About a month ago, I started counseling for the first time. I knew I needed help and I had been masking a lot of my mental health issues for a while. Although counseling should be making me feel better, I am in a stage where it is really hard. It is exhausting to begin to recognize all the ways my anxiety manifests in my life. I’ve known I had anxiety for a long while but I didn’t realize how many parts of my life were not normal to constantly worry about.
My therapist told me I have extreme anxiety. Different ways this manifests in me is a racing heart and feelings in my stomach. I have dizzy spells in adulthood but I had always chalked it up to low blood sugar or low protein from veganism or dehydration. However, my recent bloodwork says I am extremely healthy and not vitamin deficient. There are a lot of parts of me that I always thought were cute and quirky, like my forgetfulness and how I go on tangents and jump around when telling stories. I called myself longwinded, but again it is anxiety-induced. I could go on and on (as long-winded as I am) on the various symptoms I possess but just know it is vast.
Recently, I have felt my anxiety is getting worse and worse. But frankly, I feel I am just more aware of it. I have suppressed my anxiety using my own symptoms of anxiety: fears of look inadequate and of disapproval. I always thought no one wants to be friends or work with an anxious person. So I buried it deep and masked it with a smile and swore to take care of others above myself.
What if we made it the norm to talk openly about the things we are struggling with. I have a handful of friends in my life that I can do this with; you know who you are and I am thankful for your openness and acceptance of me. However, I also have friends who have ignored me when I tell them about a problem or my mental health. And partially that may be because it is challenging to help others with their issues when you are struggling yourself. It can feel very overwhelming to talk about mental health. I have done this far too many times. When others have talked to me about issues they are having, sometimes all I can do to cope is tune them out and just be a listening board. I’m not saying it is right but I am saying I do understand when others have a hard time hearing about what I may be going through. But it also can feel like an incomplete friendship when it’s completely ignored.
Ultimately, I started this blog and my Instagram to help my coworkers and friends who wanted to eat more plant-based, then growing into helping others with general wellness. But when those tips and habits weren’t enough for me, I needed to find someone to help me. After opening up about my own mental health issues on here, I have had many people resonate with it and reach out to me to check on me, which is extremely challenging. As someone who always wants to appear “good” because of my anxiety, it can be hard when people talk with me about what I write and check-in with me because it causes me to recoil into my old habits. I immediately deflect and put a smile on my face. Some days I am good and some days I feel as though I can’t even handle someone checking on me. For those who have checked in, please keep doing it. If I deflect, I give you permission to hold me accountable.
We often talk about wanting to be seen and heard but how often do we even allow that? I know I crave people to understand me but I rarely let people close enough to do just that. This is something I am going to work on in my relationships: allowing my full, anxious, sometimes depressed, adventurous self to be seen and heard.
Will you join me?
I am not okay, but I am enough.
Vegan Chickpea Noodle Soup
A favorite of mine on cold winter days! This chickpea noodle soup is comforting and delicious. Packed with nutrients and easy to prep, this is a sure crowd-pleaser for plant-based and carnivores alike.
-3 tbsp of olive oil
-2 shallots or garlic (or 2 tbsp of minced garlic)
-4 stalks of chopped celery
-3/4 cup of chopped carrots
-1/2 tsp of salt
-10 cups of vegetable broth (I used water)
-Vegan chicken salt
-1 can of garbanzo beans
-1 box of rotini pasta
Simple Chickpea curry
I am ashamed to say this recipe has not been in my repertoire for very long. I first had chickpea curry this summer when my sister made it for me, and I am not sure how I lasted so long without it. Since first trying it, I try to make it about once a month. I love the curry flavor and cannot pass up the yummy nutrients in the chickpeas.
So without further ado, the recipe!
-3 tbsp of olive oil
-2 cans of garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
-2-3 tbsp of curry powder (or curry paste if you would like)
-4 cups of jasmine rice (or one package)
-2 tsp of garlic powder
-2 tsp of ginger powder
Serving size: 4
This meal is simple, easy, time-efficient, and VEGAN. Let me know what you think!
There are two things I love dearly: being vegan and being frugal. Making vegan meals can be very daunting. You may walk past vegan items at the grocery store and see how overly-priced they can be. And it's true, being vegan CAN be expensive. Brands with fewer buyers will cost more, classic supply and demands. I envision that in the next five years we will see a dramatic drop in the prices of plant-based options as people around the globe began to shift to eating more veggies and fewer chicken leggies.
But, eating vegan does not need to be expensive. I find when I follow a more whole-food, plant-based diet (WFPB), consisting of eating whole foods and avoiding the processed and pre-made vegan options, it is extremely affordable. I even try to buy most of my groceries at the local-brand grocery store, which buys and sells produce from local farmers and is a bit more expensive than Walmart. However, for ease, I am going to take an 11-day meal plan (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks) and give you a ready to go grocery list. In fact, I am going to do it even better and make it enough portions for a family of 4. Now, I did an Instagram poll the other day and had answers from vegans and non-vegans. The average my followers spends on groceries per person per week is $60. I would say mine is usually about the same (or a little bit less depending on the week). But with this vegan meal plan and grocery list, you can feed a family of 4 for 11-days on $150. That's 1.5 weeks of meals for $25 per person per week. Now, THAT is a good deal.
First, I will supply the grocery list, taken straight from Walmart's online ordering service. This grocery list includes spices and olive oil. There may be things on this list you already have in your pantry, making your total EVEN LESS.
For breakfast, your family can choose to have chia pudding or cereal and milk.
For lunch, there are options for vegan chick'n nuggets, pb&J's (added that in for all you parents and grandparents out there), or leftovers from the plethora of food. One meal I have on the dinner menu is super easy to whip up for lunches too.
For snacks, I have included a variety of fruits and veggies: carrots, apples, halos, and grapes.
And now, your dinners for the 11-days:
Monday: Chickpea Curry with jasmine rice
Tuesday: vegan tofu tacos
Wednesday: vegan spaghetti and meatballs
Thursday: beyond burgers and fries
Friday: Vegan pizza
Sunday: Vegan chili
Monday: lemon orzo and veggies
Tuesday: Butternut squash bowls
Wednesday: vegan chickpea noodle soup
Thursday: vegan pesto pasta
All these meals are delicious, easy to make, and incredibly affordable. Most of these meals use canned or frozen vegetables (cheap!!!!!) and are packed with protein and nutrients.
Drop a comment below for which meals you want me to share recipes for!!!
Why don't you come on over calories?!
Calories. The word scares a lot of people. The word has caused a lot of fo pain and suffering due to diet culture. Me, I love calories. I grab for the foods that have higher calories and higher carbs; that's how my body gets the energy it needs to function.
The most common question vegans get is "How do you get enough protein?" But often the idea of getting enough calories is ignored. A vegan/plant-based diet is inherently lower in calories than meat. For example, a Chik-Fil-A chicken sandwich has 440 calories, and a Boca chik'n patty (vegan) only has 130 calories. A serving of tofu, by itself, is 94 calories. Plants naturally are lower-calorie than meat, which makes it especially important to monitor calories (at first) when going vegan. When I first transitioned, I used the My Fitness Pal app to monitor my macros. This was not to lose or gain weight but simply for the mindset "Am I getting what my body needs?" And on days when I did not meet my protein goal, I did not feel all that different. However, I noticed a significant difference if I feel pretty short on calories. I might feel shaky or irritable. Transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle is not always simple and takes a bit of intentionality. When I was "still figuring it out", which let's get real we all are still learning about our bodies and what we need to put in them to be our happiest and healthiest selves, I needed to have high-calorie foods on stand-by to help me out. These foods were my best friends while transitioning:
Whether your goals are to stay at a healthy weight, get more daily calories (GAINNZZZ), or to avoid high-calorie foods for health reasons then here are my top four high calorie foods!
As the new year creeps up slowly, we are all wondering: what will 2021 have in store? Will we see a swift end to the coronavirus? Will we be more financially stable? How can we be healthier?
Some may be setting resolutions or goals for New Years'. Two years ago, I sent "environmental new years resolutions". This eventually led me to transition to a plant-based diet in February of that year. Some may be wanting to consume less meat or dairy, go vegetarian, or go vegan. This can seem overwhelming, to say the least. When I went vegan, I had NO CLUE where to start but I remember living off smoothies and edamame for the first bit. Whatever your goals are, there are some grocery store staples most vegan recipes will call for. So next time you put in your grocery order or mask up and head to the trenches, pick up some of these items to prepare for a healthier new year with yummy plant-based recipes.
Although there is an infinite list of other vegan items you may want to buy, these are the must-have pantry staples!
Everyone mentions it and makes jokes about it but who really is talking about what it feels like? For me, summer has always been my favorite season. I don’t mind the heat and I crave being out in the sun, feet in the sand or the dirt, and feeling life with each step. When the sun starts the get dimmer and further away, it makes me feel dimmer and further away too. The days get shorter and colder, which means less time I want to be outside.
It’s a feeling of restlessness and boredom. You want to do things and be accomplished, but at times the energy just isn’t there. It feels like my energy comes and goes with the sun.
I find myself becoming less motivated and more paranoid. Do my friends like me? Am I just annoying to them? The self-doubt leaks in with the chill from the wind outside. Typically, I unconsciously balance this out by distracting myself: I plan an adventure. Whether it be to a national park or somewhere international. I plan to forget the sadness and worry I feel during the winter months. With the pandemic, this is hard to do. So I sit around wanting to do more but not always having the energy to do what I want to do.
And I know I’m not alone. Most people struggle with seasonal depression in one form or another. Some of us think of ourselves as sun-babies. We compare ourselves to plants. But where does that leave us when our hormones are thrown off by changes in sun patterns? What do we do to help ourselves?
This is something I’ve felt a big struggle with this year. Specifically, within the last few weeks, I’ve felt a similar seasonal depression from one I experienced four years ago, that got REALLY bad. And that’s scary. When you’ve been in a dark place you want to do everything you can to keep yourself from going there again. It’s this feeling of familiarity and dread creeping back into you. It’s not something I talk with anyone about. I’ve never told my friends or family when I’ve felt depressed or sad. I pretend like I am “fine” and listen to their problems, even when it feels like I can’t bear to hear another thing because it would be too much for me to handle. Sometimes, I have to tune out other people when they are describing things in their life that make them unhappy because it’s overwhelming to imagine advising someone else when I am not well myself.
So, today, I am trying something for myself and see what Google can tell me to help all of us with seasonal depression.
Here are the top tips:
It’s not much. But it’s something. To anyone suffering from seasonal depression: I’m with you. We will make it to sunnier days.
If you or a loved one is suffering from a mental illness and not sure where to start, try contacting SAMHSA at 1-800-662-4357. This is a free service to advise on the next steps locally.
You read that right. Pumpkin. Chocolate Chip. Cream Cheese. Muffins. AND VEGAN. These muffins are so damn good. I came up with the recipe after craving some muffins I made around this time last year but wanted to find a way to add in some vegan cream cheese.
Some tips for the ingredients: The cream cheese I used can be found at Trader Joe's (grocery store gods). The vegan chocolate chips were found at my local grocery store in Tulsa but I imagine you can find a version at Sprouts and Wholefoods too.
Let's get to the dirty of it.
Makes 20 muffins.
1 3/4 cup of flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp clove
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 15oz can of pumpkin
1/2 cup of oat milk (or another non-dairy milk)
1/4 cup of oil (I used vegetable)
1/2 tub of vegan cream cheese (descriptive lol)
1 bag of vegan chocolate chips.
*Note: Unless fresh, these muffins taste best reheated. Zap them in the microwave for 30 seconds for gooey cream cheese and chocolate chips.
I'm trying really hard not to be the meme about the bloggers who have life stories before their recipes. You're welcome.
One-pot Vegan Chili
Cheap. Easy. Vegan. What more can you want?
When I checked the weather this week and saw cooler temperatures (well cool for September in Oklahoma), I immediately knew I needed to make a batch of vegan chili for this Rainy Tuesday.
Truly, this meal is incredibly simple to make and protein-packed (peep my blog post about vegans and our protein). Although I tend to just throw in different things to my vegan chili, this is one of my simple and easy recipes!
Prep time: 5 min Cook time: 40 min Total time: 45 min
1 cup of dried lentils
4 cups of water
I 15oz can of black beans
1 15oz can of kidney beans
1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
2 tbsp of chili powder
Add the water and the lentil to a pot and bring to a boil. After it has boiled bring the heat down and let it simmer for 20 minutes.
Next, drain both cans of beans and toss them in. Add in the diced tomatoes and chili powder. Stir together. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.
Serve in a bowl with some corn chips and vegan cheese or sour cream. BAMB. That short and easy! No chopping, barely any prep. Perfect when you want a hearty meal but are too tired to make anything that requires much effort.
Another bonus: this tiny powerhouse dish contains 27g of protein per serving! Vegans can eat!
When work consumes your life
he beginning of the school year can be unbelievable hard for teachers. and really, there is not much balance in any field of work nowadays. Americans are overworked, underpaid, and exhausted. Our society has built us to believe to achieve the American Dream we must work our asses off. For many people, they never achieve this "dream" and stay exhausted until they retire or die. That is incredibly morbid, but it's the truth of the system. Everything in our lives centers around work; what we do in the evenings and on weekends; how early we wake up; what we have for dinner (if work is tiring and we are too tired then it's take-out).
And frankly. I'm pretty tired of being tired. I want to enjoy my work but enjoy and actually live my life too. And some of you may be feeling this way too. Our lack of work-life balance creates crippling anxiety and depression. We can't quit our jobs because we need money. But what can we do with our jobs to make them slightly better and more manageable? That is my goal!
If you work in a high-stress job like me, you likely end up working longer hours than you are paid and take work home. So stop. When your paid time it up, or at least close to it, then stop. In some countries, like Germany, teachers are legally not allowed to work outside of their contract hours. Can you imagine how amazing that would be? After learning this, I've tried to take baby steps to get closer to this goal. Of course, I am not perfect. I work and extra hour here and there. I respond to texts from my parents or my boss in the evenings. But I have tried to put in a system that helps me be more productive during the day so I have less to do in the evenings and weekends. Being an avid adventurer, a grad student, a book club member, AND a teacher means I have to stay super organized.
1. Create a daily to-do list. Simple, but incredibly effective. It's so satisfying to mark things off the list. If you find this to be too much, then chances are you are overwhelmed and need a mental break to even think. This is where I say step away from your work. Even if it's just a brisk walk to the other side of the school, down the street, anything. Your brain needs to check out from what you are doing in moments like that when you are too stressed to think. When you come back, even if it was just for 5 minutes, you will be able to think more clearly. Chances are if your stress levels are that high, you will not be able to be productive even with the work you are currently doing. So take that quick brain break and get back to work. TRUST ME. I've been there, and this works wonders for me.
2. Take a break. Get up and stretch. Go for a walk. When you are stressed it is hard to think clearly and be productive. A little jaunt down the street could make your mind feel at ease and ready to take on the next task.
3. DRINK WATER. This is hard to do when you are in the zone but you have to literally to live. When I am tired and sluggish, I realize it's always when I am dehydrated.
4. Don't overdo it on the coffee. Yes, it might help at the moment, but there is always a crash afterward. Opt for a cup a day and add in some tea instead of some lighter caffeine.
5. Practice mindfulness. I am finding myself depending on a lot of breathing exercises throughout the day to help keep my mind clear and focused. Often I get frustrated, and my mind gets jumping. Breathing exercises are helping me to set my intentions.
6. Stop working when your shift is up. I'm serious. Close your computer and enjoy your life. Work is not the end all be all. It feels like it a lot (especially as a teacher when so many depend on you) but just stops working. Don't be afraid to tell a coworker, boss, or stakeholder (like a parent for teacher) that you will get to it in the morning. We are all human and we all need rest.
I hope some of these tips help you to set boundaries and take care of yourself. Enjoy those evenings and weekends. And work productively but don't overwork yourself!
An elementary school educator by day, grad student by night. And I somehow manage to live life to the fullest in-between.