Millennium Burnout 101

MILLENNIUM BURNOUT 101

Like any good scientific professional, I like to name things. Millennium Burnout is really just a fancy term for something you may recognize.

A little over a year ago, I noticed some health issues popping up for me. I was tired more often, irritable, moody and bloated. I was gaining weight (especially around my tummy), my anxiety (usually under control) was off the charts and the depression I had eliminated 5 years earlier was back with a force. My food intolerances were multiplying and I wasn’t sleeping well.

For some context, I was leading a pretty healthy lifestyle. I eat well (I’m a huge fan of the Whole30), sleep is a major priority and I worked out 4-5 times a week. I meditated and drank my apple cider vinegar cocktail daily. So what the ever-loving fuck was going on???

Being the nerd I am, I started researching. I went back to science and medicine. I learned about moon cycles, consciousness and elements in a deeper way. Lo and behold, I wasn’t the only one dealing with these changes. 4 out of every 5 people I talked to was experiencing inexplicable changes in their bodies and minds that were preventing them from showing up for their life and work in a BIG way.

8 months later, Millennium Burnout was born. In essence, MB is a form of adrenal fatigue for this millennium. You may have heard of adrenal fatigue before. It’s also commonly referred to as burnout, fatigue or exhaustion. It’s something we’ve all experienced at some point in our lives, in some way or another.

Millennium Burnout is a unique way of healing adrenal fatigue in a world where we’re more connected than ever, yet feel isolated.

I’ll delve more deeply into the moving parts that make up Millennium Burnout during this week but for starters, I’ve included this handy-dandy infographic that gives you an bird’s eye view.

💥 Which areas of *stuff* have you been experiencing?

💥 How has this been impacting your life, business and relationships?

Pop your thoughts in the comments 👇🏽👇🏽👇🏽

This Is Not Ok

It’s all coming to light.

The stuff we’ve tried SO HARD to ignore.
The stuff we accepted as necessary evils.
The stuff we denied existed.

As an the American daughter of Pakistani immigrants, I’m surprised I had the privilege to wait before posting my thoughts on the current events of the past week. I’m grateful for that privilege.

Witnessing the displays of hate and terror changed me. I’ve seen it before. Most of my adult life has been plagued by endless such displays. This millennium has been indelibly marked by them.

Yet, it still shocked me to watch neo-Nazis with torches, marching on the streets of Charlottesville.

This is not ok.

It’s not irony that the deepest, darkest, most twisted parts of humanity are on display. This upcoming solar eclipse is a doozy. Mercury’s in retrograde too. The collective consciousness is reaching a tipping point … a point that MUST be reached in order for it to complete its transformation.

This is true for society as a whole, and us as individuals.

It’s not ok for white supremacists to kill a woman.
It’s not ok for Nazis to march the streets in the United States. In fucking 2017.
It’s not ok for the President of the United States to condone them.

But we can’t heal as a society until all this SHIT comes to light. Even though this is absolutely needed, it can still simultaneously be not ok.

Because now we know the devil we fight.
And sunlight is the best disinfectant.

The only way to get deal with this is by going through it.

It will suck (even more than it does now).
We will be ok.

But allow yourself to feel the shit. Because what’s on d
display may be in you too. And if we all focus on clearing this shit, however little. out of ourselves, the quicker we can heal as a whole.

“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” ~Heather Here’s last FB post

#Charlottesville #HeatherHeyer #ClearThisShit #EcllipseComing

 

You Need to Feel to Heal

I need to address a huge problem that I’ve been seeing a lot of recently and may be a source of some controversy for some, but whatevs.

Traditional mindset work doesn’t work with depression and anxiety, ESPECIALLY if you’re on meds.

Changing your mindset requires that you become aware you have a “block”, to work through it and release it. To change your mindset, you literally are reprogramming all the cells in your body to a new belief. The old belief will always get triggered until is transformed and cleared from your being.

The majority of people (at least the ones I tend to work with) are aware of their blocks (or some semblance of it). It’s the working through part that people have trouble with.

Because it doesn’t feel good.
Because a lot of old shit comes to surface.
Because there’s a lot of ugly emotions to deal with.

If you’re on any psychotropic drugs, you WILL NOT be able to move through a block successfully.

Psych drugs are designed to numb you out. They’re bandaids on bullet holes. Your anxiety or depression didn’t go away – it got blanketed. Just because you can’t see or feel it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with needing medication for these conditions. Everyone’s experience varies wildly and these medications can be helpful. What I’m asking is for you to consider the possibility that you can live an extraordinary life without them – provided you’re available to do some soul-digging.

Depression and anxiety are NOT the life curse they’re made out to be. They’re not something to be fixed. THESE ARE GIFTS! But you can’t access the power they hold until you allow yourself to go through the muck.

And there’s a lot of muck in there. I know. I’ve been there.

Look, you’ve made it this far in life, treating these as burdens. Taking the pills every day because you wouldn’t be able to function otherwise.

As bad as depression and anxiety seem, the flip side is that much higher. Treat them as the gift they are and watch your world open up. Watch your true self bloom through the muck and ugliness because I promise, that’s waiting for you on the other side.

P.S. Do not come off your medication without your doctor’s supervision. It’s dangerous to abruptly stop psych drugs (think Kanye-style meltdown). There’s a way to make mindset breakthroughs while on meds so if you’re interested in finding out how, schedule your free assessment here.

How Self-Care Saved My Life (and can do the same for you!)

I was in my 4th year of med school when I felt the dark cloud coming back. I had been symptom-free from depression for the past 10-ish months after I changed my diet so the dip was noticeable. I was pissed because I finally knew what it was like to feel happy and now the damn cloud was coming back! WTF?!?

My first reaction was to eat all the things (binge-eating tendencies don’t go away easy). As I was reaching for the Whole Foods bread I had in the fridge, I realized that I wasn’t eating the way that got me out of depression in the first place! Processed food had slowly creeped back into my daily diet. This made me pause even longer and question – what other parts of my self-care was I slacking on?

Turns out, almost all of it!

– I wasn’t sleeping well (incredibly important for mental health!)
– My food was hurting and not helping me
– I had stopped working out (an incredible antidepressant)
– I wasn’t doing the things that were FUN for me!

No wonder my vibe was plummeting! So I made a new commitment to myself: these 4 things were absolutely non-negotiable for me to do EVERY DAY!

It sounds like a lot, right? It did to me to initially. I struggled following through on that commitment to myself for a couple of weeks. I had med school to worry about, board exams to study for and a nagging feeling that what I had been toward my whole life wasn’t the right path.

But after some fits and starts, I found a groove.

– Sleep and food were the easiest for me to tackle so I got those in place first. My vibe skyrocketed within a couple of days with these 2 alone. (Goodbye dark cloud!)

– Next was exercise. I’m the first to admit: I HATE exercising! So I acknowledged that I wasn’t going to like it but it always made me feel better and lighter. I focused on the feeling I would have at the end and dealt with the process it took to get me there. In 2 weeks, I was consistently working out at home 3-4 times a week.

– Last was fun. Why was this the last one for me? Because I had honestly forgotten what I liked to do for fun (sad, I know). I was so focused on all the obligations I had to complete for school that I couldn’t remember what was fun. So I started with dance because that was easy. I would pop in some music on my phone and started boogying down in my apartment … and surprise, surprise, I felt AWESOME!

My point here is that self-care is the foundation on which your life (and business) are built upon. Had I not reflected on what I needed to readjust, I would’ve gone back to being depressed and anxious all over again. But knowing what the light felt like was enough motivation for me to change how I lived so I could always feel good (even on the bad days).

I also credit this self-care routine for showing me that residency wasn’t the right path for me. I’m sure that if I was still my “old self” I would’ve gone down the path every other medical graduate did and been even more miserable. Instead, being in high-vibe through self-care, I was able to acknowledge that residency was not my path and had the strength to forge a new one for myself.

I wanna hear from you:

✳️ Do you practice self-care?
✳️ How has it helped you in challenging times?

Share in the comments!

Intuition & Mental Health

One of the five pillars of self-care that I created is connection.

Connection can be interpreted a bunch of different ways – connection to your family, community, your significant other, even your pets. The first step of true connection though is connecting to yourself AKA your intuition.

As a doctor, I feel compelled to make a distinction between your intuition and your instinct. Often, people will use intuition, gut instinct or instinct interchangeably. They are, however, very different things.

Your instinct is your default programming. This is a safety mechanism hardwired into your brain that has remained from our ancestors despite our evolution. Your instinct is essentially your flight or fight response.

This can’t be changed. It’s a biological mechanism that’s been put in place divinely for emergency situations. The problem is it’s constantly activated in our current lives when we would do much better by strengthening our intuition.

Your intuition is your connection to the divine part of you. Intuition is your connection to Source, Spirit, God (whatever you want to call it). It’s your direct connection to love.

When you live in reaction to your instinct, you’re living in fear because that’s what your instinct is telling you exists. Your intuition, on the other hand, will always lead you to the best possible outcome for you. This distinction is very important to understand: instinct equals fear, intuition equals love.

Intuition Inhibition

In the human body, every reaction either activates something or inhibits something. The same principle can be applied to your intuition.

The main reason is some of us have trouble activating our intuition is because we’re operating from a fear state. When we’re connected to our intuition, there is no fear or anxiety; in fact, we’re incredibly calm.

Fear is a funny thing. At one point in our evolution, it served a very important purpose. When humans first came about, we didn’t have the amenities that were used to now, back then. There was no widely available housing, paved roads or an abundance of food. In order to have their basic needs met, these humans needed to go looking for them. To make sure they didn’t die while doing so, fear was a good warning system for danger.

In our current civilization, fear has become more a hindrance than an asset. While it’s still useful in some situations, it mostly creates excuses for our ego. This ultimately prevents us from connecting to our intuition and using it for guidance.

In your journey to create mental health, your connection to your intuition is your foundation. It’s through it that you’re able to know what foods to eat, how to move today, what works needs to be done, what your soul needs. Your intuition is the bedrock on which your mental (and physical) health is built.

Intuition Activation

In a world where everything is clamoring for our attention at one and each thing gets louder than the one before it, connecting to your intuition can be a challenge (to say the least).

Everything, including us, is in a battle to be seen.

Intuition doesn’t work that way.

Intuition isn’t going to beg for your attention; it’s not going to beg to be heard.

It’s always there, always waiting to be used, but it’s going to wait for you to come to it.

One of the most common complaints I hear about depression and anxiety is the constant “noise” in each persons head. As a group, we’re very aware of everything that goes through our head – the constant worry, fear, criticism, judgment and shame.

In that environment, no one would be able to hear their intuition and be guided by it. That’s why silence and creating a sacred space for it are so important – not just with mental health but generally.

The ego loooooooooves to make a lot of noise. The only way to shut it off and here you intuition which whispers underneath all of that noise, Is to surround it in silence. Eventually, when the ego doesn’t get engaged for long enough, it’ll shut up and you’ll be able to hear your intuition.

The Empathy-Intuition Connection

A trend that I’ve noticed among my clients is that they’re on the empathic side of the spectrum. Their empathy, however, makes them feel vulnerable and out of control. The constant bombardment of others’ energies and emotions can be draining for them.

There’s a very important connection here that gets missed, and in missing it, makes some people resent their empathic abilities (I know I once did). While our intuition is infinite, divine and a gift, we are human. Our humanity is reflected in our empathy.

As demigods (human + god), we have boundaries that must be honored. The main boundary is empathy.

Being empathic is vulnerable. It is draining. And it exists so that we know and when we have to put ourselves first.

Constantly giving to others will deplete our own supply. When we get to that point of exhaustion or have a vulnerability hangover, intuition is using empathy as a brake on our giving. This forces us to put the attention back on ourselves so that we can give more in the future.

So next time the news makes you feel out of sorts, have a fight with your husband, are cranky with your kids, or don’t feel like getting out of bed, take a silent moment to see if this is your intuition telling you that you need to take care of you. This process will allow you to maintain your mental health (and sanity) so you can be available to LIVE your life.

 

How Yoga Helps with Healing Mental Illness

I generally avoid making widespread suggestions. As a trained doctor and scientist, there are too many variables between any 2 people to make a sweeping generalization that applies to everyone. However, there are general guidelines I recommend that can be customized for you individually. One of these is incorporating yoga into your fitness routine.

Whether it’s 2 sessions a week or 5 minutes a day, every day, yoga is something I recommend everyone include in their repertoire, especially those healing their mental health.

1️⃣ Yoga is a proactive way to get out of your head and into your body

The primary reason I recommend yoga to my clients and use it extensively myself is because it helps us connect back to our bodies and stop the rat race of thoughts in our heads. With depression, anxiety, ADD, etc., our head gets in the way of our progress. The best way to stop this is to ground that head energy back into our bodies.

The absence of distraction, movement and focus that yoga requires can be truly transformational in learning how your mind works and harnessing its anxious energy into something positive. #realtalk I’ve resisted yoga A TON during my journey. Even though I’m user-aware of the benefits it provides me, there are days I don’t want leave the rat race in my head. It happens to the best of us and that’s ok.

Yoga provides a nonjudgmental space for you to work through whatever you’re going through. On the good days, you can be proud for moving your body. On the bad days, you deserve a parade for just unrolling the mat.

2️⃣ Yoga can be used as active therapy

Talk therapy is a common tool used in the healing of depression and anxiety. The reason it’s usually recommended is to help you (the patient) better understand your emotions how to control them. The problem is that most people don’t like to sit down and talk about the feelings!

This creates a catch-22 because ithe patient needs help understanding their emotions yet don’t want help learning how to manage their emotions. In this state, true healing can never occur.

This is where yoga can be a really powerful tool for a lot of people. Yoga not only helps you move your body so you’ll feel better just because you moved your body, it also demands focused attention from you. This attention combined with your body’s movement allows your emotions to come up so you can process them. And since yoga can be a solitary practice, you can freely feel all the feels.

As you get consistent with your yoga practice, you will find yourself being more grounded, more centered, more emotionally free. The nagging negative thoughts will begin to dissipate, you’ll be able to figure out what you’re feeling quicker and more accurately and learn how to self soothe in a healthy way.

3️⃣ Flexible body = flexible mind

We all know we’re supposed to think positive right?

Yet, that’s the one thing that is so hard to do when you have depression and anxiety.

A negative mindset is very constricted. It’s very narrow-minded and isn’t open to possibility. A positive mindset is the complete opposite – open-minded, full of inspiration and creativity, opened to all possibilities even those it can’t conceive.

Your body will reflect your mindset. Take a minute right now and check:

– Are your neck and shoulder stiff?
– Is it uncomfortable to twist and bend?
– Does your back hurt?
– Are your legs stiff?
– Do your hips feel locked?

These physical symptoms are reflected in your brain.

Now, it would be great to just wake up tomorrow and flip the switch from negative to positive, that’s just not how it works. When it comes to the brain, you have to train it to do what you want. This is habit change 101. And being positive is nothing more than a habit.

Now, where does yoga fit into all this?

Physically, yoga serves two purposes – strength and flexibility within the body. These physical traits are reinforced in your brain’s circuitry. By making your brain stronger and more flexible, you create the environment for more positivity. This can manifest and a bunch of different ways, such as:

– seeing the blessings in a negative event
– creating higher vibrations within yourself
– attracting better people into your life
– creating creating and maintaining better personal boundaries

It may seem “too good to be true” that you can gain all these benefits (plus many more) from yoga. Here’s a not-so-secret secret – you can get all the benefits you want from any tool … as long as you’re consistent. And that same principle applies here.

4️⃣ Yoga serves as an antidote for chronic overachievers

Admittedly, this last “tip” is more of an observation.

Most of the women that I talk to are chronic overachievers. They spent their life using external goals as a measure of success and they all have gotten a place where that system no longer works for them.

When their system of measuring success becomes obsolete, they often experience depression and anxiety. Their need to achieve starts to manifest in different ways – bodybuilding competitions, Marathon running, going back to school. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with bodybuilding or marathon running or going back-to-school, as long as it’s done for personal development and the life enrichment rather than creating an arbitrary set of goals to achieve so you can feel better.

In my opinion and experience, yoga serves as an antidote for the need to achieve. The inherent demand within yoga is that you have to meet your body where it is. You can’t be more flexible than where you are right now; you can’t be stronger than where you are right now. The only way to see any improvement is to consistently show up everyday. And because the practice is so vast, you’re bound to find at least one type of yoga that will work for you.

Yoga poses are progressions so you always have more to strive for. For an overachiever, this is great because there’s always a goal, yet you have to honor where are you are when you hit the mat that day. Over time, yoga teaches the overachiever to detach from the outcome, recognize where you are right now and that progress comes in increments, not leaps and bounds.

One of the most common things I hear from prospective and current clients is “I don’t get what the big deal about yoga is.”

First off, I want to say that it’s okay if yoga is not a spiritual journey for you. A lot of novices can get turned off by the “life-changing” aspect of yoga, especially when they’re just looking for a way to have more flexibility or core strength. Whatever your reasons are for incorporating yoga into your life, those reasons are perfect as is.

You don’t need to justify them.
You don’t need to qualify them.

Yoga meet you where are you are.

– If all you’re looking for is more flexible hips and core strength, it will provide you with that.

– If you’re looking for an active way to work through your emotions, it’ll provide you with that.

– If all you want is to detach from reality, it’ll give you that.

It will reflect back to you whatever it is you need. It’s up to you to use it.

Like any good self-care tool, yoga adapts to you. Keep calm and yoga on. <3

 

Note: I’m not a yoga teacher and don’t assist with developing a practice. There are a bunch of resources (online and IRL) that are much better at that than I am. I’m sharing my conclusions on yoga as a scientific, medicinal and personal growth tool for those with depression, anxiety and ADD.

Your Relationship to Your Power

Most of us come from a background of victimhood. At some point or another in our lives, we gave up our power to someone or something else. The most common one is money. I guarantee we all have and/or know someone who has given up their power to money, when in reality, money is nothing more than energy – same as the rays from the sun to the heat from a stove.

We also live in a society of victims. All around us, people blame the government, corporations, even the weather on the state of their lives. When you stand in your power among all those who refuse to, you’re bound to be ridiculed and criticized which can make some of us revert back to being victims.

Internally, our ego can stop us from stepping into our power. The ego is like a petulant child, constantly crying out for attention. Its insecurity becomes our insecurity which keeps us in victim mode. The inertia or “stuck-ness” a lot of us experience is due to this push-pull between our ego and our soul.

It’s hard to ignore the power we each possess when we have the ability to create and change our reality from just our thoughts. Yet, why do most of us never own this power and use it? I’ll be covering the common “blocks” I’ve seen around this but first, I want to hear from you.

Responsibility: The “Shadow” to Power?

I don’t see responsibility as a burden or shadow. But I didn’t always feel this way. As my journey is reflected in those of my clients, a common mindset stumbling block I’ve noticed in my clients is owning the responsibility that comes with owning your power.

Once you recognize that you always have power and begin to apply that power within your life, you instantly become responsible for nurturing it. The core responsibility here is establishing boundaries. This can manifest in a number of different ways, such as:

– removing toxic people from your life
– guarding your energy like a hawk
– breaking old patterns that disempower you
– implementing new patterns that continue to empower you
– likely pissing some people off (this is especially common for recovering people-pleasers)
– feeling uncomfortable in the short-term

As these responsibilities (among many others) pop up, it can be SO EASY to fall back into depressive or anxious behavior. Setting and enforcing boundaries for your power can be draining work – you’ll second guess yourself, make excuses for “relaxing” them, be inconsistent with enforcing them. If you don’t allow yourself the time and space to recuperate properly, it’ll take you longer and be harder to really start using your power.

The journey from victim to powerful will trigger symptoms of depression and anxiety within you. The important thing to understand here is that this is necessary as you being to uncover who you really are.

Whenever you start to fully express who you are, it’s NORMAL to feel uncomfortable, down and/or anxious. When you start exercising your power, remember to rest as well (just like with physical exercise). The periods of rest (aka self-care) will strengthen your power and resolve to keep moving forward on your journey.

Personal Responsibility vs Self-Blame

Personal responsibility is vital to your growth as an individual as well as part of the collective. We must all recognize that we are creators of our own reality, that we are all powerful beyond belief. In order to tap into all the potential our power holds, we have to take responsibility for our actions and results.

But a line that gets blurry, particularly with those of us who deal with depression and anxiety is the line between personal responsibility and self-blame.

Most of my clients are perfectionists (like myself) and personal responsibility is where it gets tricky for us. Yes, we are responsible for our reality yet, not EVERYTHING is our responsibility to take on.

The key difference here is understanding the nuance between responsibility and control. Responsibility is empowerment – taking the hit when things suck and celebrating the good stuff. Control leads to attachment, blame and anxiety.

Here’s an example from my life that I hope will illustrate the difference:

My mother is a narcissist. She’s an extremely toxic person to be around and from when I was 17 until now, I’ve always made sure I wasn’t forced to live with her (except for 2 years where my brother had cancer).

Over the recent years, I’ve made conscious efforts to put boundaries and distance in place between my mother and me. I know being around her is not good for me so I avoid it. This is personal responsibility.

In my early-20s, however, I desperately wanted to fix my mother. I learned everything I could learn and tried to get her to recognize she needed help. It never worked because she lacks even the most basic self-awareness. I banged my head (and soul) against that wall for a few years until I started focusing on myself. This is an example of blame or taking on a responsibility that isn’t mine to take on.

The key about exercising your power responsibly is to know you can ONLY control yourself.

🌀You can’t change someone else to be what you want them to be (or to reach their *potential*).

🌀You can’t affect how the Universe will respond to your efforts.

You must focus on controlling your actions and thoughts, being consistent in them and remain detached from the outcome. This is how you practice personal responsibility and become comfortable in your power.

What are your thoughts on owning your power? Share them in the comments.

The Impact of Nutrition on Mental Health

The food you eat has a direct impact on your brain and how you feel. Your gut (where all the food is digested) has its own nervous system that connects straight to the brain, with no stops in between. This connection makes it imperative to figure out how different foods impact your mental health (or illness, conversely).

The current food supply is admittedly gross. There’s way too much sugar in everything, pesticides, insecticides and other toxins, too much processed junk laden with sodium and bad fats. What is considered “normal” eating is, in fact, not normal at all.

When it comes to food and mental health, it’s necessary to go back to Nature. We MUST go back to eating the way the planet is designed to feed us. Vegetables, fruit and humanely-raised meat used to be the “normal” way to eat 60 or so years ago and still stands the test of time (and Big Food companies).

If you’ve known me for any length of time, you’ve seen me post and praise about the Whole30 program. It’s an elimination diet that resets your body’s biochemistry (and single-handedly change my career path lol!). While many people will say it’s too extreme, blah, blah, blah, the point of the program is valid. Eating wholesome foods provided by the planet is never a bad thing and this program is a good starting place to learn how to do that, no excuses.

The program eliminates all the major mental illness triggers from food – sugar, grains, dairy, soy – while also fostering immense self-confidence because, DAMN, you ate the greatest food for you EVER for 30. Straight. Days.!

Here’s my problem with the program – it’s only 30 days.

Yes it’s a short time frame that makes it appealing to try. But, 30 days is the minimum amount of time your body needs to START learning how to function properly again – after years of eating crap and feeling even worse.

It can take at least 60-90 days for your body to normalize and create your “new normal” – functioning harmoniously the way it was meant to. It takes this long for your brain to catch up to the changes you’ve made.

Am I telling you to do a Whole90? Absolutely not.

What I’m saying is if you are or have done a Whole30, to maintain a close facsimile of that eating plan for another month or two to really understand what you’re MEANT to feel like.

Brain chemistry has a delayed response to any lifestyle changes you make. That’s why it’s important to give it the proper amount of time to see what your mental HEALTH actually looks and feels like.

Is this easy? HEEEEEELLLLLLLLLL NO! But it gets easier.

The Biochemistry of Food

Food is information. It gives your body signals that it then interprets and reacts to accordingly. When you constantly eat food that contains a lot of sugar, gluten, soy, dairy, pesticides, insecticides, etc. (all foods that can be toxic to humans), your body is getting the message that it’s being poisoned. The body’s reaction to this is to pull out all the stops and make sure you don’t die. It’s the equivalent of a 5-alarm fire in your body all. the. time.

Can you imagine how stressssssed the body must feel in this state?

Now, let’s say you’re eating 100% whole foods. The right amount of veggies, protein, fat and fruit for you, all balanced meals, the right portions. The signal your body gets here is that everything’s ok. There’s enough food coming in with the right nutrients, allowing the body to fortify itself rather than barely do damage control as in the above example.

Can you see how blisssssssful the body can feel in this second state?

Ok, this is all fantastic – but where’s the science, Rahma? Why should I care about this?

I got you, babe. Hold on tight.

We all know how our food travels – in the mouth, down the esophagus, into the stomach, then small intestine, large intestine and finally, exiting us as poop. (Fun journey, eh? Hehe).

Each portion of the digestive system has a purpose (duh). The most important part for our discussion is the small intestine.

The small intestine is 26 feet of arguably some of the most important cells and bugs we have, folded on top of itself. It has 3 major regions, each having different purposes and functions. Most importantly, it contains tons of bacteria that help us live and 90% of our immune system. NINETY PERCENT.

The small intestine is also the most affected by our food choices (also, duh). Whether we eat SAD (Standard American Diet) foods or whole foods, our guts will know immediately.

The small intestine is also responsible for creating the majority of the body’s supply of serotonin (not the brain, like many believe). This is due to the bacteria in the gut that helps the body create biochemicals and digest food properly.

When you eat whole foods, these bugs are properly fed while keeping their counterpart bad bugs to a minimum. A SAD diet, however, leads to dead good bugs and lots of alive bad ones. When the ratio between helpful and damaging bugs get skewed towards the damaging bugs, we stop producing the biochemicals we need, leading to mental illness.

Food, Inflammation & the Brain

In 2015, researchers found that depression may be caused by chronic inflammation. This was one of many chronic diseases that have linked to chronic inflammation. Others include heart disease, diabetes, obesity and stroke.

The most EFFECTIVE way to take control of your inner inflammation is through food. Your gut contains 90% of your immune system (which responds to inflammation). Changing your food changes how your immune response to inflammation.

For example, when you replace processed foods with vegetables, your gut now has an easier time digesting your food. There’s also less sugar and poisons coming in. The change in food changes the environment in your gut (no more small fires to put out EVERYWHERE). This then leads to your immune system calming down which causes less redness and swelling.

This is ALSO where you notice you’re peeing a lot more. Inflammation causes your body to swell with water. Once that inflammation starts to go down, your body no longer needs that water and thus releases it (through your pee). Yes, this is water weight but nonetheless, still weight (water does have weight) that comes off of you.

Once the inflammation in your gut reduces, the inflammation in your brain starts to go down too. [Remember: the gut and brain are always connected. What happens in one, happens to the other]. Over a few weeks, the brain will become less and less inflamed, allowing it to start producing and effectively using its neurotransmitters the way its meant to.

This is where your mood starts to elevate, you may start to handle stress better and you feel generally good.

So while on the surface it may seem like food and mental health aren’t connected, they are, in fact, inextricably linked.

WHAT’S YOUR BRAIN FOOD?

As much as we’re the same, we are different. This is especially true when it comes to food. What will work for you won’t for the next person.

This is why it’s important to learn how foods affect you and your mental health. I (or any other nutrition expert) can give you guidelines but the ultimate responsibility falls on you to be honest and aware of how foods affect you. Along with that, you have to know what side effects you’re willing to deal with and having flexibility to change as time goes on.

Are there certain foods that will damage your mental health? Yes.

These are foods you may not want to live without. That’s perfectly fine. Give your body and brain the courtesy to see how these foods affect you by eliminating them for at least 30 days and reintroducing them. Maybe they affect your a lot or not at all, but it’s important for you to have that information so that you’re in control of your mental and physical health.

Are there certain foods that will heal and nurture your mental health? Yes.

But these foods may or may not work for you. Same as it’s important to eliminate unknown foods to see how they affect you, it’s imperative that you see how the nurturing foods affect you. Above all, follow your intuition (once you’re past those pesky cravings 😉).

6 Lessons In Mental Health I Learned in 2016

It’s taken me a few days to wrap my head around the fact that 2016 is O-V-E-R. Damn but that was the most intense rollercoaster ride of my life. I’m grateful yet so happy it’s over.

I was broken down last year. All the layers of “me” were stripped, piece by piece, until I was left raw and exposed. It’s not until you go through that process yourself that you appreciate how exhausting it is.

Now that I’ve come out the other side and had a couple of days to relish the start of a new year (and Universal cycle), I’m grateful for the lessons 2016 taught me. Though I can’t say it was fun (and those who know me know I loooooove fun), my experience was exactly what I needed.

Over the next few days, I’ll be sharing the lessons I learned and how you can take your 2016 (and now, 2017) experience to help yourself.

1) HEALING IS LIFELONG

I came into 2016 cocky. I was in a scary-ass accident right before the new year started, was embarking on my entrepreneurial journey for the first time but at least I had my mental health handled. Since that had been my first priority for a few years, I figured it would always be that way.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

It took about a month for my morning routine to fall by the wayside. This routine helped me stay grounded all day (incredibly important for my mental health) and set me up for success. By neglecting it, I became more reactive and volatile emotionally leading to me losing trust in myself, which affected me and my business (more on this later).

In my rush to move forward, I forgot the fundamentals to my health. I had stopped walking my talk. This fact slowly, subconsciously, eroded my self-confidence … affecting how I showed up for my clients.

Added to that I got obsessed with learning new healing modalities (this is like crack for me) but stopped reinforcing the fundamentals.

The lesson here: healing is lifelong. It’s not for a few months or a few years of life. It’s for the rest of my life. This meant 2 things – a) it’s not always going to be the #1 priority in my life … and that’s OK. b) When in doubt, stick to the basics.

Anxiety provides me with an incredible imagination. It also makes me overcomplicate simple things REGULARLY. It’s the balance between them I’m constantly aiming for. When I had episodes of severe anxiety and depression during 2016, I focused on incorporating the new healing modalities I was learning (and was by no means an expert in yet) rather than focusing on my fundamental healing to, at minimum, lessen my mental load. Instead, I put all this unnecessary pressure on myself to use my new knowledge, triggering anxiety which led to analysis paralysis … and inertia.

Ultimately, it was this dreaded inertia that led me back to the fundamentals of my healing and helped me show up the way I desired. I understood I had my whole life to learn new stuff and apply it but when I have a bigger priority in my business that needs my attention, it’s enough to do what’s needed and not what’s wanted.

2) BALANCE IS DYNAMIC & INTERNAL

Balance is one of my core values in coaching, business and life. Figuring out where my sweet spot is between any 2 extremes is important to me, particularly having lived most of my life at one extreme or another.

I spent most of last year endlessly *searching* for my balance. Typing that out now, it sounds completely ludicrous but that’s exactly what I did. I never “found” it until I stopped trying so hard.

One of the fundamental principles of the human body is HOMEOSTASIS. In a nutshell, homeostasis is the concept of a dynamic equilibrium (read: balance) between all the different variables in the body. The key word here is DYNAMIC.

Homeostasis when you eat is different than when you sleep, workout, talk or walk.

Balance within myself, my life, my business is not a set destination that once I reach it, all is great with the world. Rather, balance is a state of being, a mindset of constant awareness of what feeds and drains me. I was hoping for an “X marks the spot” kinda deal and instead, learned that there is no ONE spot.

Balance means different things to different people. Balance also changes within a day, week, month and year for everyone. Once I stopped searching for balance outside of myself, I was able to BE balanced from within.

3) THE MORE DETACHED I AM, THE LESS SUFFERING I EXPERIENCE

This was a tricky lesson to embody every day and frankly, this is a still a work in progress for me.

I had talked to so many women last year with differing diagnoses – from cancer and autoimmune conditions to mental illness. Each one displayed a sense of attachment to their diagnosis, so much so that many weren’t willing to change their health maintenance plan.

I found myself taking on the diagnoses of depression and anxiety more and more, especially when things got out of control. I was using the diagnoses as excuses to be inconsistent, wallow and complain. We all know that doesn’t get us ANYWHERE!

At some point during the fall, I realized what I was doing and how it was affecting how I showed up for my business. I’m ALL for self-care first and foremost, but I also knew that I have a tendency to use self-care as an excuse to do nothing (when I should be taking action, even if it’s small). Instead of being someone who was experiencing depression/anxiety and listening to what these were trying to communicate to me, I became one with them and fell back into inertia. A recipe for disaster!!! 😱😱😱

I slowly worked on separating myself from my symptoms and made a conscious effort for months to look at my situation objectively. It was challenging at first #notgonnalie but within a handful of days, I was able to hear my intuition more clearly.

This detachment also led to me actually acknowledging my feelings and processing them rather than spinning my wheels in their muck. THIS WAS HUGE. I started making progress in my mindset, business and relationships without ANY of the stress that I was used to dealing with for the previous months. It was so eye-opening to see almost instantaneous change within myself when I didn’t make suffering personal.

Now, by no means have I mastered detachment but every day is another day I’m working on it. And each day I do, I have less and less depressive and anxious symptoms – which is my ultimate goal.

4) INSTINCT AND INTUITION ARE TWO VERY DIFFERENT THINGS

This one took me almost the whole year to understand and accept. But the Universe kept tossing me this tough love over and over and over and over again.

Instinct is primordial, old, instantly comforting, safety-based programming – a necessary failsafe. Intuition is uncomfortable, peaceful and quiet. Understanding the distinction between these within my body was a yearlong process.

There were weeks where staying connected to my intuition was a full day affair – constant grounding, meditation and self-reflection. #realtalk it was draining. But over time, it got easier and easier to hear IF I did what was necessary for me to hear it.

On the flip side, I had to come to terms that my instinct wasn’t always for my highest good. My instinct would tell me:

🚫to take the day off (to feed into inconsistency, not for self-care)

🚫to feel threatened and incompetent when I saw someone else’s message that was similar to mine

🚫I wasn’t cut out to have the life of my dreams.

My instinct would lead me to stay feeling depressed, anxious and out of control. My intuition always led me to feeling energized, accomplished and at peace. The tug of war I felt between these 2 last year was exhausting but incredibly eye-opening. It taught me the difference between my wants and needs, how to have both instant and delayed gratification in a healthy way and how to train my instinct to be more intuitive.

5) I ALWAYS HAVE A CHOICE

2016 was a mix of good and bad. I connected with some incredible people who taught me a lot. I also made some bad investments that left me worse than before I had invested.

Through all the ups and downs, there were times I was tempted to blame others; there were a couple of instances where it was completely warranted. But at every junction, I always looked at my personal responsibility in the situation and what choices I had in that moment.

I remember in July, I was upset and frustrated about the state of my business – like complete meltdown level upset. I couldn’t get ahold of my coach, I was convinced my boyfriend couldn’t understand my experience, I had bills piling up which was triggering massive anxiety attacks. I was a Hot. Mess.

After an ugly cry with my boyfriend (where he supported me the best way he knew how *bless his heart*), I reached out for more support in a group I felt comfortable in and received A TON of support on how to move myself forward.

At that moment (and many others throughout the year), I had a choice. I could’ve isolated myself and continued spiraling further down into despair. Or I could’ve asked for help until I got the support I needed.

The right choice may not always (read: almost never is) the easy one or the safe one; the right choice is often the uncomfortable one. Understanding I had a choice and then acting on it was the difference between me running my life or allowing anxiety to take over. This lesson was imperative in reminding me that no matter how “bad” my experience may seem, the power to change it always lies within me.

6) IT ALL COMES DOWN TO HABITS

This is actually an old lesson that was beaten into me by 2016. I started learning about habits about 10 years ago but really used that information to transform my life almost 7 years ago. Using habit research and tactics, I lost a bunch of weight, overcame a lot of childhood trauma, dealt with a breakup and brother’s chemotherapy, all the while working 3 jobs. Without those well-formed, nourishing habits, I would’ve been a basket case.

Instead of improving upon the habits I had painstakingly put into place in my life, I spent most of 2016 reverting back to 2006 Rahma. This supposed de-evolution, while frustrating, ultimately helped me get back to basics. With a completely different life now than I had been planning and working toward, I had to overhaul my habits so I could be the best Rahma I could be NOW.

In a weird, roundabout way, I actually ended up in exactly the position I always wanted to – just waaaaaay sooner than I had expected. I was the CEO of my own company, I led a healthy lifestyle and I was in a loving relationship – now I had the chance to live it.

I had a bunch of fits and starts changing my habits. That’s normal and expected. Some of the habits included:

📌how to love myself despite my perceived flaws and struggles

📌how to use depression and anxiety symptoms as a useful tool to navigate my business and life

📌how to stop being scared of what I had done or would do and become present

Each of these habits are essential my mental health. Along with nutrition and exercise, maintaining a strong love connection to myself and steady mindset work led to rapid changes within my energy and subsequently, my life.

Connecting all this back to lesson 1, healing is a lifelong journey and it’s important to have your foundation solid. That foundation is made of habits and a truckload of self-love. Choose the habits that feed your self-love and healing won’t be far behind.

Thanks so much for sticking with me through this series. I’d love to hear from you – what lessons did you learn in 2016 that you’re bringing into 2017? Share in the comments!