My Techniques for Anxiety Relief

Going from one pandemic to another, it feels like the world is collapsing down on us. My anxiety has most definitely heightened and I’ve noticed my mental and physical health taking a toll. Nerve wrecking events lead to chemical imbalances and can have long term negative effects on your health. When the body is under stress, you’ll notice it starts breaking down. We are in fight or flight mode, which makes your internal body work in overdrive. Be aware of that, acknowledge that we all experience those feelings and know that it will pass. The key is to admit your anxiety, express those feelings, and make the changes in your daily life to maintain your physical and mental health.

Health has always been my number one priority. I’ve tested and tried out so many products for the past 3+ years to see what will keep my body functioning well. Here are some natural supplements and products I’ve incorporated in my daily routine to keep my temple balanced and protected. Remember, our bodies are all built differently, so what works for me might not work for you. Long term consistency with ALL of these habits/supplements/products below has made a difference in my life. This does not happen overnight- developing a routine and incorporating all of these elements habitually will help in times like this. 

AFFIRMATIONS

I’m constantly scrolling on Pinterest. There’s an abundance of information on there that is so useful and whenever I’m feeling down or anxious, it’s been an extremely helpful site for me. I search up positive, strengthening quotes that help keep me level headed. Visually reading motivational quotes shifts my mindset and when you consistently repeat positive affirmations, you are actively rewiring your anxious thoughts.

CBD CREAM

Have you noticed the facial expressions you make whenever you’re under stress/ anxiety? Your face has so many muscles and sometimes we furrow our brows or clench your jaws without realizing it. These unconscious facial expressions deepen your wrinkles overtime, but worse, it leads to tension headaches. I constantly suffer from headaches and CBD cream has helped relieve some of the inflammation. I buy the ShiKai brand from Co-Op and apply the lotion on my temples, neck, shoulders, wherever the tension is. 

EPSOM SALT

Epsom salt is also known as magnesium sulfate. Magnesium is a mineral that we do not get enough of in our diet and when you dissolve this chemical compound in a warm bath, you soak in all the benefits through your skin. Taking a hot bath also has calming effects. Whenever I feel an anxiety attack coming along, taking a hot bath reverses those feelings. I like to add Dr. Teal’s foaming epsom salts in my baths. If i’m taking a bubble bath to relax and unwind, I use the lavender scent. If I’m having any sort of tension, aches or stress, I use the Eucalyptus Spearmint scent. 

EXERCISE

I’m not the best with this one… but staying active is key! Even if you do not enjoy exercising, it’s important to get your body moving. Go on a simple walk around the block, a 5 minute yoga video on Youtube, or stretch out your body! It will provide mental clarity, lowers your heart rate and blood pressure. 

MAGNESIUM POWDER

Magnesium helps your brain produce neurotransmitters that reduce stress. I like to scoop some Natural Vitality CALM powder into some sparkling water and drink it right before bed. I’ve noticed it helps me sleep through the night better and relaxes my body. They sell this at Whole Foods and it comes in different fruity flavors for you to choose from- my favorite is raspberry lemon!

MAGNESIUM OIL 

During traumatic, stressful times, our body tenses up, our shoulders and necks form knots, our jaws clench down so tightly, and we might not even notice the subtle changes in our body. The minerals in magnesium help relieve sore muscles. Your body absorbs it very quickly and in a short 10-15 minutes you will feel a difference in where you apply this oil. Make sure to buy a highly concentrated good quality one for the full effect. Sometimes for me, as a hypochondriac, the moment there is a slight discomfort that is all my mind can focus on. So when I’m able to temporarily make the tension fade, it distracts my mind from it and I’m able to relax more. This is the specific magnesium oil I recommend and use.

MASSAGER

This massager was recommended by Chrislle Lim, an influencer I’ve been following and I rarely fall for promotion/ad products, but this was something she purchased on her own and was highly recommended. When I first got it, I wasn’t too big of a fan… It didn’t seem to make my muscle tension feel any better. I realized wearing it properly on my shoulders didn’t fix the deep knots, but I played around with it and made it work. Now I’m constantly using it to ease my shoulder tensions. I don’t recommend just wearing it normally on your neck, but instead place it diagonally on your back, starting from the shoulder. Adjust the massager depending on where the tension is. It is pretty powerful and you will be sore the next day if you pull on this massager too tightly. 

MEDITATION// DEEP BREATHING

This is probably one of the hardest tasks, especially when there are so many thoughts running inside our brain. It’s something you’ll have to practice, and if meditation is too difficult, try 5 minutes of deep breathing exercises instead. Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen which stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system and that promotes a state of calmness. It takes the focus off of the anxiety and helps you feel more connected to your body. There’s many resources out there for guided meditation such as HeadSpace, but there’s one deep sleep meditation soundtrack on YouTube that always does the trick for me! Give it a try and see if the music helps find your inner peace.

PEPPERMINT/ MENTHOL STICK

Menthol is known as a muscle relaxant. It does not cure you, but will help the symptoms subside. I swear by this product!!! It has gotten me through anxiety, nausea, headaches, motion sickness. You can pretty much find one of these sticks in every single room in the house. This is the one I stock up on whenever I’m home in Taiwan. I’ve seen other products out there, however I know this is 100% menthol and I’m all for supporting Taiwanese businesses.

PRAY

Sometimes anxiety can make you feel like your mind is spinning in circles, so actively setting aside a moment to pray can train your mind to snap out of it. For some, praying can help with calming anxious thoughts. Reciting a prayer, repeating a mantra will help you control your thoughts a bit better and slow down the pace. 

PROBIOTIC

When your body is under stress, your tummy gets into all these knots. It can lead to nausea, constipation, diarrhea, etc. Calming an anxious gut with probiotic has been a MAJOR life changing supplement for me. Even if I feel fine, I’ve incorporated probiotics into my diet every single day. If you don’t want to take probiotic supplements, try drinking Kombucha or yogurt, which both contain natural antioxidants and probiotics! I use the brand Antibiophilus for probiotics, which is not sold in the US (my parents send them over from Taiwan), however David uses this one which is widely available online and at Whole Foods. Important: focus on the amount of STRAINS in the bottle (the more the merrier)

SUNSHINE

We’ve been in lockdown for 3+ months now, and with current events, Santa Monica’s even had curfew starting as early as 1:30pm… We all feel so trapped inside. It’s necessary to keep your body moving and soak in some vitamin D! Vitamin D will boost your energy level and nervous system. Go for a walk, read in your backyard, plant some vegetables. Never take a breath of fresh air for granted.

TEA

Staying hydrated is key in everyday life. If you’re like me, drinking water consistently can be a bit tricky. I love a good cup of coffee, but too much caffeine can have adverse effects (heart palpitation which then increases my anxiety) The warmth of a nice hot cup of tea will have a soothing effect. Every night I drink a combination of chamomile and peppermint tea to wind down and relax before bedtime. 

VITAMIN B COMPLEX

This vitamin is so crucial for women. Whenever I am consistent with taking this supplement, I notice a huge difference in my energy level. I’m less fatigued and more alert. Research shows Vitamin B2 helps prevent migraines and vitamin B12 reduces the risk of depression and anxiety.  The one I currently take is only sold in Taiwan and I have not been able to find it here in the U.S, however there are a ton of options!

I’d love to learn more about the tools that you use and incorporate in your life to help manage your anxiety. 

Xoxo,

Soph

Apple Galette with Lemon Marmalade

This has been my go to baking recipe during quarantine. It’s my version of an apple galette. Galette’s are flat, open faced crusts and I’m all about that. I’ve never really been a crust person- with pies & pizzas, I always end up giving David my crusts. I’m obsessed with it and can eat the whole thing in one sitting…. Though I try to space it out with only one slice a day 😉 It looks fancy and complicated, but it’s actually SUPER easy. It’s somewhat on the healthier end compared to brownies, marshmallow stuffed cookies, etc and you can adjust/ add your own twist to it depending on your taste preference! I hope you give this a try and if you do, make sure to tag me on @sophcation 

DOUGH
1 and ½ cup of flour
3 TBS of sugar  (white or cane)
½ cup of unsalted butter  (1 whole stick)
1 tsp of lemon zest
4-5 TBS of cold water 
Pinch of salt

FILLING
3 large apples (it’s quarantine so use what you have!)
2 TBS of brown sugar
2 TSP of vanilla extract 
1 teaspoon cinnamon or more if you like more spice 
1 TBS of lemon zest
Squeeze half of a small lemon 
Pinch of salt
2 TBS of Lemon marmalade jam (substitute with apricot/ sour tangy jam that’ll pair well with apples)

First, make the dough. Combine all the ingredients and use a fork or your hands to knead the ingredients into a soft dough. It should feel like playdoh… If your dough feels too sticky/wet, add a bit more flour. If it’s too dry and flaky, add some more cold water. Use seran wrap and pop it in the fridge to sit for 30 minutes.

During this time, I like to make the filling. Wash your apples and slice them thinly and evenly. Sprinkle in the sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, lemon, salt and mix it together with the apples in a bowl. You can let this sit for 15 min in the fridge so the apples soak up all the flavors.

When the dough is ready, take it out and roll it into a thin round crust. This is when you can add a layer of jam in the center and spread it out (tip: dont spread it out too far to the edge because you will need to fold the edges over after) Line your apples nicely, starting from the outer layer and work your way in. You should approximately have 2 rows of apples! Then take the edges and roll them up to create a barrier.

Bake for 375 F for 30 minutes and voila! Enjoy and pair a slice of this yummy apple galette with a hot cup of coffee.

Xoxo,

Soph

Authentic Taiwanese Pickled Cucumber

This is one of my favorite childhood side dishes- Taiwanese smashed pickled cucumber! My mom and uncle used to make this pretty often and I just can’t get enough of the garlicky, vinegary taste. They have these at Din Tai Fung, but to be honest, they don’t make it that flavorful…. (dont get me wrong, I LOVE Din Tai Fung for other main dishes) 

After my trips back home from Taiwan, I always crave it, so I decided to perfect the recipe. I’m so happy to share this special dish with you and if you give it a try, let me know how you liked it!

INGREDIENTS

2-5 Persian Cucumbers

5 Garlic cloves (we LOVE garlic… add less or more depending on your taste)

1 Chili Pepper (1 Red or Yellow) or substitute with black peppercorns

4 Tablespoons of White Vinegar (depends on how vinegary you like your cucumbers- adjust accordingly)

2 Tablespoons of Sesame Oil

1/2 Tablespoons of Salt

1/2 Tablespoons of Sugar

Red Onion (Optional)

STEP 1:

First, wash your cucumbers. Cut the ends off, take the flat side of the knife and SMASH your cucumber until it starts breaking off into bite size pieces. 

STEP 2:

Put the cucumbers in a glass tupperware and sprinkle in the white/cane sugar and salt. Use your hands and mix it together so the cucumbers are evenly coated. Put a lid on it and stick in the fridge for 2 hours. 

STEP 3:

Slice chili pepper- keep the seeds if ya like it spicy. Since we’re in quarantine, we might not have the exact ingredients…. so improvise! I’ve used fresh grounded black pepper or peppercorn and it works just as well.

Smash the garlic. This method helps the aroma come out more when you marinate it. Optional: slice some red onions

STEP 4:

Drain and rinse the salted cucumbers that have been sitting in the fridge. Add chili peppers/onions/garlic to the cucumbers and combine it with vinegar and sesame oil. I like to sprinkle a generous pinch of cane sugar before I pop it back in the fridge.

Mix it all up and marinate for at least a couple of hours. The longer you marinate the more pungent the taste. ENJOY!

Xoxo,

Soph