Thursday, 13 July 2017

Published again! The Grass is Greener on the Other Side...?

Image result for after rain there is a rainbowI am blessed that my writing has been again featured on Fr. Anthony's website. Read it here! (And feel free to leave your comments/thoughts there).

We all face tough moments; sometimes, these can be extremely taxing and difficult to endure. We are often told to 'stick it through' because it will get better. "The grass is greener on the other side!", we are told.

But that does not always help. When we are experiencing challenging times, we need hope. And sometimes, thinking that things might get better soon (that the other side is greener) makes us more frustrated because we simply do not see a way out of our misery.

Instead, it might be helpful to realize that the situation we are experiencing now is tough. YES. Validate your feelings - your emotions are real. It is okay to be tired, angry, and distraught. But then...know that whatever you are going through has a purpose. You will learn something from this. You will grow somehow. Perhaps you will gain insight into a bad habit that you need to break, or maybe you will learn to appreciate the simple things in life. Maybe this hard time will open doors for you that you never considered before.

Image result for yea though i walkRegardless of the outcome, know this: God is working in your life at all times. You need not worry that things are 'random' in your life without a purpose. God often allows us to endure tough times because they are preparing us for something more, and because they remind us to depend on Him. 

Don't waste your time focusing on the grass on the other side. Your field of grass is just fine - it is simply in the process of renewal. Your obstacles are like the rain - difficult to endure now...but after the thunder, the grass is watered and alive again. It thrives. And you will, too.


Sunday, 18 June 2017

Summer!

Image result for weatherI LOVE summer weather! It just makes me so happy to see the sun shining outside, the beautiful trees and flowers, the birds singing...how lovely. Nature is truly amazing.

The weather has major impacts on our mood and even motivation. Think about a rainy day: how motivated do you feel to work? Study? Clean? Do ANYTHING? Probably not much.

Now think of a sunny day. All we want to do is go out and have fun, garden, see new places, enjoy new foods, spend time with family and friends, etc.

It is amazing how the sun can make me feel so much happier. I have noticed that when it is sunny outside, I feel happier. I even feel more motivated to study! But when it is cloudy, I feel gloomy. I look outside, and all I want to do is sleep!

Image result for when the sun goes down the stars come upThere is definitely a scientific correlation to this: several studies, such as this one have shown that serotonin, one of the neurotransmitters (or brain chemicals) that makes us feel happy, is stimulated by sunshine. So, more sun might mean that more serotonin is made and released, which makes us feel more relaxed and happy.

This is why a treatment modality for some types of depression can include light therapy, or going outside in the sunshine.

Now, does this mean we cannot possibly be happy if it is not sunny outside? Absolutely not! For me, I have found that reminding myself of the beauty of nature in general makes me feel more productive. For example, rain means nourishment for grass and flowers. It means the flowers will grow. It even means that the roads get cleaner! It is a sign of the beautiful works of God.

Image result for this is the day the lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in itIt is really amazing how much pondering on the beauty of nature can help with mood changes or feelings of 'ickiness' when it is rainy or cold outside. Think of how wonderful nature is. Think of how each season and the weather changes brings changes in nature, animals, trees, plants, and so forth. Think of how every weather condition is a reminder of LIFE: whether that be your life, plants, animals, or flowers. And life is beautiful, in all seasons.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Watch my latest presentation!

Image result for primed conference logoI am very honoured and blessed to have been asked by the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine to give a presentation at PriMed 2017, the annual largest conference for healthcare professionals in Canada!

I was invited to speak about my own experience with anorexia nervosa, and to integrate research and guidelines about how clinicians can identify, treat, and manage patients with eating disorders. This was a great experience! I had the opportunity to share my story, but also use this to help doctors and nurses understand how they can effectively support their patients towards recovery from this illness. 

Image result for mental illness quotesEating disorders (EDs) are mental illnesses. There are documented brain changes that occur in patients with eating disorders, and these alterations in neurotransmitters (or brain 'chemicals') make recovery, eating, and weight gain extremely challenging. Recovery is a hard, painful process. The emotional and mental struggles that patients endure are difficult.

However, there is hope. I am proof of that. Recovery is always possible. Fighting ED takes time, dedication, strength, and bravery. Patients need to feel understood, supported, loved, and cared for. They are not to blame for their illness. They need to know that this will be a hard road. The only way out is to go through it. But they can do it.

Image result for hope quotesI hope you enjoy this video, and that you learn something about EDs and mental health. And remember - the principles of support, care, and empathy applies not only to EDs, but to all illnesses in general. Patients need to feel that they are not to blame. There is no guilt or shame in being ill. Patients need to also know that recovery is possible. And experiencing difficulty and pain (whether physical, mental, or emotional) is normal, and expected. But they can rise above these challenges. Often, getting better from an illnesses means that you have to do things that aren't particularly comfortable or fun. And going through this, you might feel tired, frustrated, and hopeless. You may even want to give up. But you can do it. You can get better, one step at a time. Never blame yourself for having moments when things feel too hard or overwhelming. Pick yourself up again and find a reason - anything - to carry on. It might be your dreams of a job, your love for your family, your desire for strength and freedom, your spiritual life, or more. Whatever is important to you - use that as motivation. Because you can do it. And you are not alone.

You are strong. You are worthy. You are enough. You deserve to be well. You deserve to be happy. You deserve to be healthy.
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Friday, 28 April 2017

STOP THAT THOUGHT!

Image result for your mind has the powerOur thoughts have a major impact on our feelings and actions. I know what you're thinking - this is something we all know already! But lately, I have truly felt this happen in my life. And I wanted to reflect with you all on this important topic.

It is no surprise that life can get crazy at times. Right now, I find myself being overwhelmed by many things to do. I have to study, volunteer, go to Church, spend time with friends and family, think about my future career and life goals, concentrate on my health, engage in self-care, and so forth.

And at times, I simply do not want to do anything at all. Nothing. Not sleep. Not work. Not eat. Not play. Not study. Not spend time with anyone. Not spend time with myself. NOTHING. I am bored, tired, and exhausted.

Life is pointless. There is too much to do and no time to do it.

I am bored and frustrated. I cannot do all of these things, and I feel that it is impossible.

Image result for what lies behind us and what lies before usI have no idea what the future will bring, and this makes me anxious.

I wish I was like XXX. I wish I could do ZZZ. I wish I was YYY. Then, everything would be better.

And the list in my head goes on and on. If I don't stop myself soon, things will get worse - I'll keep thinking these thoughts, I'll become more sad and angry, and I'll never do anything in my life. 

So, what is one to do? The most helpful thing I have found is to think of something positive in my life. Anything. Yesterday, it was the fact that the sun was shining so nicely outside. The day before, it was that my family was alive and healthy, and that we were all together. Perhaps tomorrow, it will be the fact that I get to study medicine - my dream. Or that I am healthy and well. Or that my friends are there for me when I need to talk. You get the idea...thinking of something positive or something that we are thankful for can change our thoughts.

Image result for courage doesn't mean absence fear But, let's be real: does this eliminate the negative thoughts completely? No. Does this mean that my life is INSTANTLY ALL BETTER AND EVERYTHING IS GREAT AGAIN? No, of course not. But what it does do is force me to slow down. To take a nice, slow deep breath. And to silence all the negativity. To realize that despite the challenges and tough times, there is still some good in my life.

It also reminds me of my strength. I am a fighter. My head might be racing with a million thoughts about how busy and loaded I am. My heart may be beating and telling me that I'm on the run and that there is no time to relax. But this one positive thought stops this. This happy thought of thanks or appreciation or optimism reminds me that....

It is going to be okay. I will be okay. I will get through this. 

Because we always do. We face challenges. And we feel scared, anxious, tired, and angry. But then we muster our courage and strength, gather our resources, focus....and....before you know it, you've overcome the obstacle. You made it through.

Image result for happiness is an attitudeYour thoughts have a major impact on your emotions and thoughts. If you can think happy or positive thoughts, you can gain control over some hardships in your life. If you can change a bad thought into a good thought, you can remain calm and do what you need to do. If you can allow yourself to feel a difficult emotion, but then remind yourself of a strength you possess or a positive aspect in your life, you will persevere.

This is not easy. I have in no way mastered this ability - I still have to work on transforming negative thoughts into positive ones. I'm working on trying to stop a negative thought, think about it, challenge it, and then transform that thought into one that allows me to feel comforted, in control, strong, and thankful.

Image result for being thankful thoughtsThis is a goal that I have, and I challenge you to join me in changing our negative thoughts. I'm  starting to notice the difference this has brought upon in my health, my emotions, my productivity, my ability to concentrate, my strength, my happiness, and so on. Challenging negative thoughts is not easy, and it takes time. And just because it works today, this does not mean that I will not struggle tomorrow.

But it DOES mean that I am stronger. I have overturned an unhealthy thought today. And I will do this again tomorrow. And the day after that. Because practice makes perfect. And a healthy thought = healthy emotions = healthy body = healthy life. And that is worth fighting for.


Thursday, 23 March 2017

Keep Pushing Through

Image result for life is crazyLife. Is. Crazy.

Today has been one of those days when I am absolutely exhausted. There has been so much going on. My days at school have been long and full of lectures, studying, and so forth. I've been trying to catch up with my friends, and finding time to balance this with everything else is challenging.

Oh, yes. And all the while, I'm trying to make sure I stay healthy and sane!

At one point today, I just had this feeling of complete exasperation. WHAT IS THE POINT OF ALL THIS?! Why do we have to be so busy? Why is life so complex? Why do we have to feel stressed? Why did I choose such a hard and busy career path?

I began thinking about what I would be doing if I wasn't studying medicine, or taking care of my health. Or spending time with my friends and family.

Image result for the pain todayAnd to be honest, I couldn't think of what else I would rather be doing.

YES. Life can get stressful. Yes, studying and work is hard. Yes, time is limited. Yes, there will be days when you don't want to do anything but stay in bed all day and worry about nothing.

BUT....would you really have it any other way? You may find that work and studying is stressful, but if you enjoy it, you can cope with it. Balancing your time and finding moments to spend with loves ones is difficult, but these are the experiences that keep you grounded and happy. Facing problems and having to solve them is complicated, but these situations give you wisdom and strength.

I'm busy. I might be a little stressed. I may feel tired at the end of a long day. Time might feel limited. But I wouldn't trade this for anything else in the world. I am doing what I love. I am spending time with people I cherish. I am focusing on my health and well-being.

Image result for tomorrow will be a better dayAnd my happiness.

And that, dear readers, is worth every moment of worry, fatigue, and frustration. Because there is always a light at the end of every tunnel. Because tough times never last. Because you will get through this.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Everyone Has a Battle

I think it's time for an update: many of you been asking me for one!

Where do I start? It's been a journey, that's for sure! As you know, I am studying medicine. And I absolutely love it. This has always been my dream - to be able to use my knowledge and skills to help others. Granted, there are some long days of classes that make me tired and bored. There are times when I feel overwhelmed, and I even wonder if I can really do this! It can get stressful feeling this way. It can be difficult trying to balance my time between friends, family, volunteering, school, advocacy, and so on. At times, I feel as though I'm not even good enough to be in medicine. Will I ever be 'good enough?'.

And then, of course, there is the fact that I have struggled with anorexia in the past.

But, I need to get this message out, loud and clear: I AM NOT MY PAST. (And actually, no one is their own illness, struggles, or problems! You are YOU!!!)

Yes, I struggled with an eating disorder. Yes, there are times when I still feel worried about my weight, food intake, and so forth. But it no longer controls my life. And most days, I don't even remember that I have had this illness. Nor do I feel any different from anyone else.

But lately, I've felt something inside of me telling me to push a little harder. I am doing well now, thank God. But something still isn't right. Perhaps it is the fact that stress around me is increasing. School is getting tougher, and more responsibilities are being added to my plate. Life is moving fast, and I want to keep up with it. And a small voice in my head tells me that it is time to invest in myself a bit more. To show myself some extra love and kindness. And yes...to eat a little more.

And I hate that. I don't want to have to eat more. I don't want to deal with gaining weight again. But I know that I need it. I know that I need to gain some weight to maintain my strength for the future, as my career evolves and my responsibilities increase. But I'm scared. The thoughts of gaining too much weight lurk in my head. BUT... MY LIFE NEEDS THIS NOW.  I may not like it. I may be worried and terrified. But I know deep down inside, that a little extra strength will not harm me now.

I'm writing this here because I want you to all know that I'm okay. I'm healthy and strong. But I am not perfect. And I see now in my life a desire and requirement to admit that though I am well, I can be better. There is always room for improvement. It is my time now to improve. My time to realize that though I am strong, I can be stronger. And I pray that each of you finds it inside of yourself to also see that you are okay. You may be battling something...but you too can do this.

We all have battles in our lives that maybe no one knows about. And even if people know about them, they might not understand your battle in detail, or to what extent you are fighting. But that doesn't matter. What matters is that we show one another kindness. That we support one another as best we can. That we realize that you do not know what battles everyone is fighting against. But know this: we are here for one another. We are not perfect. But we fight, and we persevere.


I want to thank you ALL for being by my side. For those of you who are checking up on me, send me kind messages, or even smile at me. Thank you to the people who know about my journey, and who make every effort to be mindful of the way they address food, weight, body image, mental health, etc. Thank you to my friends and family, who always remind me of how strong I am. Thank you, God, for giving me the insight to see that I am doing well, but can still improve.

That is what life is about. I am not ashamed to admit that I have room to improve. I know that this is all preparing me for my future. I have come so far, and I am so grateful for my journey. I'm using my story to spread the message about wellness and mental health. I am using my experiences to encourage people to TALK about their struggles - because it is OKAY TO ADMIT THAT YOU ARE NOT PERFECT. Every struggle we go through teaches us something. Maybe my obstacle is different from yours. But that doesn't mean it is easier or harder. It just means that we are all fighting. But we emerge stronger, wiser, and more confident with every experience. 



Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Take it easy!

'Take it easy!"

Image result for do not be anxious about anythingI find myself having to remember this statement often. I need to learn to 'take it easy'. Life is tough. There are so many struggles, challenges, and obstacles. Some of them are under our control. Some of them have solutions. But others are beyond our control, are unpredictable, unexpected, and difficult. Some situations become 'too much to handle', and we are left feeling hopeless and helpless.

Personally, I hate feeling like I cannot do anything to address a problem that I have, or to help someone who needs assistance. Feeling like I am stuck and can do anything makes me feel powerless and vulnerable...and sad and confused.

But there comes a point when I have to slow down and remember: JUST BREATHE. Take it easy. This is not your fault. This is out of your control. You cannot control the ACTION (or what happened already), but you can control your REACTION.


There will always be challenges. Some days, I find that I am so busy and I get overwhelmed. There are some times when I don't feel hungry, and yet know that I need to eat to keep myself well. There are moments when I feel stressed and tired, misunderstood, and lonely. There are even times when I feel frustrated with everything - even though things are not as intolerable as I think they may be.

Image result for even the darkest night will end and the sun will riseBut then again - who DOES NOT have those days? We all do. If there is one thing I learned from every experience in my life thus far, it is to talk about it. To not hide my emotions or keep things to myself. To find someone I love and trust, and to let them know that things are not okay - and that I need some extra support.

Then, I need to work on my own thought patterns. I need to recognize when I am allowing negative thoughts to invade my head and impact my emotions. It is okay for me to be worried. To feel tired, scared, hopeless, and confused. But it is NOT OKAY to keep these feelings and thoughts ruminating in my head. Instead, I need to learn to stop these thoughts, to question them, and to fight back with true evidence. It is okay to feel an emotion - that is normal and healthy. But what becomes pathological is when we dwell on these emotions and thoughts for a long time, and allow them to control our mood and actions.

Image result for the pain that you've been feeling can compare to the joy that coming lyricsSometimes, this means reminding myself to TAKE IT EASY. I am not the cause of all the problems in the world. And, there will always be difficult moments. We all face challenging times. We all have moments when we may feel incapable, not confident, and stressed. But it is during these tines when we need to breathe and remember that every experience, difficultly, and struggle is shaping us for tomorrow. Every barrier you face today prepares you for the next hurdle. And with each obstacle you overcome, you become stronger and wiser.

So, let's try to take things easy - which, ironically, isn't always easy. But with time, we learn not to stress the small stuff - and to build up our stamina as much as possible. We learn to face challenges head on and to persevere through them. Because life will always through things at you. But know and trust that you are more than able to overcome this challenge. And know too that you are never alone.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Prioritizing Tasks: What can we do?




Image result for prioritizing quotesA common 'New Year Resolution' that many people make is to try to get more organized. To prioritize what they need to do, and to get the most important things done first.

But, this is no easy task. It can be really easy to think 'today, I'm going to get xxx done. Then yyy. Then zzz'.

But we neglect the facts that 1) things take time to get done; 2) our attention spans don't always allow us to begin a task and complete it in the same time period; and 3) unexpected things can happen which may deter us from completing our 'to-do's'.

So, what CAN we do to prioritize our tasks? Below are some simple tips:
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1) Write it out! Making a list is actually one of the best ways to start getting organized. This helps you see what things you need to do, but also helps you gain a better perspective on how much you need  to get done. After making a list, it can become easier to move things around the list in terms of priority

2) Think: what needs to get done today? Tomorrow? What can wait until next week? For some things, you are bound by a deadline (i.e. a test to study for, a work project that is due soon, an upcoming event to plan for, etc). But some tasks can wait and aren't 'emergencies'. Again, this will differ from person-to-person, based on our values and beliefs.

3) Don't forget to rest and take breaks. I know you might be thinking: how on earth does this help in organizing our lives and prioritizing what we need to get done? Well, remember that the more stressed and flustered you are, the less likely you are to feel motivated. When we work endlessly and do not give ourselves breaks, we start to get overwhelmed, and often begin to get lazy. Scheduling in breaks, planning fun outings or activities, and taking time 'out' for yourself is essential. When you have learned the skill of balancing work and play, prioritizing tasks will become much, much easier!

Image result for how to prioritizeAnd there are so many other strategies, as well. The most important take-away message is that prioritizing is an essential skill to have in life. It is applicable to nearly everything - from work, to home, to relationships, and so forth. And, though we may have many things to get done, part of the task of organization and prioritizing includes making time for ourselves, for our well-being. This alone is no easy task, but is essential nonetheless. I hope 2017 has started off well for you - and even if it has been a patchy and rough beginning, remember that tough times never last! 

I hope 2017 brings you success, motivation, strength, love and peace!

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