5 Tips to Stick to Your Wellness Routine

Creating a Wellness Routine You’ll Stick To

I honestly believe that part of the reason so many attempts at a routine or healthier lifestyle fail, is because we force ourselves to do things that don’t bring us any joy. To start sticking to a wellness routine, you have to create one that you actually want to do. Sure, drinking lemon water first thing in the morning like your favorite celeb seems like a good idea at first, but if you find yourself forcing lemon water down your throat while cringing from the sour taste and then hating every minute of it… then maybe that’s not for you.

So here’s the thing, a good wellness routine is one that you enjoy doing that will benefit you and support your well being (physically, mentally + spiritually). Don’t force yourself to stick to any habit just because it’s trendy, just adopt habits that make you feel good. Think of these new habits as part of a self care routine too. No matter what they are, it’s all about growing and taking you towards that dream life you crave. Good? Ok! Moving on to my tips!

Tip 1 — Think About Why Your Routine Didn’t Stick Previously

In order to create strong routines you need to first figure out why your attempts haven’t worked in the past. I’m guessing is because you talk yourself out of it, make excuses, let fear take the wheel or just forget. I know I used to make so many excuses. Plus we all know the ever popular “I’ll start tomorrow”. What has helped me a lot is to really question myself. Why am I giving up? Why is it I cannot do this? Basically, I take inventory of my thoughts and feelings to get to the root of the problem and then go from there.

Tip 2 — Start Small

Planning routines that take too much time eventually leads to burning out and being inconsistent. It is better to FORM a habit first before adding lengthy routines to your schedule. This is a little thing called Lowest Barrier of Entry and this method will help you stick to a habit! For example, if you love to read and want to incorporate that into your life then start small. If you set out to read 3 chapters every day and one time you find it impossible to accomplish therefore deciding to skip it, you break the routine. At the beginning, make the smallest commitment, one you feel you can actually accomplish every day without it becoming a burden. Vow to read 3 pages per day, meditate for 1 minute every day, go running for 1 minute in the mornings etc. Remember, this has to be fun for you, so bottom line: START SMALL. You can always add pages or minutes later 😉

Tip 3 — Be Intentional With Your Routine

One of the biggest things that made me stick to my routine for a whole year (and still going strong!), was to set my intention on it first. WHY do I want a wellness routine? Why am I doing this? Why do I want this? How is this going to benefit my life? I even wrote it down multiple times throughout the year. I really wanted to get clear on the benefits a wellness routine would bring into my life. So think about it in your own life. What would sticking to a wellness routine do for you? How will it change your life? Having that answer handy will help cancel out any negative thoughts or excuses that will eventually pop up when first starting out new habits.

Tip 4 — Track + Be Accountable

It is so easy to fall out of a routine, there are so many distractions that can come from anywhere… your dog, kids, work life, traveling and even weekends can all be the kryptonite to your wellness routine. I know I always have so much trouble getting back into my habits when I’m away from home for so long. After much trial and error, I have found success in tracking my habits every day. There are loads of apps for this too! The thing is, it holds you accountable. Having to log habits somewhere keeps you on track and really helps you when you’re first starting out in forming a new routine.

Tip 5 — Be Kind to Your Mind

As always, I implore you to be kind to yourself. Changing your life is a process. It is also not linear, it is a rollercoaster and there will be days where you forget to do your routine. That is totally ok! The important thing is to get up the next day and start your routine fresh. Don’t beat yourself up for not doing it perfectly every time. Remember that your thoughts are powerful and what you say and think will affect your mood. The whole goal of a wellness routine is to keep those joyful vibes in your life so if you miss a day or two, don’t sweat it ok? Just try again the next day and keep that intention in mind.

The best way, in my opinion, to stick to a wellness routine, is to really be intentional with it. You need to always keep in mind why you are doing it and the benefits it is bringing to your life. Do that, and you’ll be living a balanced joyful life in no time.

What is your biggest struggle with sticking to a routine?

The Millennial’s Guide to Not Going Broke

How confident do you feel about your financial future? If you’re unsure or perhaps a little concerned, you’re not alone. Research suggests that while 60 percent of women worry they won’t have enough money to last through retirement, only one in three have a detailed budget. It seems we’re all nervous about the future, but we’re not taking control of our spending habits. If that sounds familiar, it’s time to ’fess up and get your finances on track.

Step 1: Calculate Your Monthly Income

The first step is simple: Find your latest pay check to calculate your monthly income after taxes are taken out. This is the amount deposited into your bank account each month after deductions like 401(k) contributions. If you’re self-employed or paid on commission, take a look at the past four to six months to create a realistic monthly estimate.

Step 2: Tally Fixed Expenses

Next, list all the expenses that are non-negotiable. Fixed expenses are those recurring costs that you must pay every month because they’re vital for your well-being or are commitments you’ve already made. Think rent, utilities, and car payments. Also, be sure to include contributions to an emergency and retirement fund in this section—they should be treated as an essential cost.

Now, don’t forget about expenses that aren’t billed regularly. Some fixed expenses you don’t actually pay for in equal amounts each month, so come up with a monthly average, For instance, if you pay insurance just twice a year, calculate the annual amount you pay, and then divide by 12. Or if your utility bills fluctuate a lot, research the total you paid for a full 12-month period, and divide by 12.

Step 3: Estimate Variable Expenses

Now it’s time to chart your extra expenses—think clothes shopping, gym memberships, hair appointments, or money spent on going out. Variable expenses are those that can change each month or are discretionary. Try to think of all the ways you spend money. Going to the movies or to a local coffee shop are black holes for your money. Be sure to create separate categories just for them.

The key to accurately forecasting variable expenses is to call on past spending records. If you haven’t been keeping track, download a budgeting app like Mint or Level Money. Once you link your bank accounts, both apps automatically categorize your past expenses so you have months of spending data at your fingertips.

Next, analyze your habits, and try to create a spending guideline. Identify the areas that are the biggest financial drain, and question whether you could cut back on those costs in your budget.

Step 4: Assess What’s Left

When you subtract your monthly fixed and variable expenses from your monthly after-tax income, what you have left over is your discretionary income. In layman’s terms, discretionary income = monthly income – expenses (both fixed and variable). It’s your leftover money, which ideally should be put toward long-term goals, like saving for a property or putting extra money away for retirement.

The obvious goal is to grow your discretionary income and make saving a priority over spending. Decide how much you’d like to save each month, and then decide where to cut back. You have many needs and wants that are all competing for your limited resources. You have to decide the best way to balance your current expenses and saving needs so you never spend more than you make.

Step 5: Evaluate Your Budget

This final step is vital. Calculate what percentage of your income is put toward each area of the budget. Then review the budget and carefully review how you’re allocating money. Ask yourself, Is there a way you could be better spending your pay check? Are you happy with the amount you’re contributing to savings?

A popular way to divvy your budget is the 50/20/30 rule. This suggests that 50 percent of your income should go toward essential costs (fixed expenses), 30 percent should be allocated to lifestyle choices (variable expenses), and the remaining 20 percent should go toward financial priorities, like paying off debt or growing your savings account.

Good news: You’re done! Now that you’ve categorized your spending habits and assigned new goals, you should have a succinct budget to put into place. Don’t lose momentum though; now’s the time to test out your budget and see if you’ve set realistic limits.

Pencil in 30 minutes at the end of each month to check your budget and compare it with your spending habits. Budgeting is a work in progress, so be sure to fine-tune the categories and goals until you’ve got a workable personalized guide.

Now, ask yourself that question again: How confident do I feel about my financial future? After these five steps, you might find you have a very different response.

Why You Need Both Probiotics & Prebiotics

The human body harbors over 100 trillion bacteria, outnumbering our own cells ten to one. These bacteria live on our skin, in our mouths and, most predominantly, in our guts (not surprising, given that our intestines stretch out 25 feet!).

Since we are essentially more bacterial than we are human, our health really depends on an optimal balance of these microbes—the “good” and the “bad.”

The gastrointestinal tract is a delicately balanced ecosystem of microbiota. Beneficial, health-promoting “good” bacteria, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, balance out the harmful, pathogenic “bad” bacteria in a well functioning system.

Unfortunately, this balance is disrupted all too frequently, due to a variety of increasingly common lifestyle triggers:

  • diets high in FODMAPS (an acroynym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols—sugars and carbohydrates that feed hungry gut bacteria)
  • daily stressors in a fast-paced society (we work long hours and juggle chaotic schedules)
  • the over-usage of antibiotics (which kill all bacteria, good and bad)
  • medications to treat reflux such as proton pump inhibitors (which block stomach acid, allowing the harmful bacteria we ingest to pass from the stomach into the intestines)

All disease begins in the gut

Hippocrates, the “father of medicine,” knew the importance of a well-balanced gut ecosystem: Over 2,000 years ago he said, “All disease begins in the gut.”

He was right—gut dysbiosis, the imbalance of intestinal bacteria, has been linked to a variety of health conditions (many autoimmune in nature), such as irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, psoriasis, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and thyroid disease, just to name a few.

Gut dysbiosis can cause symptoms ranging from intestinal distress, bloating, nausea, diarrhea and constipation, to headaches, sugar cravings, skin rashes and joint pain. If you suspect that you may be suffering from an imbalance of gut flora, or have any of the risk factors associated with this disruption, consider supplementing with probiotics (the “good” bacteria), to restore homeostasis to the GI tract.

Restoring balance with probiotics

Probiotics perform a variety of beneficial roles in the body, including enzymatic functions to aid digestion and break down food for better nutrient absorption; regulating metabolism; producing beneficial energy sources; and regulating the immune system.

Increasing your daily intake of probiotics through food or supplementation helps repopulate the beneficial bacteria in your gut, which can relieve some of those uncomfortable symptoms above and even work, in combination with other dietary and lifestyle changes, to reverse autoimmune disease.

Probiotic-rich foods

You can find friendly bacteria in fermented foods such as:

Yogurt & kefir

Yogurt and kefir are some of the most common probiotic foods we have access to. However, some more highly processed yogurts do not contain probiotics, so it’s important to review the ingredient list for specific strains such as lactobacillus acidophilus or bifidus. Also, stick to plain yogurt, which has less sugar than flavored options (remember, sugar feeds the bad bacteria!). If you’re lactose intolerant, look for 99% lactose-free kefir (the lactose is broken down during the fermentation process). If you don’t eat dairy, look for coconut yogurt or kefir.

Fermented veggies

Kimchi, sauerkraut and other lacto-fermented vegetables can be a little harder to find, but are readily available at health food stores.

Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented beverage brewed from tea, sugar and SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast—a living organism similar to yeast and yogurt cultures). Commercial kombucha is increasingly easy to find, or you can brew your own if you’re so inclined.

Probiotic supplements

Look for high quality, multi-species probiotic supplements with a bacteria count (colony-forming units—CFUs) in the billions. Most pharmacies carry probiotics behind the counter in their refrigerators, and these supplements can also be purchased at health food stores or on Amazon.

Probiotics are living organisms, so these supplements are only effective if they’re alive. Probiotics can be killed by heat, stomach acid, or simply over time. Most probiotic supplements are best stored in the refrigerator. Some are shelf-stable (freeze-dried), but still have an expiration date.

The best time to take probiotic supplements is on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, after drinking a glass of water, and about 15 minutes before eating food. The water helps to neutralize your stomach acid (helping the good bugs survive!), and starting the probiotics on their way before eating ensures they don’t get held up with food in your stomach, thus making their way safely to your intestines where they do their best work.

Prebiotics: a probiotic’s best bud

Prebiotics are food for your probiotics. They are non-digestible fibre compounds that bypass digestion, so when they reach your colon they become fermented by the microbiome down there. Probiotics and prebiotics work synergistically to stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria and maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut.

You can eat probiotic and prebiotic foods together or separately, as long as you’re eating both regularly. You’re likely (well, hopefully!) already eating prebiotic foods. Here are some of the most common:

Prebiotic-rich foods

  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Leeks
  • Asparagus
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Cruciferous veggies (cabbage, kale, broccoli)
  • Dandelion greens, endive, radicchio
  • Whole grains
  • Flaxseed
  • Honey

The less they’re heated, the more they’ll retain their healthy prebiotic fiber. However, be careful about eating large amounts of these high-fiber foods raw—as the fiber can’t be easily digested, it can cause gas and bloating. In general, ease into any dietary changes to avoid disrupting your digestive system. People with FODMAPs intolerance or irritable bowel syndrome may have better success with small amounts of a prebiotic supplement like inulin powder. Always consult your doctor before beginning new supplements.

All together, probiotics and prebiotics support digestive health, immunity, bone density, elimination regularity, weight management and brain health!


101 Self-Care Suggestions for When It All Feels Like Too Much

I think that, for most of us, there are times in life when it all just feels like Too Much.

There may be some days, weeks, months, maybe even years when – for whatever reason – just getting through the day, or going to work, or putting one foot in front of the other feels hard. Really, really hard.

Maybe it’s because you’re wrestling with anxiety, depression or some other mental illness. Maybe it’s because you’ve had your heart broken. Maybe you’ve gone through a physical or emotional trauma. Maybe you’re deeply grieving. Or maybe there’s no easily understood reason for why you’re feeling bad.

Whatever the case, I want you to know that it’s OK if you’re going through a tough time. This doesn’t make you any less lovable, worthy or capable. This just means you’re human.

Being a human can be a messy, hard, confusing, painful experience sometimes.

So if you or someone you love is going through one of these tough times right now, a time where it all just feels like too much, I want to offer up 101 suggestions for self-care to help you or your loved one get through this time.

1. Have a good, long, body-shaking cry.

2. Call a trusted friend or family member and talk it out.

3. Call in sick. Take comp time if you can. Take a mental health day.

4. Say no to extra obligations, chores, or anything that pulls on your precious self-care time.

5. Book a session (or more!) with your therapist.

6. Dial down your expectations of yourself at this time. When you’re going through life’s tough times, I invite you to soften your expectations of yourself and others.

7. Tuck yourself into bed early with a good book and clean sheets.

8. Watch a comforting/silly/funny/lighthearted TV show or movie.

9. Reread your favorite picture and chapter books from childhood.

10. Ask for some love and tenderness from your friends on social media. Let them comment on your post and remind you that you’re loved.

11. Look at some really gorgeous pieces of art.

12. Watch YouTube videos of Ellen DeGeneres and the adorable kids she has on her show.

13. Look at faith-in-humanity-restoring lists from Buzzfeed.

14. Ask for help. From whoever you need it – your boss, your doctor, your partner, your therapist, your mom. Let people know you need some help.

15. Wrap yourself up in a cosy fleece blanket and sip a cup of hot tea.

16. Breathe. Deeply. Slowly. Four counts in. Six counts out.

17. Hydrate. Have you had enough water today?

18. Eat. Have you eaten something healthy and nourishing today?

19. Sleep. Have you slept 7-9 hours? Is it time for some rest?

20. Shower. Then dry your hair and put on clothes that make you feel good.

21. Go outside and be in the sunshine.

22. Move your body gently in ways that feel good. Maybe aim for 30 minutes. Or 10 if 30 feels like too much.

23. Read a story (or stories) of people who overcame adversity or maybe dealt with mental illness, too. (I personally admire JK Rowling’s story.)

24. Go to a 12-Step meeting. Or any group meeting where support is offered. Check out church listings, hospital listings, school listings for examples.

25. If you suspect something may be physiologically off with you, go see your doctor and/or psychiatrist and talk to them. Medication might help you at this time and they can assist you in assessing this.

26. Take a long, hot bath, light a candle and pamper yourself.

27. Read these inspirational quotes.

28. Cuddle someone or something. Your partner. A pillow. Your friend’s dog.

29. Read past emails/postcards/letters etc. from friends and family reminding you of happier times.

30. Knit. Sculpt. Bake. Engage your hands.

31. Exhaust yourself physically – running, yoga, swimming, whatever helps you feel fatigued.

32. Write it out. Free form in a journal or a Google doc. Get it all out and vent.

33. Create a plan if you’re feeling overwhelmed. List out what you need to do next to tackle and address whatever you’re facing. Chunk it down into manageable and understandable pieces.

34. Remember: You only have to get through the next five minutes. Then the next five. And so on.

35. Take five minutes to meditate.

36. Write out a list of 25 Reasons Why You’ll Be OK.

37. Write out a list of 25 Examples of Things You’ve Overcome or Accomplished.

38. Write out a list of 25 Reasons Why You’re a Good, Lovable Person.

39. Write out a list of 25 Things That Make Your Life Beautiful.

40. Sniff some scents that bring you joy or remind you of happier times.

41. Ask for support from friends and family via text if voice-to-voice contact feels like too much. Ask them to check in with you via text daily/weekly. Whatever you need.

42. Lay down on the ground. Let the earth/floor hold you. You don’t have to hold it all on your own.

43. Clean up a corner of a room of your house. Sometimes tidying up can help calm our minds.

44. Ask yourself: What’s my next most immediate priority? Do that. Then ask the question again.

45. Read some poetry. Rumi, Hafiz, Mary Oliver are all excellent.

46. Take a tech break. Delete or deactivate social media if it feels too triggering right now.

47. Or maybe get on tech. If you’ve been isolating maybe even interacting with friends and family online might feel good.

48. Go out in public and be around others. You don’t have to engage. But maybe go sit in a coffee shop or on a bench at a museum and soak up the humanity around you.

49. Or if you’re feeling too saturated with contact, go home. Cancel plans and tend to the introverted parts of yourself.

50. Ask friends and family to remind you that things will be OK and that what you’re feeling is temporary.

51. Put up some Christmas lights in your bedroom. They often make things more magical.

52. Spend a little money and treat yourself to some self-care and comfort. Maybe take a taxi versus the bus. Buy your lunch instead of forcing yourself to pack it. Buy some flowers that delight you.

53. Make art. Scribble with crayons. Splash some watercolours. Paint a rock. Whatever. Just create something.

54. Go wander around outside in your neighbourhood and take a look at all the lovely houses and the way people decorate their gardens. Delight in the diversity of design.

55. Go visit or volunteer at your local animal rescue. Pet some animals.

56. Look at photos of people you love. Set them as the wallpaper of your phone or laptop.

57. Create and listen to a playlist of songs that remind you of happier times.

58. Read some spiritual literature.

59. Scream, pound pillows, tear up paper, shake your body to move the energy out.

60. Eat your favorite, most comforting foods.

61. Watch old Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood videos online.

62. Turn off the lights, sit down, stare into space and do absolutely nothing.

63. Pick one or two things that feel like progress and do them. Make your bed. Put away the dishes. Return an email.

64. Go to a church or spiritual community service. Sit among others and absorb any guidance or grace that feels good to you.

65. Allow yourself to fantasize about what you’re hoping or longing for. There are clues and energy in your reveries and daydreams that are worth paying attention to.

66. Watch Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response videos to help you calm down and fall asleep at night.

67. Listen to monks chanting, singing Tibetan bowls or nature sounds to help soothe you.

68. Colour in some adult colouring books.

69. Revisit an old hobby. Even if it feels a little forced, try your hand at things you used to enjoy and see what comes up for you.

70. Go to the ocean. Soak up the negative ions.

71. Go to the mountains. Absorb the strength and security of them.

72. Go to the forest. Drink in the shelter, life and sacredness of the trees.

73. Put down the personal help books and pick up some good old fashioned fiction.

74. Remember: Your only job right now is to put one foot in front of the other.

75. Allow and feel and express your feelings – all of them! – safely and appropriately. Seek out help if you need support in this.

76. Listen to sad songs or watch sad movies if you need a good cry.

77. Dance around wildly to your favourite, most cheesy songs from your high school years.

78. Put your hands in dirt. If you have a garden, go garden. If you have some indoor plants, tend to them. If you don’t have plants or a garden, go outside. Go to a local nursery and touch and smell all the gorgeous plants.

79. If you want to stay in bed all day watching Netflix, do it. Indulge.

80. Watch or listen to some comedy shows or goofy podcasts.

81. Look for and Google up examples of people who have gone through and made it through what you’re currently facing. Seek out models of inspiration.

82. Get expert help with whatever you need. Whether that’s through therapy, psychiatry, a lawyer, clergy, let those trained to support you do it.

83. Educate yourself about what you’re going through. Learn about what you’re facing, what you can expect to feel, and how you can support yourself in this place.

84. Establish a routine and stick to it. Routines can bring so much comfort and grounding in times of life that feel chaotic or out of control.

85. Do some hardcore nesting and make your home or bedroom as  cosy and beautiful and comforting as possible.

86. Get up early and watch a sunrise.

87. Go outside and set up a chair and watch the sunset.

88. Make your own list of self-soothing activities that engage all five of your senses.

89. Develop a supportive morning ritual for yourself.

90. Develop a relaxing evening ritual for yourself.

91. Join a support group for people who are going through what you’re going through. Check out the listings at local hospitals, libraries, churches, and universities to see what’s out there.

92. Volunteer at a local shelter or hospital or nursing home. Practice being of service to others who may also be going through a tough time.

93. Accompany a friend or family member to something. Even if it’s just keeping them company while they run errands, sometimes this kind of contact can feel like good self-care.

94. Take your dog for a walk. Or borrow a friend’s dog and take them for a walk.

95. Challenge your negative thinking.

96. Practice grounding, relaxation techniques.

97. Do something spontaneous. Walk or drive a different way to work. Order something new off the menu. Listen to a Spotify playlist of new songs.

98. Work with your doctor, naturopath or nutritionist to develop a physical exercise plan and food plan that will be supportive to whatever you’re facing right now.

99. Pray. Meditate. Write a letter to God/The Universe/Source/Your Higher Self, whatever you believe in.

100. As much as you can, please try and trust the process.

101. Finally, please remember, what you’re going through right now is temporary. It may not feel like that from inside the tough time you’re in, but this too shall pass and you will feel different again someday. If you can’t have faith in that, let me hold the hope for you.

I hope you found this list of self-care suggestions helpful in some way. But please remember, by no means is this list exhaustive nor will every item on this list possibly feel good and right for you. This list is not meant to be prescriptive, nor do I mean to imply you need to do all or any of these things to take good care of yourself. You are the expert of your own experience and I trust that you know what’s best for you.

Really, this list is really just a starting point meant to catalyze your own thinking about how you can best take care of yourself during life’s tough times and to spark your curiosity and interest in strengthening your self-care now and ongoing. Also, my hope is that in reading this you’re also hearing me say how normal and natural it is to struggle and to have these tough, hard times. It’s part of being human. You’re not alone in this.

But I have to say: The suggestions in this list are in no way a substitute for care or advice from a licensed mental health care clinician. These are self-care coaching suggestions, not therapeutic advice. Moreover, if you feel suicidal or find yourself having suicidal ideations, please call the 24/7 Lifeline Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 13 11 14 (24 HRS a day).

Now I’d love to hear from you in the comments below: What self-care techniques have really supported you when going through life’s tough times? Let me know one or more ideas, tools or activities that have brought you relief and comfort so that others can benefit from your experience and wisdom. 

Until next time, take very good care of yourself.

Warmly, Elle

I’m Tired of Coming Up With Excuses for My Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are extremely common, and odds are you know someone struggling with one and you don’t even realize it. Often, those with anxiety don’t share that they’re dealing with it due to the stigma. We can sit here all day and talk about how, “It’s OK to have a mental illness,” and “Mental health is so important!” Yet, so many people act like it’s not.

Mental health is important. You are important. I am important.

I’m tired of constantly having to come up with excuses for my anxiety to benefit those who don’t understand or don’t care to. I’m sick and that’s OK! If your brain is sick, then it’s OK.

It’s disappointing I’m more comfortable saying I have a stomach bug than having panic attacks all day. It’s disappointing I’d rather lie to my friends and tell them I have a cold rather than say my anxious mind is weaving its way into my thoughts again. It’s disappointing I’ve been told that “I’m crazy,” “I need to just relax,” and “It could be worse.”

Obviously, I know all of this. Try telling that to my anxious mind, would ya?

The word anxiety gets thrown around so much that it belittles the constant dread and fear the illness holds. I constantly hear the word anxiety being used as a synonym for nervous. News flash! It’s not. I’m not just nervous. I’m not just worried. This doesn’t just last sometimes. This isn’t situational. This is my life.

Anxiety is real, and it sucks. The more we keep holding anxiety under this stigma, the more it will take a grip on our mind and bodies. I want to be able to say I have an anxiety disorder and not receive judgmental looks and disapproving comments. This is real. Pay attention to it, and don’t stigmatize what so many of us have to deal with daily.

Introduction to Adaptogens

Adaptogens have become the new buzz word thrown around in the health and wellness bloggersphere of late. But I’m sure many of you may have no idea what an Adaptogen is or perhaps just understand them to be some kind of herbal potion with a high ticket price that you see health food bloggers blend into their morning elixirs on Instagram stories. Whatever brought you here and regardless of the knowledge you may or may not already have I’m going to dig a little deeper and give you an understanding of Adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms and why I feel everyone should be adding them to their morning coffee, matcha or smoothie. 

What are Adaptogens?

Put simply – Adaptogens are naturally derived herbs/mushrooms that help your body ‘adapt’ to mental and physical stress. These powerful substances can help your body recover from physical and mental illness, surgery, hormonal imbalances and a number of heart, lung and digestive problems. The stress hormone is one that gets a lot of abuse, we expect a lot from our adrenals (which produce the stress hormone ‘cortisol’). Even if you don’t lead a “high stress life’, as humans we are always going to experience some kind of stress. Mental stress can be something as trivial as peak hour traffic, or having to study for your final and physical stress could be experiencing a heat wave in the middle of summer with no AC or even something as trivial as eating a diet of non organic foods.

How do they work?

Adaptogens bind to receptor sites on cells in the gut, which then triggers the release of chemicals that stimulate and balance the hormonal, immune and nervous systems. This, then improves the health of your adrenal system, (your adrenals are in charge of managing your body’s hormonal response to stress.)  When your adrenals are burnt out, it can reek all kinds of havoc on your body and a myriad of health problems can follow. Adaptogens work to support your hormones and increases the activity of immune cells which make it easier for your body to combat disease, bacteria and viruses.  All in all healing your body more quickly and efficiently. 

Which ones should I take?

This obviously depends on what your motivations are for taking Adaptogens as they each work in powerful yet different ways. Everyone in this world is different and our bodies need different things to thrive. So what works for one person might not necessarily work for another. But here is my top list of Adaptogens with their benefits so you can decide for yourselves what might work best for you.

1. Ashwaganda (Indian Ginseng) 

This is my go to every day ayurvedic herb. The taste is something to be desired however I worked up my palate and tolerance and it’s now added into my smoothie/morning matcha at least 4 days a week. This is one of the most popular herbs, due to it’s potent mental, emotional and physical healing properties. It improves symptoms of alzheimer’s, depression, and anxiety as well as supporting optimal thyroid function. It’s high concentration of withanolides, have been shown to fight inflammation and tumor growth! 

Benefits

  • Tonify the Immune System 
  • Inspires Vigor and Strength 
  • Relieves Mental, Emotional & Physical stress 
  • Balances thyroid function 
  • Supports the adrenals 
  • Anti Cancer properties

2. Chaga

This fungal herb is among the most recommended by health professionals because of it’s high mineral content that helps boost mental health. It’s a little different to other herbs as it doesn’t grow out of the ground but on trees that are at least 40 years old and aren’t extracted until the tree has been dead for 3-4 years! This herb also contains polysaccharides which provide energy, support cardiovascular health, intestinal and liver health, and healthy blood sugar levels.

Benefits

  • Relieves anxiety and calms nerves 
  • Helps boost a low mood, improving mental health 
  • Promotes healthy blood sugar levels 
  • Immune boosting properties helps support intestinal health 
  • High in antioxidants

3. Astragalus

Also known as milk vetch, this plant comes from the beans/legumes family and has been used in Chinese Medicine practices for thousands of years. Astragalus is one of the most powerful immune-building plants on the planet! It pumps up your immune system, slows or prevents the growth of tumors and has also been known to relieve insulin resistance, fighting diabetes naturally! There are a tonne of different species of this plant however only 2 of them are used medicinally from the roots alone. 

Benefits

  • Fights free radical damage and prevents oxidative stress. 
  • Antiviral properties help prevent disease and illness 
  • Anti-inflammatory properties helps heal wounds internally and on the skin 
  • Can slow or prevent the growth or tumors 
  • Can help relieve insulin resistance, helping fight diabetes 
  • Has anti-aging benefits at a cellular level 

4. Schizandra Berry

This potent adaptogenic berry actually have contradictory effects – it helps wake your mind up AND is great to take before bed to calm you down. Either way, as an adaptogen, Schizandra will redirect you from any extreme to an ideal, balanced state. Schizandra although a berry, should not be considered in the same realm as goji or golden berries. This is a medicinal berry and is actually one of the most popular adaptogenic herbs in China, where it is taken to beautify the skin, strengthen the sex organs, and promote mental function. It’s also named the ‘five flavored berry’ due to the fact that it is all at once sweet, sour, salty, bitter and pungent.

Benefits

  • Improves mental performance 
  • Enhances physical performance 
  • Natural aphrodisiac, helps with healthy sexual function 
  • Lowers inflammation 
  • Possible protection against cancer 
  • Combats stress 
  • Enhanes the immune system 
  • Assist in the digestion of fatty foods 
  • Helps soothe cases of insomnia, stress or dizziness
  • Known as an anti aging herb that fights free radical damage

5. Reishi

Red Reishi, is know for it’s miraculous health benefits and has been seen as the single most important herb for Chinese longevity. Dubbed “mushroom of immortality” and the ” medicine of kings”, when taken regularly this adaptogenic mushroom can restore the body to its natural state, enabling all organs to function normally. Although it assists the whole body Reishi mushroom benefits the Liver and Heart organs first and foremost.

Benefits

  • Regulates and fine tunes the immune system 
  • Helps alleviate common allergies by inhibiting histamine release 
  • Improves blood circulation 
  • Helps balance hormones
  • Fights against diabetes 
  • Helps defend against tumor growth and cancer 
  • Improves liver function and detoxification 
  • Slows the aging process 
  • And so much more!

6. Pine Pollen

Collected form various Pine Tree species, Pine Pollen has over 200 bioactive nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in high concentrations, and is easily one of the most important and beneficial herbal medicines on the planet. This extract is especially beneficial for both Men and Women between 40-50 with unbalanced hormones as it help raise the testosterone levels in the blood and balances the ratio of sex hormones, androgens and estrogen.

Pine Pollen is available as both a powdered supplement and tinctured extract. However there is a bit of a difference between the two. The powder contains less androgenic substances but more of the other nutritive whole food qualities like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Pine pollen tinctures are significantly higher in androgens, like testosterone. This may be particularly relevant depending on your age or current health goals. Both are very beneficial but in different ways.

Benefits:

  • Helps reduce sensitivity to pain 
  • Natural testosterone booster 
  • Aids with recovery time in exercise and helps build muscle mass 
  • Anti-Aging benefits 
  • Help maintain a healthy libido 
  • Helps speed up metabolism 
  • Balances hormones 
  • Increases braun function ad attention span
  • Plus soo much more. 

7. Cordyceps

Cordyceps although classed as a fungus, also have adaptogenic properties. For years it was thought to be a living worm rather than a mushroom and was nicknamed the caterpillar fungus. This herbal mushroom is known to increase oxygen capacity and ATP (adenosine triphosphate) levels in the body. ATP’s are what your body uses for energy once the mitochondria (what your cells are made up of) have converted your nutrients into fuel. SO putting it simply – Cordyceps optimizes the production of energy and nutrients from your food intake allowing a surplus of ATP which in turn gives you an overall energy boost. Although the energy boost is physical, this also refers to cellular energy. For optimal function of your vital organs and systems your body needs enough energy (ATP) to deal with emotional stress, sickness, diseases etc.

Benefits:

  • Improves the immune system 
  • Increases energy levels 
  • Improved cardiovascular systems 
  • Detoxes the body 
  • Helps manage blood sugar levels 
  • Increases libido 
  • Decreases tumor growth in specific types of cancer including lymphoma, melanoma, prostate, breast, liver, and colorectal 
  • Supports adrenal fatigue

8. Lions Mane

Also known as hedgehog mushroom, I take Lions Mane for optimal brain function. Whenever my brain needs some love or if I have something I need to study for or focus extra hard on that day, this is the go to shroom. Lion’s Mane looks much different to other mushrooms as it grows in globular masses and has long flowing spores. This adaptogen has nothing to do with an actual Lion, it gets it’s name from the white cascading tendrils that resemble that of a Lions Mane.

This mushroom has been studied to be extremely effective at stimulating Nerve Growth Factor in the brain and is especially beneficial for those with epilepsy or nerve cell injuries.

Benefits:

  • Supports long term cognitive function and concentration 
  • Improves anxiety and depression 
  • Helps fight against cancerous tumors 
  • Regulates blood by combating levels of fat and sugar in the bloodstream 
  • Fights against free radical damage 
  • Support the digestive tract, helping with ailments such as gastritis or stomach ulcers

These are just a few of my top picks of adaptogens, there are so many more in this world and I could go into so much more depth on each of those, but this should hopefully give you enough information to spark up some interest and do some more research on what might work best for you and your specific needs.

**Please note that these adaptogens are not recommended for women who are pregnant or nursing and if you are taking other medication please consult your physician before taking any of the herbs/mushrooms.