Christmas can be a painful time of year for many people - a time when grief, loneliness, health struggles, depression, anxiety, lack of money, or family trauma can be that much more prominent. And what adds to the pain for many of us, is the loud, deeply contrasting message that this is a happy, merry, joyous time. A time of togetherness, of fun, of treats. A time of spending lots of money and receiving lots of gifts. A time of family. These societal messages can be like salt in our wounds.
Yet this common human experience isn’t often talked about. In a spirit of acknowledging our human struggles and sharing ways to care for yourself through tough times, I’ve put together these mental health first aid tips for the holidays.
There are tips for those who are:
-feeling exhausted emotionally and physically
-impacted by toxic family, and
-for those who are struggling to sleep.
Welcome to The OCD series. I’m Francesca, a Nutritionist who has lived with OCD since I was 10. In my teens and late 20s, I hit rock bottom with OCD – it was so distressing and debilitating that it left me feeling suicidal and at one stage, partially housebound. Now, after investing time, money and effort in creating a mental health tool box, I am thriving. And I offer support to people suffering from OCD who want to get their lives back.
If you've landed on this page and would like to go to the beginning of The OCD Series, where I begin with discussing nutrition for OCD, click here.
This article discusses a nutrition and lifestyle change that my clients routinely report leads to reduced frequency, intensity and duration of their OCD spikes: taking a break from caffeinated drinks. You’ll learn how caffeine impacts your nervous system. And I’ll share why I went cold turkey on caffeinated drinks for 6 years (yup!), after 19 years of suffering with OCD, and the changes I experienced as a result.
Welcome to the first article in The OCD Series! I'm glad you're here.
This article will discuss how making a change in the way I was eating helped me recover from OCD and start LIVING.
First of all, an introduction... I’m Francesca, a New Zealand Registered Clinical Nutritionist who has lived with OCD since I was 10. At age 15 and then again at age 29, I hit rock bottom with OCD – it was so distressing and debilitating that it left me feeling suicidal and at one point, partially housebound. Now, after investing time, money and effort in creating a mental health tool box and fighting for my health and happiness, I have been living largely free of OCD since 2012. And I’m sharing everything I’ve learned to support people with OCD who want to get their lives back.
When you're suffering with OCD and:
-your fears and obsessions bring you to the point of hysteria
-you’re struggling to leave your house / work / socialize
-just the thought of ERP therapy is terrifying (let alone actually doing it!)
-and you have all kinds of other health issues going on (such as insomnia, acne, PMS, migraines, digestive troubles, fatigue, bladder weakness...)
nutrition is a powerful tool for rebuilding the foundations of your physical and mental health and helping to reduce your symptoms.
I can say it with certainty, because I've lived it. Ok, let's get started.
Protein builds your neurotransmitters
When I began seeing my naturopath in 2010 for support with OCD recovery, one of the first things I learned from her was the importance of eating enough protein foods for the body to be able to make neurotransmitters. Protein foods such as eggs, fish and meats are made up of all the amino acids your body needs (amino acids are the building blocks of protein). And it’s amino acids that are necessary for making neurotransmitters like GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid).
Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that aid communication within your brain and between your brain and body/organs. They play a significant role in your thoughts, emotions, sleep, and ability to feel calm, focused and relaxed. In particular, the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA – which literally slows down your brain's nerve cell activity – has been identified as playing a central role in the regulation of anxiety. The GABA neurotransmitter system is targeted by Benzodiazepines and other drugs used for anxiety for this reason. Interestingly, research has found decreased levels of GABA in the brain may be linked to OCD.