Thursday, 23 March 2017

Keep Pushing Through

Image result for life is crazyLife. Is. Crazy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Everyone Has a Battle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Take it easy!

'Take it easy!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 13 January 2017

Prioritizing Tasks: What can we do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for 2017 wishes

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Image result for christmasIt is no secret that Christmas is my absolute favourite time of the year. I love the Christmas songs and hymns, the decorations, TV specials, etc. I love staying home on a cold winter night and spending time with my family, watching a classical holiday movie.

Of course, this time of the year can also be stressful for many of us. There is always the rush to try to get everyone's gifts and not go bankrupt in doing so. Others worry about the New Year or their resolutions. Others are concerned about their weight changes during the festive season, having to reconnect with relatives or friends or coworkers that are challenging, and so forth.

For me, the holidays are about spending time with people I love and care .about. It is as though this season gives me permission to feel care-free, to not worry about all the problems that may be going on in. There is just something incredibly relaxing and calming about Christmas...perhaps it is the feelings of love, warmth, and peace associated with Christmas. Spiritually, Christmas is the birth of Christ; it is therefore a celebration of Christ's coming into the world.

Image result for take time to relax quotesAll of these things make Christmas special to me. When I start feeling down about other things (ex. school, myself, relationships, etc.), I remind myself of just how important Christmas is to me. But looking deeper into that, I think it is important to take something away from Christmas into the remainder of the year. For example, I love Christmas because it means that I 'have an excuse' to sit and relax and watch a movie on TV. Well, why can't I do this the entire year? I should not need 'permission' from myself to take a well-deserved break! For others, Christmas might be an excuse to buy themselves something special to reward themselves for their hard work. But why can't we do this all year around (in moderation, of course!)? Still others might see Christmas as the time where they connect with friends and have a good, heartfelt talk. But again, why not make some time during the year to do this as well?

Image result for Christmas peace wishIs this easy to do? Of course not! It means restructuring the way we view ourselves, our time, and our routines. It may mean changing our habits and what we are most comfortable with. But sometimes, change is not such a bad thing. Sometimes we have to 'force' ourselves, or convince ourselves, that we deserve happiness, freedom, relaxation, and pampering. That we deserve to be loved and cared for. And that this can happen all year round - not just at Christmas or during our birthdays, etc. My wish for this holiday season is that you find peace, happiness, and comfort. That you take the time to care for yourself, and to show love to both yourself and to others around you. That you experience a sense of satisfaction and relaxation in doing something you love and enjoy.

Another year is almost over, and a new one is just upon us. Let's not waste time dwelling in the past, placing blame or shame, feeling guilty, and so forth. Instead, let's take the time to experience joy, to treat our minds and bodies with compassion, and to connect with those we love.

Image result for christmas blessings quotesFrom my heart to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Your car, your body

Image result for car clipartYour body gets you to places. Your strong legs keep you walking - even running when necessary. Your strong heart pumps blood night and day to keep you alive. Your liver metabolizes substances and excretes toxic chemicals through your kidneys. Your lungs supply the much-needed oxygen. Your arms lift up heavy things, and your hands write stories or type assignments. Your eyes see the beautiful things around you, and your ears heart the glorious sounds of nature. Your lips allow you to communicate with others, and your nose helps you smell the sweet scents of nature. Your stomach digests the food that you eat, and your intestines do the same.

With an eating disorder, nearly all of this is impaired. Your muscles become weak and it becomes harder to move, run, or exercise. Your heart becomes weak and it is harder to pump blood effectively. Your brain cannot concentrate because it does not have enough nutrition; it thus becomes harder to concentrate. Your organs are lacking the nutrition that they need, so they shrink and cannot do their jobs. Your whole body slows down because it does not have what it needs - food. And without this food, your body cannot function.

Image result for treat your body rightThe analogy of our bodies as cars may be overused, but it is certainly relevant. If your body was a car, it would need fuel or gas. Without this, it would slow down. You cannot say that it will 'survive' and drive you to places without gas - it just will not. No matter how hard you try to convince yourself, the car will simply NOT RUN without the gas. You can try to believe that you can make it go, but it will not. As the car loses gas, it becomes less and less functional. It cannot do its job properly. It will eventually crash, leaving you stranded nowhere. And you will have to call a mechanic to get it working. But if you do not give it enough fuel, no mechanic will be of use. Because the thing it needs is GAS. And without this, it will not return to doing its normal job - ever.

Related image It is like the body. Give it food, it will run. It will do its job. Your organs will be happy and will function. Take away some food, and it may appear to be functioning for a while. But continue to do so and you will see that your body is failing you. It cannot go long without food. Try as you might, you cannot survive without it. Your body NEEDS food, no matter what you think. Give it food, and it will do what it has to do. Take away the fuel (food) and you are stranded somewhere - unable to function and go on with life.

We would never leave our cars empty without gas, because then they would not function. So why are our bodies any different? No fuel = no operating car = no function. No food = no energy = no functioning body. 

It may be difficult for those struggling with ED to wrap their heads around this - that food is NECESSARY. Something that should be remembered, however, is that the body can only compensate for little food intake for some time. After a while, it will simply stop functioning. That is why it needs fuel. And that fuel, dear readers, is food. And what a tasty and fine fuel it is!

Remember:  without a functioning car, we cannot get anywhere nor do anything. So without a functioning body, we also cannot do anything. It's time to treat our bodies like our cars - give them the fuel they need, give them the maintenance that they need, and be willing to spend money on them when needed. It is time that we take steps to ensure that our bodies are not harmed - just like we do not want our cars scratched or broken. Treat your body like your car - it deserves it.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Why is this Patient NON-COMPLIANT?!

Image result for physician and patient communicationWhat does it mean when we say that a patient is 'non-compliant' with his or her treatment plan? Usually, this refers to the fact that they are not following what they should be doing to manage their health conditions. Of course, we can see how frustrating this can be for healthcare professionals to deal with. After all, how can we make patients better if they aren't even doing what they should be?!

The issue, however, is much deeper than what appears on the surface. The key to working with a patient who is seemingly 'non-compliant' is to actually reframe the situation - and to understand that 'non-compliance' needs to be explored.

First, let's consider the fact that 'non-compliance' means that the patient is not doing what we told them to. Well, this alone is problematic! Patients need to be at the CENTRE of our care.

Therefore, if we prescribe them a treatment (this could be a medication, a lifestyle change, etc.), and they are not motivated or convinced to change or implement the intervention, they simply will not do it. To a healthcare worker, this may seem like noncompliance. But really, perhaps the patient did not understand the plan properly. Or maybe there are barriers that are preventing them from following the advice, such as financial issues, lack of motivation, no social support, underlying medical or psychiatric issues, etc. If we don't explore these further, we will simply mislabel patients as being noncompliant - and then no one benefits.
Image result for non compliant patient
Another thing to remember is that noncompliance can stem from frustration or previous experiences. Let's say your patient needs to start a certain medication, but they have heard from others that this pill gives them so many side effects and trouble. Are they likely to take it? Probably not. Or what if the patient previously tried something similar and it did not work, and now they have lost hope. Again, we may immediately brush this off as being noncompliant. But without exploring these issues with patients, we will never be able to understand their experiences, opinions, and values. Thus, we will never be able to provide truly effective, safe, and compassionate patient care.

Image result for open communication healthcare quoteAt the same time, patients need to be open with their physicians. It is important for patients to let their doctors, nurses, etc. know WHY they are hesitant to follow their treatment plan, including any challenges that they are experiencing. This can be hard, as patients may feel embarrassed, they might not 'want to talk about their problems', or they might feel that this is not 'important'. However, open communication between patients and their healthcare providers is CRITICAL! It is only through these discussions that we can formulate a plan that works best for our individual, unique patients.

So, in theory, the term noncompliance really shouldn't even be used. It is not that the patient is 'not compliant', as this indicates that the healthcare provider alone is dictating what treatments should be followed; in reality, the regime is decided upon and discussed between the patient AND the healthcare team. Furthermore, noncompliance indicates an underlying issue of some sort, and needs to be explored further to determine what the TRUE factors are. Finally, open communication, honesty, and respect are the only ways through which therapeutic relationships can be established between patients and their providers, and through this, we can ensure that our interventions are patient-cantered and lead to positive health outcomes - a benefit for patients and their physicians!

Image result for nelson mandela if you talk to a man