8 Reasons Why Anxiety Isn’t Just In Your Head

Anxiety: a dreaded feeling you never want to experience. Yet, over 33% of the U.S. population will experience anxiety in their lifetime- that’s 40 million Americans. However, a holistic and functional approach to health can help explain why anxiety isn’t just in your head, while addressing and healing chronic anxiety disorders.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety describes an inner state of emotional turmoil. It’s a mental, and often physical, response to stress, fear, and worry. In many cases, anxiety is a normal and healthy reaction to unknown situations or danger. However, deeper trouble arises when anxiety becomes chronic and debilitating.

Different Kinds of Anxiety Disorders

When anxiety starts to negatively impact day-to-day activities, a formal anxiety disorder might be at play. The most common kinds of anxiety disorders, include:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Feelings of excessive anxiety and irrational worry
  • Panic Disorder (PD) – Panic attacks and feelings of intense fear
  • Social Anxiety Disorder – Fear and anxiety in social situations
  • Phobias – Persistent fear of an object or situation
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – Frequently repeating thoughts or actions
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – Fear triggered by a previous traumatic event
  • Major Depressive Disorder – Over two weeks of experiencing low mood

It’s important to work closely with a health professional to accurately diagnose and manage any anxiety disorder.

8 Uncommon Reasons Why Anxiety Isn’t Just In Your Head

Although anxiety can feel primarily like a mental or emotional issue, there is much more going on beneath the surface. Meaning, your anxiety isn’t only in your head. In fact, there are many root causes of anxiety. Some of the most common ones are:

Mental or Emotional Stress 

Stress comes in many shapes, sizes, and forms. And, it can be in response to previous life experiences. Some of the most common sources of mental/emotional stress are:

  • Learned behaviors as a child
  • The result of different parenting/attachment styles 
  • Childhood/school experiences
  • Isolation
  • Lack of healthy boundaries
  • Not enough downtime/rest
  • Social, financial, relationship stress
  • Negative self-image
  • Trauma

Ongoing and acute stress (due to finances, work, family, relationships, etc.) can also contribute to anxiety symptoms.

Thyroid Disorders

The thyroid gland affects every physiological function in the body. When thyroid hormones become imbalanced, consequential dysfunction occurs. This imbalance can have a major impact on mood regulation. For example: an underactive thyroid can result in low mood or depression, while an overactive thyroid can create anxiety or fear. Autoimmune thyroiditis can trigger both under and overactive thyroid symptoms.

A functional medicine practitioner can help you identify and address any imbalances within the thyroid through functional testing.

Hormonal Imbalances

In addition to thyroid dysfunction, other hormonal imbalances can be a primary root cause of anxiety disorders. In many cases, these physiological changes create a chronic stress response in the body, leading to chronic anxiety. The most important hormone imbalances to pay attention to, include:

  • Dysglycemia (blood sugar dysregulation)
  • Adrenal Issues
  • Caffeine sensitivity (ie. an intense adrenaline rush when consumed)
  • Estrogen


Inflammation is the root cause of all chronic disease, including anxiety. Common causes of inflammation include: unhealthy lifestyle choices, an inflammatory diet, chronic infection, acute sickness, autoimmunity, and more. 

In the case of anxiety disorders, cytokines play a starring role. Inflammation causes a dysregulation of cytokine production and can lead to cognitive imbalances, like depression and anxiety. More so, the concept of psychoneuroimmunology further explains the role of inflammation on the central nervous system and brain. GABA deficiency has also been associated with anxiety disorders. 

Gut Issues

Hippocrates once said, “All health starts in the gut.” Hence, poor gut health is a breeding ground for a host of health issues. Regarding anxiety, the following gut imbalances should be addressed:

  • Food Sensitivities 
  • Gut Infections (ie. Candida, SIBO)
  • Leaky Gut (or Intestinal Permeability)
  • Nutrient Deficiencies (ie. Vitamin B12, EFA Omega 3)

Brain Imbalances

Unsurprisingly, imbalances in the brain largely influence mood and anxiety. Common examples of brain imbalances, include:

  • An overactive mesencephalon (midbrain)
  • Excessive CO2 levels in the body
  • Increased amygdala function / limbic system activation
  • Underactive frontal lobes 
  • Neurotransmitter imbalances (ie. GABA deficiency)
  • Post-Concussion Syndrome
  • Vestibular, Balance or Eye Tracking issues

Environmental Toxins

Unfortunately, toxins are all around us. We find them in our air (pollution, mold, mycotoxins), food (pesticides, herbicides), water (heavy metals, pharmaceutical drugs, bacterial, parasites, viruses), cleaning products (chemicals, fragrances), cosmetics (endocrine disruptors), and more. Chronic exposure to these toxins in everyday life can greatly alter brain, immune and hormone function.


Various socioeconomic factors can play a role in anxiety disorders. The most common factors, include:

  • Financial burden
  • Systemic oppression
  • Lack of access to healthcare
  • Community safety
  • Discrimination, racism and bias
  • Cultural influences and expectations

It might feel like anxiety is all in your head. However, it’s clear that anxiety stems from other imbalances in the body. The key is to identify what is causing anxiety, so that it can be effectively addressed and healed.

How to Heal Anxiety (from a Functional Approach)

Anxiety can feel like a life sentence, but it doesn’t have to be. When looking at anxiety from a functional medicine approach, it’s important to understand and address the root cause, starting with:

1. Improving Gut Health:

You may not be able to change all external factors that contribute to anxiety. But you can somewhat control what you eat. An inflamed gut and brain will have a much harder time managing stress and calming anxiety. 

First and foremost, it’s critical to adopt an anti-inflammatory diet when anxiety is present. Minimally, this means removing inflammatory foods (ie. gluten, dairy, soy, sugar, corn) from the diet. However, for those with a chronic health condition, an autoimmune disorder or severe anxiety, the Autoimmune Protocol might be the best option. 

Additionally, it can be beneficial to include plenty of gut-healing foods in the diet, like:

  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Chamomile
  • Lemon
  • Green tea
  • Fermented foods
  • Bone broth
2. Practicing Mind-Body Exercises:

Clearly, the mind-body connection is strong. Practicing mind-body exercises is an effective way to address both chronic anxiety symptoms and acute anxiety attacks. Try these exercises to expedite healing:

  • Vagal nerve exercises
  • Deep breathing- Breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 2, breath out for 8, hold for 2, and repeat.
  • Deep pressure application- weighted blankets, hugs, massage, applying pressure to your own body

3. Implement Natural Remedies:

Naturally remedies, like supplements and essential oils, are foundational in functional healing.

  • Supplements- GABA deficiency is very common in those with anxiety. Precursors to GABA, like glutamine, magnesium, and zinc, can help the body naturally produce more GABA. Additionally, adaptogens, like ashwagandha, are helpful in regulating the nervous system and stabilizing mood. For those who are sensitive to nightshades, opt for eleuthero root, instead.
  • Essential Oils – Essential oils are an effective and enjoyable method of aromatherapy for anxiety. Specifically, Lavender, Wild Orange, Lemon, Ylang Ylang, and Melissa Frankincense have been shown to reduce anxiety and improve stress response.

4. Consider Therapy:

Arguably the most well-known treatment for anxiety is therapy. Various methods of therapy, like talk therapy, neuro-based therapies (EMDR), and energy psychology techniques can be beneficial. Explicitly, EMDR has been shown to help people heal from the past traumas and experiences that cause anxiety in the first place. 

Unaddressed anxiety can affect every part of your life. To fully heal from your anxiety disorder and get your life back, it’s necessary to take a root cause approach. And, sometimes, we need help doing so. 


*All content and media on ellestoj.com is created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice.

Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. Never disregard the advice of a medical professional, or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website.*


What is Holistic Mental Health?

With all of the stress, chaos, and trauma of this crazy year, I think it would be helpful to put together some resources on how to really take care of our mental health. I admit that with everything going on, I have had my own struggles. We are living in a time that is much harder than most of us have ever had to go through. I see that nearly everyone I know is dealing with anxiety, panic, or even depression because of the overall situation going on. So let’s go over some helpful ways to really help with supporting our mental health in general, as well as some specifics for this current time period.

Diet and Holistic Mental Health

Your gut is your second brain, which means that what you consume plays a direct role in your mental health. If you are eating a diet filled with sugar, processed foods, and food with artificial ingredients than your entire body can suffer. Unfortunately, the majority of food in the Western world is full of this garbage, so it can take some time and effort to figure out what is good or bad.

Do your best to eat clean. To me this means sticking with REAL foods. Look for organic foods when you can. Go for grass-fed meats, free-range eggs, organic and grass fed dairy, fresh fruits and veggies, and just moderate your sweet intake (you can still enjoy dessert! Just make sure it’s made with REAL ingredients and be smart about portions).

Leaky Gut and Holistic Mental Health

In addition to diet change, healing the gut is crucial for your mental health. We often have to undo the damage that our guts dealt with over the years before we can get the most benefit from our new, clean diet. Healing and sealing the gut lining is crucial too- when food or toxins gets through the gut lining, this is when our health begins to suffer. The main steps to focus on for gut healing include increasing nutrient absorption, healing/sealing the gut lining, and healing the microbiome.

Increase nutrient absorption with things like bitter herbs, apple cider vinegar, unrefined sea salt, and lemon juice.

Heal/seal the gut lining with things like aloe vera, collagen etc.

Heal your microbiome with things like fermented foods as well…

Minerals and Mental Health

When we grow up eating the Standard Western diet, we are basically eating food with very little nutritional value. In addition to being low in nutrients, the stress of trying to digest these foods makes us burn through nutrients even more! This is why minerals tend to be incredibly low in people with chronic illness. Minerals are at the base of our health- if they are imbalanced or depleted, then our entire bodies can suffer!

When it comes to mental health directly, there are a few big mineral imbalances that can occur. With high calcium levels, we tend to be very sluggish and depressed, even apathetic. When we have issues with copper balancing, we can experience a wide range of symptoms like anxiety, racing mind, panic attacks, OCD, paranoia, bipolar, and more. If sodium and potassium levels are tanked, then our bodies lack overall energy in the body- both physical and mental energy!

Toxins/Infections and Mental Health

This step is HUGE for overall health and wellness in general. If our bodies are not eliminating toxins properly, this allows them to recirculate and many toxins can go through the Blood Brain Barrier, which will really affect mental health.

Some toxins and infections to look into if you suspect problems:
  • Mold is one of the WORST offenders right now for creating physical and mental health issues. Anxiety, depression, mood issues, and so many more symptoms are associated with mold illness. If you KNOW you have had mold exposure, please take it seriously! 
  • Lyme and co-infections are also huge causes for mental health issues. Bartonella especially seems to be a big infection associated with mental health problems.
  • Parasites are a lot more common than you think! They are quite hard to detect for the most part, but most people have an infestation of them, especially if you are dealing with a chronic illness. When we have leaky gut, we are even more at risk of developing a parasitic infection. 
  • Heavy Metals are a HUGE cause for mental health issues. When we work on balancing minerals, this helps the most with heavy metal removal as the minerals help to antagonize the metals. But many people need very strong adrenal and liver function to fully eliminate metals- they can sit in the body for YEARS if we’re not working on actively eliminating them. Some of the worst offenders are mercury, aluminum, and uranium.

Emotional Trauma and Mental Health

Healing from our past traumas is an essential part of healing. More and more people are becoming aware of this importance luckily, and for many people it will be the MOST important aspect that they focus on. As someone that went through many traumas growing up, I never really understand the importance of healing from them until a few years ago. I’m still working on this healing, and I can honestly say it is just as (if not MORE) important than the physical healing.

As we work on healing physically with everything I mentioned above, it can become easier to heal on a true holistic level. But to help with healing from emotional trauma specifically, I always recommend reading about a few modalities and go with what speaks to you more.

Tips for Reducing Stress in Chaotic Times

  • Breathe. Take a step back from the situation. Don’t force yourself to talk about the issues at hand so much, and don’t be afraid to ask others to stop talking about it if it triggers you.
  • Turn off the TV/Social Media if needed. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE. The news has one main purpose: to incite fear. It is really doing a great job at that right now. Social media is even worse. People are constantly sharing doomsday posts and basically running around like Chicken Little right now. Just turn it off and again- breathe. Take breaks as needed. There is nothing wrong with being informed on the situation, but refreshing the page every 5 minutes is not healthy (and trust me, I know how easy it is to get sucked into that).
  • Ground yourself. Mediation, breathing exercises, a nice relaxing bath, or even make sure you’ve got your crystals on hand (black tourmaline, shungite, bloodstone, and carnelian are great for grounding). Pray more, talk to God or your angels, ask for light shields- whatever your cup of tea is. If you’re an empath, I highly recommend The Empowered Empath for more tips. Melanie of Ask Angels has an amazing YouTube channel with many meditations to help with emotional health as well.
  • Hobbies! It’s a good time to start a new one or pick an old one back up. Take your mind off of the stress.
  • Spend time with your loved ones. Play a game, watch a movie.
  • Reach out to friends and family to speak with if you need
  • Use herbs and homeopathy as needed if you are dealing with anxiety, depression, anger, or anything else that feels out of hand. It is OK to feel your emotions, but if you start to feel like it’s getting to be too much then take steps to help yourself calm down.
  • Remember to eat! Please nourish yourself, and do not neglect yourself.
  • Sleep as best as you can. 
  • Just remember that this will pass. Have faith! Stay safe and healthy!
More Resources on Holistic Mental Health- Please do as much research as you can on this. I feel like this all deserves a book and not just a blog post.

Disclaimer- I am not a doctor so if you are suffering from an illness, I would advise you to seek out a licensed health professional before embarking on any suggestions I make. The suggestions on this website are just for informational purposes only and by choosing any of the natural remedies discussed here, you will be taking responsibility for your own health and wellness.

Find a doctor willing to work with you to actually HEAL instead of just mask symptoms. So many doctors are starting to get on board with true healing now and they are willing to help more people now.

If Anyone Has Told You Your Emotions Are ‘Too Much,’ They’re Wrong

Telling someone they are “overreacting” or they should “lighten up” disconnects them from their emotional experience.

For the majority of highly sensitive people, our experience includes having strong emotions. Indeed, a common trait among HSPs is our ability to feel deeply, as this is adjacent to sensitivity. Unfortunately, many non-HSPs don’t quite comprehend the depths of our emotions, which can result in feeling misunderstood. 

While growing up, I repeatedly received the message that my emotions were “too much” — from people telling me that I was “overreacting” or to “lighten up” to shaming me for expressing my emotions and informing me that my feelings were “wrong.” Unsurprisingly, this type of rhetoric disconnects people from their emotional experience, and ultimately, ourselves as a whole.

HSPs, we deserve better. It is all too easy to be labeled as “too emotional,” given that we live in a society that doesn’t value emotions. Instead, “rationality” is largely considered to be the antithesis of being emotional, and is valued and placed on a pedestal. I can’t help but wonder: Is it actually rational to deny something so inherent to the human experience? 

6 Reasons Why Your Emotions Are Not ‘Too Much’ 

1. “You can’t heal what you don’t feel.”

Despite the misconception that emotions are superfluous, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Indeed, emotions aren’t just normal, they’re also healthy. There’s a popular saying in the world of psychotherapy that “you can’t heal what you don’t feel.” Essentially, this means that in order to adequately process and heal from a difficult experience, we need to allow ourselves to name, express, and of course, feel any and all emotions associated with that experience. 

A great example of this is from the Disney/Pixar movie Inside Out. At one point, Bing Bong, Riley’s former imaginary friend, becomes distraught after losing his rocket, prompting him to mourn his relationship with Riley. Once he’s able to reflect on why he’s feeling sad, express that sadness, and receive validation, his sadness begins to dissipate and he starts to feel better, allowing him to move on. Although a simplified example — we typically aren’t able to work through emotions quite this quickly — this does illustrate the importance of feeling our emotions in order to heal from life experiences. And since sensitive people feel on a deeper level than others, it may take us a bit longer to process things. 

2. Repressing emotions does not work.

The message we receive from society is, in order to prevent being seen as “too emotional,” we simply need to repress our emotions, as this is the “rational” approach to take. However, as you likely already know — either from personal experience or on an intuitive level — repressing our emotions doesn’t work. 

There’s a popular metaphor used in therapy: think of a beach ball floating on the surface of the water. What happens when you try to submerge the beach ball into the water? It doesn’t want to go down or stay down. Perhaps you’re able to keep it submerged for a bit, but it takes a lot of effort and struggle. Plus, the harder you try to keep the beach ball submerged, the greater force it’ll have when popping back up. This is the same for our emotions: we can try to repress them, but the more we do, the more we will struggle, and the more force they will reappear with. So it helps to avoid that struggle and simply allow your emotions to be.

Similarly, sometimes HSPs will try to numb their feelings through emotional buffering  — they’ll mask them through things like shopping, food, or even substance use. But this, too, is just trying to submerge the beach ball instead of dealing with it.

3. For better or worse, emotions help guide us.

As alluded to previously, the common argument against displaying emotions is that they can be considered to be the opposite of rationality. That is a grave misunderstanding of emotions and the benefits they bring us. 

You can think of emotions like signals we can use to navigate the roads of life. Firstly, we need to identify what the signal actually is. When we are able to recognize and label the emotion we are feeling, we can then process our emotions with more efficiency. Secondly, our emotions have purpose; each one has useful information we can use to help guide us. 

For example, sadness can mean that a need of ours is not being met; anger can indicate that our boundaries are being violated; fear can warn us against a potentially dangerous situation; guilt can help us learn from past mistakes and make amends; and happiness can keep us returning to something that promotes overall well-being. As a highly sensitive person, you may feel all these emotions more so than a non-HSP, which can add beauty and depth to your life. 

When we are connected to our emotional experience, we are better able to define our emotions. That way, we can then receive important knowledge about what steps to take in order to live our best possible lives.

4. Emotions allow us to be embodied.

Embodiment is the ability for us to fully feel into our bodies and be present with our experience. Embodiment also has many benefits, including better physical and mental health. Sounds simple, right? 

Unfortunately, we live in a world that frequently promotes the opposite of this. Feeling tired? You can sleep when you’re dead! Feeling hungry? Diet culture rewards you for that! Feeling pain during exercise? No pain, no gain! We receive messages that we are “weak” for listening to the important signals our bodies are trying to communicate to us: for getting enough sleep, eating when we’re hungry, and stopping exercise when we’re in pain.

It’s difficult, to say the least, to be embodied in a culture that tries to disconnect us from our bodies. Being with our emotions, however, can help bring us back to our bodies. Indeed, our emotions reside in our bodies. Have you noticed how your chest feels heavy when you’re sad? That your heart races when you’re scared? That you feel hot when you’re angry? Or even that you feel light when you’re happy? By recognizing our physical sensations, including those associated with our emotions, as they are happening, we are able to return to embodiment.

5. Emotions increase our self-knowledge.

As previously established, emotions are a basic component of the human experience. Therefore, when we deny our emotions, we in turn deny ourselves. Instead, when we can be with our emotions — something we HSPs are naturally good at anyway, given our intuitive abilities — we can better recognize them. And then, we can comprehend how to approach them healthfully, both within ourselves and others. This is what research psychologist Daniel Goleman defines as “emotional intelligence.” 

Although allowing yourself to feel your emotions does not automatically equate to emotional intelligence, it’s a step in the right direction. Conversely, we move further away from emotional intelligence when we attempt to repress our emotions. This not only makes the experience of being with our feelings less familiar, but it also sends the message that feeling our emotions is unsafe.   

6. Only you know your own experience.

The fact of the matter is — you are the only one living your life. Therefore, you are the only one who knows your experience. Only you can determine your emotional reality. Therefore, when others accuse you of being “too emotional,” this is gaslighting, which is when the other person uses a form of manipulation that makes you question your sanity or your version of things. In this particular situation, the gaslighting by the other person is typically rooted in an effort to make themselves feel more comfortable. 

However, dear reader, you do not have to censor yourself for the sake of others. It’s okay to have a lot of feelings and to express those feelings — don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You are the author of your story and you alone are the expert on your experience.

A Note on Emotional Response vs. Reaction

When discussing our experience of emotions, it’s important to distinguish between an emotional response vs. an emotional reaction, in addition to the emotion itself. Emotions are a feeling and state of being (i.e., happiness, sadness, anger, jealousy, etc.). When we describe HSPs as “deep feelers,” this means we feel our emotions more strongly and more frequently than non-HSPs. There’s no action inherent in emotions. The proceeding action can be either a response or a reaction. A response is using data from the emotion to make an informed decision; a reaction, on the other hand, is being overtaken by that emotion. 

Let’s illustrate this with an example: You are having a conversation with someone, when all of a sudden it turns sour. The other individual turns to rudeness and insults you. Most likely, you would be experiencing the emotion of anger in this situation. An emotional response would be to inform that individual what they said was wrong and hurtful, and that you will not be engaging with them if they continue to treat you poorly, i.e., using the signal from your anger to rectify the situation thoughtfully.

Conversely, an emotional reaction might include insulting the other person back, storming out of the room and slamming the door, or turning to physical violence, i.e., being controlled by your anger. As we can see here, it’s not the emotion of anger that’s wrong, but rather, how that anger overtakes you. However, since we HSPs are deep processors, we are more likely to take our time to respond rather than react immediately (yet another benefit of being a sensitive person!).

Emotions are not only normal — they’re also important. Our society undervalues emotions and doesn’t understand that by feeling deeply, we are not “too emotional,” but in fact are experiencing an essential part of life. So, fellow HSP, I urge you to continue to feel your emotions, express your emotions, and be that deep feeler that you are. It’s a beautiful thing.

With love,

A Fellow HSP.

How Trauma Gets Stored In The Body

This article is going to be jam packed with information about trauma responses, how it gets stored in the body and the necessity for talk therapy in CONJUNCTION with body – based therapies.

Although this article does not include specific examples of trauma from real life people, it may still be triggering to some. Pay attention to your breath, and if you find yourself tensing, take a break and come back to it when you are ready.

But please do come back…because trauma education is the number one thing you can do to gain a sense of empowerment and let go of the shame around completely natural trauma responses.

Are you ready?


Before we get into the itty bitty details, I want to talk a little about the concept of trauma.

I feel like so many people misunderstand the word trauma. And that is because of the stigma we have around mental health. And I mean…the fact that the psycho-therapeutic community as a whole has a billion different definitions of trauma…

There is a lot of misinformation, and the language around it has actually been found to cause more harm than good.

First off, I want to stress the fact that trauma is a completely natural response to highly adverse emotional experiences. Trauma symptoms are just your brain and body trying to keep you safe from it ever happening again. It is simply something we have to work through to live our most full lives. 

So what is trauma?

My most holistic and all encompassing definition is by Mastin Kipp:

“Trauma is an experience of threat, disconnection, isolation, or immobilization that results in physical/emotional injuries that dysregulate the optimal function of one’s body, emotions, brain, spirit or health”

Mastin Kipp

Notice how he states trauma is an experience and that it dysregulates you?

Well dysregulation is just a call to get back into a regulated state. Plain and simple.

 We do that by having different healing tools in our back pocket. Ones that work for us, not ones that are forced upon us. 

That means if you can’t meditate, then you don’t have to do it! Forcing yourself to meditate when you have an overactive thinking mind and haven’t cleared out the emotional “debris”, actually does more harm than good. 

There are so many tools you can use that work specifically for YOU. There is no one size fits all approach to healing. 

There does have to be the desire to heal though, because I’m not going to say that trauma work is all sunshine and daisies, at the end of the day it is WORK. You will look at parts of yourself that are painful to look at, feel into emotions that you have been avoiding for most of your life and sift through some heavy shit.

But at the end of it all, you will come out lighter, happier and freer.

I also want to be clear, trauma is not about the event, it’s about the individual perception of the event. Meaning, everyone can experience a traumatic event differently, make different meanings out of it and create different beliefs around it. 

That is why trauma cannot be “measured”. It impacts everyone differently. Just like everyone has a unique DNA sequence, and unique bodies with different shapes and sizes, we also have different ways our brains and bodies process emotional experiences. 

The current mental health model is lacking. It does not take into account people’s background, culture, how they grew up or the way they may process trauma. 

There is no one size fits all approach to healing because every individual is so profoundly different. 

That’s where Somatic Psychotherapy comes in…

The word Somatic means “relating to the body” and psychotherapy is regular talk therapy.

In other words… what you normally go to a therapist for. To talk about what you want to work on and intellectually process these thoughts in order to form better behaviors.

Many may have heard the term “we carry our issues in our tissues”…and science is truly backing it up. 

For those of you that are in your heads a lot, hold anxiety and intrusive thoughts, body based therapy is especially beneficial because there is no way for you to “overthink” and run a scenario in your head a billion times.

Whatever we suppress gets expressed. If we have a lot of anger, and we suppress it, it’s going to seep out of us in our everyday life. 

There’s a lot of freedom in “releasing,” and somatic therapy can help access the places in the body where we are holding onto things and experiencing physical, psychic, and emotional discomfort or pain.

It mixes body based therapy and talk therapy as one, treating the individual as a whole as opposed to separated parts. 

What this means for the current medical paradigm, is that it puts the healing on the individual’s body. Meaning that since we all process and hold trauma in different ways, somatic therapy utilizes the wisdom of their body to unlock it. Personalizing healing to that person and releasing what needs to be released.
You see, when trauma occurs, our bodies activate a protective mechanism. A stressor that is too much for a person to handle overloads the nervous system, stopping the trauma from processing

This overload halts the body in its instinctive fight or flight response, causing the traumatic energy to be stored in the surrounding muscles, organs and connective tissue. 

Whenever we store trauma in our tissue, our brain disconnects from that part of the body to block the experience (this is called disassociation), preventing the recall of the traumatic memory.

Any area of our body that our brain is disconnected from won’t be able stay healthy or heal itself. It is thought that the predictable effect of stored trauma is degeneration and disease, in some capacity.

There is ample scientific evidence proving memory storage in locations other than the brain abound.

Three examples of the body containing extraordinary memory capabilities are:

1. Immune system response is enhanced by memory T-cells maintaining information about previous attacks by specific foreign antigens

2. Muscle memory

3. DNA/cellular memory possess a complex information storage system

When considering the vastness of our body’s intelligence, it is no wonder that our muscles and fascia are capable of holding memories

This is why verbal therapy alone isn’t enough to clear stored trauma, somatic (meaning body-based) tools are needed to help regulate the nervous system and emotionally heal trauma.

A simple example of how the body and nervous system have a mind of its own, is when you “logically” know something, yet your body reacts in ways that say otherwise.

This could look like a socially anxious person logically “knowing” they are safe and that the people at the party won’t physically harm them, yet their body is holding onto emotional trauma most likely caused by other people.

The body then increases their heart rate, their breath quickens and they start dissociating or entering into “fight or flight”.

It’s one thing to logically know something, and it is another to wholeheartedly FEEL it. Or in more precise terminology, for your nervous system to know it.

Believe it or not, we see this trauma response in other mammals as well…

Dr. Peter Levine, one of the originators in the field of somatic therapy, and author of the book Waking the Tiger, describes how after a hunt, female lions (who do all the hunting for the pride), wrestle around with each other extensively to help their bodies “complete” the stress response that comes from the hunt itself. 

When you have that much adrenaline in your system, your body has to process it. 

In a society where we hide our emotions and are GO, GO,GO, that just doesn’t happen.

We are all a little guilty of this, when we get stressed, we tend to hold it in—and then we go to coffee or alcohol or social media or whatever it is that we use to check out a little bit. But that cortisol, that adrenaline, stays in our system and the only way to release it is through movement, just like the female lions do with wrestling.

If we fail to release the excess energy, it stays in our bodies and wreaks havoc on our nervous system. Which is responsible for regulation.

You could look at the wrestling of the female lions as a form of somatic therapy. Things we used to do primitively to get away from a threat include running, climbing, jumping, swimming, shaking, dancing—all kinds of movement help to complete that stress response, to move it through. Otherwise, it gets stored somewhere

Somatic Psychotherapy not only takes into account what you are thinking, but it pays attention to what the BODY has to say; rather than whatever “logical” explanation the mind concocts. Since our bodies store SO much information, more often than not our bodies can tell us more than our thinking mind.

Why is this?

Because our bodies don’t have a perceptual filter. And sometimes, our unconscious mind will intentionally block traumatic memories from resurfacing to keep us safe. 

But our bodies remember.

This is why combining somatic (meaning body-based) and verbal therapy can successfully bring a trauma to completion. 

Somatic Therapy taps into your unconscious memories, past trauma and repressed emotions. It unlocks them.

Then talk therapy instills you with the development of the inner resources needed for navigating and responding to the traumatic experience. 

The Somatic therapist is trained to help you do both. Tap into your body to release the trauma, then make meaning out of these experiences and integrate them in a way that allows you to live a lighter, anxiety-free life.

Some forms of somatic therapies include: Breathwork, certain bodywork styles, trauma-informed yoga, and embodiment practices.

Just please make sure you do your research, read reviews and make sure you feel SAFE with them.  Always ask if the facilitators if they are trauma-informed and how long their credentialing program was for.

Lastly, before you do any of this work, Three things are necessary for the body to release stored trauma:

  • The inner resources to handle the experience that were not in place when the experience originally occurred. Also, this can be an expanded state of awareness as breathwork induces. If you don’t feel like you have any inner resources or tools in your back-pocket, I recommend you see a somatic psychotherapist or see a regular therapist in conjunction with your somatic practices.
  • Space for the traumatic energy to dissolve into when released. Being full of tension and stress does not allow the necessary spaciousness for the stored trauma to move. 
  • Reconnection of the brain with the area of the body where the trauma is stored. (i.e Full Embodiment)

For all of this to even start occurring, a sense of safety has to be present.

Safety is the key

If we don’t feel safe in the world, we can’t fully engage with another person—be it a friend, family member, lover, or therapist.

On a physiological level, if we don’t feel safe, our body won’t function optimally, our nervous system is running haywire and there is no room for growth or expansion because your body is just trying to survive. We want to get you to a state of THRIVING. Not just surviving.

So, if you’re experiencing anxiety—or you’re stressed or depressed—any of the emotions that society deems as “bad”, really what it comes down to is that physiologically, you don’t feel safe.

And when you’re not feeling safe, coming to a place where you can feel safe within, is the most important thing for healing.

Again, this could be different for everyone, so trying out different regulation practices until you find one that’s right for you is so important. 

Wow that was a mouthful! Lol

I do hope this article helped clear up any questions you may have around somatics, trauma, and the mind + body connection.

Also, always feel free to send me a DM on instagram or shoot me an email if you have any questions.  I’m here to help.

Until next time my loves XO

This Is What Someone With Anxiety Really Looks Like Because It Isn’t Always Struggling To Breathe

Anxiety has one goal, and it’s to destroy people. And sometimes it does.

Anxiety takes away their ability to breathe and it makes you watch as it cripples them. But sometimes it’s sneaky. Sometimes it’s destroying a person and the scariest part about it is you have no idea that it’s happening. Because sometimes anxiety isn’t always as obvious as a person gasping for air as they struggle to breathe.

Sometimes anxiety is a person simply sitting there. It’s a person staring off into space as if they’re caught up in a daydream, when in reality; they’re suffering from their own personal nightmare. Anxiety isn’t always falling apart on the outside, even when you’re shattering on the inside. It’s racing thoughts and irrational fears that clutter your brain and sink your heart. It’s nothing that can be seen unless you live inside that person’s head and nothing that can be felt unless you feel that person’s heart.

Sometimes anxiety is a person lashing out at the people they love in an unexplained rage for no apparent reason. It’s reacting out of anger instead of rationality. It’s snapping at people when that’s the last thing you want to do. It’s regretting the harsh words you said ten minutes later. It’s the tremendous amount of guilt you feel when you realize you can never take those words back. It’s dwelling on everything small and obsessing over anything that could happen and forgetting everything that hasn’t happened. It’s asking ‘what if’ constantly and only listing the worst possible case scenarios over and over again until you convince yourself the worst possible case scenario is the only scenario that makes any sense.

Sometimes anxiety is a person feeling paranoid even when nothing’s wrong. Anxiety is running back inside the house to turn off the oven that’s already off. It’s hitting the lock on your car doors three times before you’re convinced they’re locked. It’s over analyzing every word someone said, and constantly worrying everyone hates you. It’s going over every conversation you’ve ever had and the irrational fear that at some point you must have said or done something wrong. Anxiety isn’t trusting anyone, including yourself.

Sometimes anxiety is a person who pushes love away instead of letting love comfort them. It believing you don’t deserve love and even forgetting to love yourself. It’s the fear of losing everyone around you and never feeling good enough. It’s believing moments are too good to be true and experiencing fear when everyone else around you is experiencing happiness. It’s waiting for the next thing to go wrong even when everything is right. It’s never feeling at peace, and always feeling on edge.

Sometimes anxiety isn’t seen but it’s always felt. Even in a person’s best moments, anxiety is still there.Sometimes anxiety is gasping for air, but sometimes anxiety is a person laughing. Sometimes it’s a person speaking eloquently to a large group of people. Sometimes it’s a person showing you their passion, and sometimes it’s a person creating beautiful pieces of art. Because sometimes anxiety is taking over the last person you’d expect.

Sometimes anxiety terrifies everyone around us as we gasp for air and struggle to breathe, but sometimes anxiety can look like nothing, and not even the people we love the most can tell.

And that’s why anxiety is the greatest destroyer of all.

I Still Believe In Beauty After Experiencing So Much Pain

It’s not easy for me to trust someone after being betrayed before. It’s not easy for me to believe someone is going to stay after being abandoned before. It’s not easy for me to love after being heartbroken before.

Despite all of the hardships I have suffered through, I am not going to allow the pain of my past to negatively impact my future. I am not going to let fear overshadow my desire to enter a loving, committed relationship. I am not going to hover inside of my comfort zone when I am unhappy and isolated there.

I am going to take a risk by letting myself love again, because staying at home and stewing in my loneliness is a different kind of risk. One that I am unwilling to take.

It has been hard for me to let my guard down when there is a piece of my mind warning me that I am better off alone, but I cannot live my life expecting to get hurt. I cannot let my skepticism overrule my faith that I will someday find my soulmate.

I still believe people are capable of keeping their promises even though I have seen them broken a million times. I still believe people are capable of good things even though I have witnessed so many bad things in the past.

History does not have to repeat itself. Falling in love is not necessarily going to lead to heartbreak. There is always a chance it will lead toward my final happily ever after. I cannot give up hope of finding my person. I won’t let myself become cold and bitter because my love story has taken longer to unfold than I would have liked.

I am going to keep searching for someone who understands me. I am going to keep opening my heart up to others. I am going to keep putting myself out there even on the days when it feels pointless to try.

I am not naturally trusting. My first instinct is to look for lies hidden in stories, to keep my eyes open for red flags and warning signs. When I enter a relationship, it’s not easy for me to take the other person’s words at face value. I am choosing to trust the other person. I am making a daily decision to think positive even though it’s so much easier to let negativity prevail.

I don’t want to be the kind of person who focuses on the worst in others, who never gives anyone a chance, who assumes the world is a horrible place filled with heartless souls. I want to be the kind of person who sees the beauty in others, who takes a chance on love, who refuses to let the past interfere with the future.

I have been hurt before but that doesn’t mean I’m going to get hurt again. I have to keep telling myself that.

Darling, You Are So Much More Than Your Mental Health Struggles

I know. I know there are days when you feel lost and confused. I know there are days when you feel a physical weight in your chest as you try to drag yourself out of your slump. I know there are days when you question your purpose. I know there were days when you wished you were stronger in dealing with what life throws at you. I know there are days when the voices of your mind become louder than the voice of what you know is true.

There is a quote by Johnny Sun that goes, “I think people who ridicule positivity think positivity is easy.” Darling, I see you.

I see those of you who have been trying so hard to get out of your own head. I see those of you who wished they could get out of bed, but your bodies aren’t cooperating. I see those of you who try your hardest to speak life into others while struggling to see the good in yourself.

I see how hard you try to upkeep your persona  out of fear that the people around you will take on the burden of what you feel.

Darling, I see that — I see all of it. I see the frustration you have with yourself over your daily struggles with your mental health. I see the pent-up anger you have at yourself, questioning why you’re still affected after so long. I see the conflicting emotions behind your eyes, flickering between the mask you show to the world and what you really feel.

Beau Taplin wrote, “The best thing about bravery is even a little is enough.

Darling, I see you trying. I see that there is still fire in you ,  because you are still here. You are still here, you are breathing, you are trying so hard to make it day to day. You may think that the fire in you has dwindled. But darling, remember that even the smallest of sparks has the ability to start the greatest of fires.

You may feel lost. And you may have felt lost for a long time. But know that this is not your forever. No darkness, no season, is eternal.

You may not like the version of you at this moment. In fact, you may barely recognize him or her at this point. But I hope you remember that your beauty does not fade ,  even if it is not surveyed.

You may not feel your very best. You may have fallen far and hard. But darling, I hope you know that you are more than the things that you are going through: you are more than your mental health, you are more than a diagnosis, you are more than what people expect of you, you are more than your own expectations.

You have so much more within you than what you think you do.

I may not be able to tell you when you will believe this, but I hope one day you do. One day, I hope you will be able to live your truth that you are still you despite the things you are going through. One day, I hope you will be able to see that there is so much more to you than your struggles. One day, I hope that you will speak more kindly of yourself.

Here’s to that One Day.

God, I Know I’m Called To Have Patience But I Need Your Help

I’m feeling anxious again, Father. I know I shouldn’t be. I know there’s no need. I know you want me to have faith in you, and I do, but if I’m being honest, I’m not okay. I don’t know. I guess just the feeling of being stuck here in my current position is getting a bit weary and frustrating.

However, I thank you, God. Thank you for the position that I’m in right now. Thank you for making me sit and wait. I know that these hard times are producing perseverance, building my character, strengthening my faith in you, and equipping me with what I need for my future.  

Even though it feels as if I’ve been waiting for a long time, I know that what you have for me is worth waiting for. I just need to have patience and know that everything will work out in the end.

I’m not who or where I want to be at the moment, and that’s okay. I know I’m exactly where I need to be. It’s a process. I know you’re working on me, and I know I still have a lot of growing to do and more lessons to learn. But Jesus, I must admit, this ongoing mental battle that I’m facing, these emotions that are getting the best of me, is a daily struggle. I know you’ve given me all the weapons I need to fight, but still, I need your help.

I tend to isolate myself from people. I have some days when I just want to sleep so I won’t have to get up and face the day. When I’m awake, the thoughts in my mind never stop going, and I allow the worries of this world to weigh me down.

I’m constantly looking in every direction to see where my blessing is gonna come from. I’m waiting for you to show up with this evacuation plan to get me out of this place.

I just wanna be alone with you, but whenever I get by myself in quietness, I can hear the enemy loud and clear trying to get in my head. I need to hear your voice, Father.

I need to go higher; I want to be high up with you. Not a drug type of high, but the type of high where all I feel is joy and peace in You. The type of high where no negativity, no enemy, no type of harm can reach me.

I need you to capture my mind, Father, place your words deep inside my heart, get them stuck in my mind. Replace my thoughts with your thoughts. There are times when I know I need to pray, but no words come out. Lately, it’s been a lot of “God, I… nevermind.”

I need you to take my hand so I can walk with you. I’m sorry I keep turning away from you.

Lately, I’ve been confused. Trying to fight off these lies of insecurities, the lies of anxieties that come from not having answers.

I want to love myself, but I don’t want my focus to be on myself. I want to love myself the way you love me, but I don’t want to fall into the self-seeking trap. I’m trying to stay humble, but I can’t tell the difference between me having confidence or having pride. Aren’t I called to be strong and courageous? But what if I’m not doing it the right way? I’m contradicting myself.

I’m second guessing everything I do. I can’t depend on myself. I don’t want to get in the way of Your will, Father—not my will for my life, but Yours. I don’t want to do what I think is best for me because in the past, every time I did what I wanted to do or what I thought was best, I ended up down the wrong path.

Some won’t understand this, but Lord, we need your help. We need you to save us from ourselves and from this corrupt world. We need guidance. We need your Love.

I admit, I can’t live without you. Whenever I don’t hear your voice, I panic, but really, you’re just telling me to wait, to be still and have faith in you.

I’m trying, God. I’m trying to fight this fight and run this race the best way I know how.

I won’t move until I hear you say go, but while I’m being still and waiting, Father, I need you to keep me covered. Help me not to wander off or get distracted and pulled in by this world.

Picture this—you’re out in the woods with a group of other soldiers and you have the captain in front leading and guiding the way. The captain is giving out signs of when to go, stop, run, and even fight, so as you follow, you’re constantly looking for the leader to give you directions. You’ve been doing this for some time now. There’s a destination point but there’s still some ways to go. In the meantime, you may get tired and weary, but that’s okay, because you have the leader there going before you. That is, until you get impatient, look away, or stop paying attention. Then what? You get thrown off course. You may get lost; you get worried, and you get scared. What do you do? You can’t do this on your own. You must find the leader and look unto Him to show you the way out to safety. There’s a purpose in all of this. A plan.

I need your guidance. I’m sorry, come save me again.

What Depression Actually Is, Because It’s More Than ‘Just Being Sad’

Depression isn’t the saddest person in the room. Quite contrary actually, depression sometimes is the person you would have never expected. Along with trying to convince you they’re happy, they’re trying to convince themselves.

Depression isn’t that melancholy person, you don’t want to be around. Oftentimes, it’s the person everyone loves because of the light they bring to a room is so bright but that’s only because they know darkness.

Depression isn’t the person screaming out for help. It’s the silent person dealing with battles they’re still trying to understand themselves.

Depression is doing everything you can to hide it. Because there’s nothing glorified about it. There’s nothing beautiful about a bad night as you fall to your knees, in a silent scream, that no one hears because you’re alone and you need to be until you get through it.

It’s the sleepless nights as you lay awake at 2 am staring at the ceiling.

It’s that time of year, you just get a little bit sadder for no reason.

It’s the tears you don’t tell people you cry because you don’t really know why you’re crying, you just know you need to.

It’s the want and need to be around people but at the same time, you push them away.

Depression is watching across social media, everyone’s highlight reels and you know it’s not an accurate depiction of their life yet you still compare yourself to them.

It’s the plans canceled last minute because you couldn’t muster the strength to get out of bed.

It’s your alarm going off in the morning and you just want to go back to sleep.

Depression is that cloud that doesn’t seem to go away ever. And even in those happy moments, you cling to, you know it’s still hovering over you. Depression waits. It creeps and lurks. It waits for the best day of your life and your happiest moment just so the next one can be your worst.

It’s the fear of such happiness because you know it’s bound to fade.

It’s every good day, that are few and far between and that’s what you hang onto.

It’s the struggle in explaining to people when they ask why are you depressed? You just don’t know and you don’t know how to fix it. It’s just a feeling you can’t shake but you’re learning to work through.

Depression are toxic habits or people you gravitate towards.

It’s drinking the way you do because at least for a moment your pain is numbed. You know the effects lead to being even more depressed the next day. And you know alcohol is a depressant but being numb helps sometimes.

Depression is the constant imbalance of things in your life.

It’s either overexercising and being at the gym for hours or staying in bed for weeks immobile.

It’s either sleeping too much or too little. But no matter what, you’re always tired.

It’s eating too much or just never being hungry. It’s someone asking, ‘When was the last time you ate?’ And you actually don’t know the answer.

It’s weight loss that people commend you for but you know even you couldn’t help it.

Depression is people asking if you’re okay and you don’t respond with ‘I’m sad.’ You simply say, ‘I’m tired.’

It’s the envy of looking at others and just wanting to be that happy. So you glamorize your own life so it appears that way.

Depression is the overcompensating in relationships and trying too hard. You know you’re tough to deal with but there isn’t anyone you love more than those who accept you, as you’re still trying to accept yourself.

It’s that really scary moment when you open up to someone about what it is you deal with. And that new level of friendship you reach, when they welcome you with open arms and it almost brings you to tears.

It’s loving people unbelievably hard because you’re still learning to love yourself.

It’s looking ahead and looking forward to certain days in your life and really appreciating everything.

And even though you might not say it, as often as you should, it’s the love you have for everyone in your life which gives you strength.

Depression is becoming addicted to anything that gives you purpose. Whether it’s being a perfectionist in academics or becoming a workaholic. It’s becoming the most involved in a group or organization because you need something to look forward to. It’s excelling in sports because it really helps to have that and a team to fall back on.

It’s the need to be busy because if you’re not you’ll spend too much time alone and everything will get worse.

But more than that, depression is the person who would do anything to make others happy because someone else’s happiness is their own.

Depression is being overly observant because you know what it’s like to hide things, so you look for it in others.

It’s being the first one willing to help and being the person you wish you had. Knowing well, there’s nothing you can say or do but be there for them and that’s okay.

But more than that, depression is a  strength in you because there’s nothing harder than overcoming demons within yourself.

It’s the trust people have in you, knowing they can turn to you without judgment.

It’s the excitement you bring to others because even though you’re sad, you do love life.

Depression is being the happiest, saddest person, people know but there’s a bit of beauty to someone who knows both emotions at such an extreme level.

Depression is an appreciation and gratitude for life. It’s knowing no matter what happens things will get better.

Depression is hope even in moments that seem hopeless.

It’s not letting this define who you are but rather learning to live through it and being the example others can follow.

7 Signs You’re Growing As A Person, Even If It Doesn’t Feel Like You Are

Sometimes, growth is subtle. Often, we only see it clearly in retrospect. Though we often assume that our growth will be completely evident to us, it’s usually the small shifts, done repeatedly, that make the biggest difference. Here are a few signs that you’re really growing as a person, even if it doesn’t feel like you are.

1. You’ve let go of an old dream.

One of the universal markers of inner growth is always a heightened degree of self-awareness, and that can very often come from realizing that what we are pursuing might not really be what we want.

The truth is that we outgrow our dreams and plans more frequently than we realize, and if we aren’t conscious of what’s happening, it can seem as though we’ve lost out, missed an opportunity, or didn’t actualize our potential.

In reality, we let go of old dreams because they were designed for a person we no longer are.

2. You’re no longer content to live a surface-level existence.

Instead of looking good, you are more interested in feeling good. Instead of appearing as though you have a cool weekend, you want to have a fulfilling and relaxing weekend. Instead of trying to earn approval, you’re more interested in digging up your own self-love.

You might still love social media, but you understand that it is a piece of life, not your entire existenceYou might still love to put yourself together well, but you understand that you have to like what you see in the mirror, because trying to constantly mold yourself to other people’s standards is a game you can’t win.

Your life is starting to take on more depth and substance, and it’s because you realize that you can never truly feel fulfilled just existing on the surface.

3. You want to understand why.

You’re no longer content to just accept things as “the way it is,” you want to really understand.

You want to understand why some people react certain ways, or hold limiting and false beliefs. You want to understand why a relationship ended the way it did, and what role you did or didn’t play in how it unfolded. You want to understand why you’re triggered by certain things, why you respond the way you do, why you think the way you do.

This is the entryway to truly changing your life. You’re finally asking the right questions, and beginning to see just how many people live on auto-pilot.

You do not want to be one of them.

4. You might feel embarrassed about past choices.

While nobody ever has to feel embarrassed about their past, many people do, especially when going through periods of more intense growth.

You might look back on what you said, did and wore even in recent history and cringe. This is because you’re starting to realize that a lot of those decisions were actually coming from a place of insecurity, or a desire to fit in, or unconscious beliefs that were never questioned.

While it might be uncomfortable on the surface, being able to look back at your past self and realize that you are different from them is often a huge sign of real growth.

5. You’ve lost touch with a lot of people, or a big relationship ended.

This is almost always one of the biggest signs that someone is changing — when their social circle no longer fits them anymore.

It’s not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with you or them, simply that you might not have anything in common anymore. You are changing, and so the people you attract and “click” with do, too.

On the other hand, you may have lost a close relationship, which shook you awake and prompted you to begin a journey of self-discovery. While this is important, remember that it’s okay to grieve, and know that people phase in and out of our lives (yes, even the ones we care most about) for a reason.

Trust that process.

6. You’re more concerned about quality than quantity.

Work, friends, experiences — no matter what it is, you’re no longer able to sustain a fast paced life with minimal substance.

Now, you’re more interested in having a few really close friends as opposed to dozens of acquaintances. You’d rather do a few projects really, really well than try to fill your days with work and hope it all turns out okay. You’d rather take one or two trips and have them be the exact experiences you want than constantly be on the move but not really being present.

Rather than having a lot of things, you realize that all you need is a few really good ones.

Anything else just spreads you too thin, and never really gets you what you want anyway.

7. You’re rediscovering your soul.

You’re remembering your love for music, art, or creativity.

You’re listening to songs that make you feel again. You find yourself crying with relief, or sadness. You are empathizing with others. You are redesigning all of the details of your life with more heart and care than you ever have before.

This means that you’re coming home to yourself.

You’re rediscovering the essence of who you are, and you’re opening back up to your soul.

Even if you closed off for a while out of self-protection, this piece of you was always there, waiting for you to reach inward again, and allow it to be.