to share, feels too vulnerable. Maybe in the future? Or as part of one of my books… I want to have the courage to write about it… in any case, this story is not only mine to share, more people are involved, so most likely it will remain private forever.
A single traumatic event during my teenage years got me to develop severe anxiety, PTS, and depression that at the time neither I (nor my parents) had the ability to identify. As Latinos, our culture wires us to NOT acknowledge mental health issues as such, rather looking at them as weakness and with shame. Swipe them “under a rug” because if you let it be, things will get better… they don’t.
And because there’s a thing called “high-functioning depression & anxiety” it took me YEARS to acknowledge the fact that I needed some guidance.
High-functioning depression & anxiety is dangerous because you will seem fine on the outside. Top grades in school? Checked! Popular? Checked! Accomplishments left and right? Checked! Selena karaoke every-day-after-school? Checked!
So, I must be fine right?
Again, it took me YEARS + becoming an adult, making my own money so I could afford to (secretly) go to therapy… and years later going to nutrition school, and learning how through wellness practices and nutrition, I can keep my anxiety in check.
For me, anxiety starts like this gaping hole in my chest, it becomes hard to breathe and the feeling that I’m not in control… for a person with a type A personality like me, that’s the worst! To this day I’m still learning to let go, and not let anxiety kick in when I can’t control some of the things that are happening around me because guess what? I-never-freaking-will!
I acknowledge that every person deals with their situation in a different way and IT WILL BE DIFFERENT FOR EACH ONE OF US. Also, my situation as an adult has been more towards anxiety than depression, and that is important to note.
Here, I’ll share the things that have worked for me and many of my health coaching clients.
But then again, I don’t treat YOU on a health coaching basis. So these are suggestions based on my experience as an overall and should never substitute getting direct expert guidance. Never feel like you have to go at it alone.
5 Things That Have Worked For ME
1. Healthy Gut, Healthy Brain
In this post, I talked about how sad it makes me that regular -general MDs- doctors don’t have the proper nutrition training to identify that anxiety and depression can be made worse by poor gut health. Sadly, few doctors ask you about your digestive health when you tell them you’re feeling “a certain way” a.k.a. kind of anxious and depressed.
That’s why I always champion a plant-based diet and feeding your body whole, plant-based, nutrient dense foods that support the good gut bacteria and keeps the harmful one under control.
I’ve been VERY intentional with eating probiotic foods (fermented ones such as sauerkraut, tempeh, kombucha, miso, etc.) taking probiotic supplements [I like this one & this one], eating regularly –but not constantly-, staying hydrated and staying away from sugar/processed foods as much as I can.
In fact, the vast majority of serotonin (the hormone that regulates mood, sleep, anxiety, depression and more) is actually made in our gut, not in our brain!
2. Eat Happy Food
Although there’s not a diet that has proven to 100% fight anxiety and depression, there are certain foods that will totally work as anti-depressants and help you manage it like a rock star… other foods, are the devil itself!
Eat more plant-based, whole, nutrient-dense foods (eliminate sugar and processed carbohydrates, include whole real foods, veggies, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains).
Foods I love: Lentils, almonds, spinach, walnuts, almonds, cacao (not cocoa, cacao!).
Foods to limit: Refined sugar, processed foods, caffeine, and alcohol. I won’t say I don’t drink coffee and you guys know I love my wine and my bubbles… but if I’m feeling anxious, I try to stay away from them because I know my body already.
3. Physical Activity
I don’t work out to have a six-pack or an Instagram booty… I work out for the HEALTH benefits it gives me. To feel strong, focused and relaxed… working out gives me exactly that!
Physical activity is so good for mental health but is something that’s not talked about often… I want to change that narrative.
You can totally ease anxiety and get out of a crappy mood when exercising or doing yoga or pilates (here I discuss how Yoga changed my life!). Do I love that my butt looks awesome when I squat consistently? Hell yes! [and my hubby loves it too! *wink*] but for me, it’s more important to feel empowered and how good my body and my brain feel after a killer workout or yoga practice.
Meditation truly has been a game changer for me. I have what it’s called a “Monkey Mind”, which means –yeah, you guessed it!– that my mind is ALL over the place; urgggg. I have way too many tabs open, and sometimes that’s no bueno.
Meditation is a practice that trains your mind…. plain-and-simple. With meditation, you can boost your immune system, release fears and heighten your intuition… cool, right? Meditating can truly support all that you bring forth in the world.
Every phase of my life that I’ve been killing it out there and achieving my goals, I’ve been meditating and doing yoga consistently. Coincidence? I think not!
I’m very mindful of these 3 supplements:
- And since I don’t eat meat, I’m very mindful of my B12 levels because I can’t get it from a Plant-based diet.
- B12 often referred to as the “energy vitamin” is super important because it plays a role in producing brain chemicals that affect mood and other brain functions.
- Observational studies have found that as many as 30% of patients that are hospitalized for depression are deficient in vitamin B12.
I supplement that using this B12 Sublingual Spray.
If you eat meat, then your good to go, since it can be found in all lean and low-fat animal products, such as fish and low-fat dairy products.
- Vitamin D deficiency is associated with different mood disorders.
- A 2010 national study found that the likelihood of having depression is higher in people with low levels of vitamin D.
- Vitamin D is also known as the “sunshine vitamin” because we should be able to get all the Vitamin D we need from Sun exposure. But since we don’t get out and get sun exposure as much as our ancestors, then is hard to get the needed amounts just from the sun.
- If you live in areas where it snows, it’s even more important to supplement vitamin D during fall/winter months, since we have fewer hours of daylight and therefore fewer chances to get vitamin D naturally.
I don’t know why but I’ve been testing low in Vitamin D for the past 2 years (I’ll write more about it in an upcoming post), so I make sure to supplement it using this Vitamin D Sublingual Spray.
Low Vitamin D levels symptoms can be:
- Fatigue, lack of interest in normal activities, social withdrawal, weight gain, and a craving for carbohydrate foods… urrrggg, hate it!
Have you ever done a blood test for your Vitamin D levels? I suggest to all my coaching clients to do it, and I suggest the same to you too!
… Or as I call it, my personal “Chill Pill” or “Mother Nature’s Xanax” Lol it helps me relax and wind down in a natural way.
- I like to spray it in the plant of my feet before I go to bed (best way EVER to absorb, I use this magnesium oil).
- I also use Calm by Natural Vitality OR Magnesium tablets by Doctor’s Best.
- For many people, a magnesium deficiency causes noticeable negative symptoms, including anxiety, restlessness, apathy, poor digestion and trouble sleeping.
- But really, STRESS is the bad guy here, cause it can trigger so many of the symptoms 🙁
Foods containing magnesium include:
- Whole grains, leafy green vegetables (spinach and Swiss chard are great sources), as well as almonds, cashews and other nuts, avocados, and beans… it all goes back full circle, right?
I’m obsessed with magnesium and if you follow me on Snapchat or my Instagram stories, you know I love this supplement. I also love it especially for that time of the month we ladies always deal with, since it helps a lot for muscle cramps.
Tips & Advice From Other Fearless Latinas
I could never finish this post without the encouragement, inspiration, and help of some other FEARLESS Latinas who GET IT.
…Women I admire because they have not let anxiety or depression cripple their lives, they have thrived in spite of them!
We are NEVER ALONE
Elayna Fernandez from The Positive Mom
I had always dealt with depression but never allowed myself to admit it, especially not out loud. I didn’t want to deal with the stigma that comes from mental health issues, so I never sought professional help. Had epileptic seizures as a child and we learned really quickly that wasn’t something you talk about. Thankfully, I learned to address my emotional distress and suicidal tendencies, so I could take charge of my health and wellbeing!
What helped most was to embark on a journey of self-discovery to find out the root of my depression, to learn to observe patterns and identify what triggers it, and to have tools at my disposal to manage it and overcome it.
Some tips I always share to reduce the devastating effects of depression are:
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine, meditate, exercise, make sure your environment and relationships are as safe and open as possible, get enough sleep, eat well, journal, practice conscious breathing, and engage in contribution or service to others.
- When depression does come, give yourself permission to feel your feelings and allow them without judgment; as you do this, they will dissipate. What you resist, persists.
Vivian Nunez from Too Damn Young & Creating Espacios
Pay attention to your body. While my journey with mental health really started once I started going to therapy, it was therapy that ultimately led me to be more attuned to my own body.
- Now I practice meditation and breathing techniques as a way to control my anxiety.
- In addition, I try to pinpoint where my anxiety or depression is sitting on any given day.
- Since mine sits in my stomach most of the times I’ve learned how putting healthy food into my body on these days really helps even me out.
Denisse Benitez from Thug Nanny & Lady Hustle Mag
Growing up, and even presently my family has always been very vocal about their disdain towards the existence of anxiety and depression. Like you, this resulted in me having to take matters into my own hands by secretly participating in therapy and even medicine.
Depression and anxiety are things I currently struggle with and as an adult, I do my best to educate myself and others about my personal journey. But that’s the thing, this journey is personal. People won’t understand and they don’t need to. Do what you have to do to take care of yourself. At the end of the day when you get into bed, you should feel fulfilled and sane. You matter above all cultural oppositions and opinions. Even of those closest to you.
- I cannot recommend therapy enough. Sometimes it’s so great to just vent to someone who is going to offer sane and unbiased advice.
- Aromatherapy does great for when I’m having a hard time sleeping or just very stressed out.
- Exercise also makes me feel great.
- Little things like drinking enough water and eating well really help boost my moods.
- Most importantly being open-minded and honest with myself and others. You can’t help what you don’t know, and others can’t help if they don’t know. Treating mental health is all trial and error, but it’s not at all impossible.
Jada Gomez, Executive Editor at Bustle
I’ve always been a bundle of nerves, from my very earliest memories. My eyes lingered a little longer on troubling images on the news, and my mind wandered a little bit more than most about the worst possible scenario. In elementary school, I’d suffer chronic stomach aches, as I worried about everything and anything ad nauseam.
My first full-on panic attack happened in college, even though my body had been riddled with anxiety for quite some time. My father is a 9/11 survivor, he escaped Building 5 of the World Trade Center unharmed. I internalized watching crowds running, covered in dust, blood and fear, and it left me with severe anxiety around large groups of people.
- When my panic comes out to play, I express how I’m feeling candidly.
- “I need to take a minute”
- “I’m uncomfortable”
- And “No, I’m unable to do that,” have all empowered me in expressing my true feelings, and taking care of what I need, at any given moment.
- I’ve done Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).
- Also, took baby steps, first I started by saying yes to dinner with a friend at a less-frequented neighborhood spot. Then small shows. Then stadium arenas. Some days I wasn’t successful, but simply trying helped me heal slowly but surely.
- Slowly, I started to come out of my studio bunker. And slowly, I started to feel happy (for real) again.
- There’s no foolproof cure for anxiety— odds are, I’ll have to deal with my chronic worry meter for life. And acknowledging that is probably one of the biggest steps in my progress.
- Most importantly, I don’t judge me. The most important lesson that I’ve learned is that every single person is fighting a battle.
I also asked the wonderful ladies of my community, and these are some of their comments:
Take your time, bookmark this post, come back to it, re-read it and above all SHARE IT… you never know who you could be helping by spreading this message.
And for all of you out there fighting either anxiety, depression or BOTH, I got nothing but so much LOVE for you.
…You got this!
* Anxiety & depression are common medical conditions and, as I noted above, symptoms can vary. Click here for information on how you can get help if needed!
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