Health & Wellbeing

This is the second post in my series on vocation, marriage and work.

From my last post:

We had successes along the way, I'm very proud of our achievements and projects. And I don't regret the journey or the difficult things we went through because of what we've learned through the process. But we couldn't continue on the path we were because it was hurting our relationship, not helping it, not drawing us closer the way we intended.

The path we were on started breaking down for us on the trail and completely imploded late fall 2014. I call it The Breaking.

This series started in my drafts as a single post about understanding work and calling. One post grew pretty quick into two, and three, then four... because I had a lot to write, especially when it came to this point in the story. I need to explain The Breaking and how I'm learning to listen for the voice of vocation in the aftermath that experience.

The Breaking is part of my midlife crisis. It's the undercurrent behind almost everything I've written since fall 2014. I hadn't intended to tell this story in the context of vocation and work, but it's the story that has bubbled to the surface in many posts and has been told in bits and pieces, through direct and indirect means, over many months.

It's time to tell the whole story, the outline at least, to put it all together to explain why The Breaking came in the context it did: where we were living, what we were doing, and why our work was wrapped up in that.

In the spring of 2011 we moved to re-boot our life, we called it Life 3.0. We wanted to move so we could position ourselves better to work towards our goals and dreams. The chief reason for our move was to gain back our freedom but we were also making big changes in our lives at the same time, moving to a francophone province, living in the woods, becoming self-employed, having Damien work from home.

There was so much for our family to gain from this, but there were losses as well, and fear. There were many things I was anxious about in this move; still owning a home in Maine and having to manage it from afar, concerns about where we would live, and how Damien would build a self-employed income.

Even though we were leaving good things - a steady job, our own home, a community we knew - we both felt this was the right move for our family. That it provided the opportunity to better align our life with our dreams and our goals. I believed this, but I still had many doubts, insecurities and anxieties.

Sixes are the primary type in the Thinking Triad, meaning that they have the most trouble contacting their own inner guidance. As a result, they do not have confidence in their own minds and judgements. This does not mean they do not think. On the contrary, they think - and worry - a lot!
~ Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson

I'm not the type of person to make this kind of move on my own. It's crazy to think about "me on my own" because I'm not. I'm part of a team, a partner with Damien. Who Damien is influences me, and who I am greatly influences my husband. I'm not drawn to risk-taking ventures. My natural bent is to play it safe. If I'm going to take a risk I need a partner to help me.

Damien and I have taken many calculated risks in our married life. We had made a couple big moves already before Life 3.0. Maybe it was my age or the fact that our kids were getting older and life felt less "pick-up-and-move" portable like it had in our early years, maybe my preferences as a security-seeking person had finally started to catch up with me, maybe it was the fact that we were leaving things we didn't have in all those previous moves - our own home and a secure job. I can't pinpoint exactly what it was, but moving stirred up anxieties I hadn't experienced before, at least not to this degree. And how I "managed" those anxieties would prove to be detrimental to my well-being and our marriage.

I started to rely on Damien in unhealthy ways, seeking his reassurance, leaning on his confidence. "Is this going to be ok?" "Are we doing the right thing?" became a theme in my communication with him.

Because they do not feel they can trust their own inner guidance, Sixes often look for answers in ideas and insights first propounded by others. Sixes do not just jump on the bandwagon, however; they will subject these ideas to scrutiny and testing and eventually may replace them with yet other ideas. ... Either way, their natural response is first to look outside of themselves for something to believe, and if that fails, to react against it and look for something else. Doubt, questioning, believing, searching, skepticism, and resistance are always part of the picture.
~ Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson

It's ok to seek the reassurance of our partners. And at various points in a marriage we need to rely on the other person to support us. And for those of us bent on finding and doing the "right" thing with our life (which is not everyone, not my husband for example), we may ask these questions often. My problem arose in that I was asking my husband these questions, and variations like them, on an increasing basis. When we made decisions I was an equal partner in those decisions but when I encountered my insecurities and anxieties I turned to Damien for support, over and over and over again.

Damien didn't feel insecure by our decisions, in many ways he felt enlivened and challenged. His fears are of a completely different sort. In fact, a lot what we were doing at this stage was in response to those fears, was a way of moving away from the realms in which his chief fears are manifest.

I couldn't have made the decision to leave Maine and embark on a self-employed path, which we both felt was the right thing to do at the time, without relying on Damien's confidence. I don't think that's wrong, or was a mistake. I think the purpose of marriage is to help each other. But relying on Damien's confidence became a theme in our relationship, and something unhealthy started to take root.

Average Sixes want to reinforce their support system, to strengthen their alliances and/or ther position with authorities. To that end, they invest most of their time and energy in the commitments they have made, hoping that their sacrifices will pay off in the increased security and mutual support.
~ Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson

The move and embarking on self-employment was my first big security shaker. And the decision to move to Quebec, just added fuel to the fire of anxiety, that was just starting to burn low in my belly.

For reasons I've explained here, when we moved back to Canada we choose to live in Quebec. Quebec is part of Canada but is a different culture, with a unique history and different majority language from the rest of the country.

During my early childhood and late adolescence, in other words, my formative years, Quebec and Canada went through the upheaval of sovereignty/separation referendums. I grew up as a proud western Canadian, in a conservative political and familial culture which was mostly "happy to see you go" about the whole issue. For me, a person who values security, tradition, authority and loyalty, the Quebec fight for independence seemed less about self-determination and freedom, ideas I also value, and more of rejection of the beliefs I held dear and true.

Living in Quebec now for five years I know there is no clear resolution to this political tension, it is very complex issue; nor is there a unified "Quebec" position about these things. Quebec is a very diverse place and I am finding my own secure place, as an aspiring bilungiual but still very anglo-anglophone, former New England sojourner, from western Canada. Living in Montreal helps. So many people I know are from somewhere else and have stories like mine. I fit here.

Five years ago I was very excited to move to Quebec, specifically the beautiful region of the Gaspe Peninsula. I love beauty and seeing new places but I was very scared. I was scared I'd be rejected as a western-born and raised anglophone (a fear that's never come true). And more importantly I was scared my right to homeschool my children would be challenged by the authorities.

Quebec is the least-friendly province to homeschoolers. As progressive as the province appears to be, the open-ness is extended towards the collective ideal, pursuing ideas that are best for the group, and only if those ideas are secular and/or left of center. It's the least libertarian place I've lived. And a lot of my homeschool values are very libertarian, the anti-thesis of group-think. (My politics are complicated because I'm also very interested in the concept of Guaranteed Minimum Income and a believer in Universal Health Care. But I'm not going there in this post.)

Suffice to say, moving to Quebec, as much as I was excited to do so, stirred up a lot of insecurity and anxiety. Would I be rejected as an anglophone? (This hasn't happened once, at least not that I've noticed.) Would Child Protective Services come to my door? (Yes. And they closed our file, and confidentially admitted we offered our kids access to better resources than the local public school system. I think the myriad technological devices scattered through our home and the microscope, which I prominently displayed for their visit, was part of this assessment.)

Quebec is a place I have come to know and love. Since living here I have made it a point to study Quebec. I nearly always have a book on-the-go to help me understand this beautiful place I now call home. Quebec has a rich history I deeply appreciate, and natural and architectural beauty I love to explore. And as it turns out this province is actually part of our heritage (Damien's ancestors on his Dad's side are from a town not far from Montreal) which I didn't know until Brienne did a family tree project last year. For these and other reasons, I feel I belong here as much as anyone else. But this awareness and sense of belonging has taken five years to cultivate and when we moved here I relied on Damien's sense of "ok-ness", I relied on his French, and I relied on his reassurance when I experienced anxiety. I was looking outside myself for reassurance and confidence.

"Sixes are always aware of their insecurities and are always looking for ways to construct "social security" bulwarks against them. If Sixes feel that they have sufficient backup, they can move forward with some degree of confidence. But if that crumbles, they become anxious and self-doubting, reawakening their Basic Fear. ("I'm on my own! What am I going to do now?") A good question for Sixes might therefore be: "When am I going to know that I have enough security? Or to get right to the heart of it, "What is security?" Without Essential inner guidance and the deep sense of support that it brings, Sixes are constantly struggling to find firm ground.
~ Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson

Those were the big security-shakers for me and we proceeded to invite and experience more: a period of exploring new ideas and lots of out-of-the-box thinking, moving houses four times, walking in a spiritual wilderness disconnected from a Christian community, our children reaching the teenage years, and then hiking the Appalachian Trail. Hiking the Appalachian Trail is enough of a life-changing, significant experience in one's life, an epic pilgrimage.

That we experienced all of this in a four year time span amazes me. I look back and I see that yes, I was relying a lot on Damien for my sense of well-being, which makes me feel shame. But I can also see that I was incredibly courageous in the face of these many transitions. And I feel both proud and tender-hearted towards myself.

The irony is that the more insecure and lacking confidence they are, the more Sixes rely on external support, and the more they lose their independence.
~ Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson

It is no surprise, given what we did (took lots of "risks" and lived through many transitions) and how we did it (me relying on Damien) that when we reached The Breaking I was at the lowest point of my confidence in my adult life, and I was wracked with anxiety. I hadn't done the inner work at that point, so I didn't understand what I know now. Damien asked me the honest question, "what happened to your confidence?" and I wondered the same thing. And so I set a path for myself to find the answers and to find confidence once again.

Project Home and Healing was a part of that journey. Moving to Montreal was part of that journey. And so was a lot of introspection, honest and difficult communication with Damien, and increasing self-awareness.

After The Breaking I created a two column document named Who We Are.

One side of the column is titled Damien and the other Renee. This two column lay-out is divided into rows, and these rows are titled with headers like: Personality Type. Core Needs. Core Values. Personality Traits. Motivated & Energized By. Chief Fear.

It's an evolving document, as I refine the understanding of who I am, who my husband is, who we are.

Damien loves big projects that give him the chance to go deep into problem solving, that require and depend on his knowledge and expertise in crafting elegant technical solutions. He thrives in ideas and actions that push his boundaries, both in technical and physically challenging situations that depend on outside-the-box thinking. Damien is completely comfortable, in fact, most alive, when working towards a big vision that requires movement through undefined territory. He is enlivened by finding innovative solutions to reach a goal and he is wired to break ground.

And he believes in his abilities, skills, and experience to rise to those occasions.

The AT was a perfect project for Damien: so many challenges to overcome (thru-hiking with a family, hello?), being full-time outdoors, integrating work and keen interests, and building an online infrastructure to publish this adventure.

And for me it was overwhelm at nearly every level, because... surprise, surprise... I'm not like Damien. I thrive in procedures and structure. And in order to hike the Appalachian Trail, and to do many of things we did in the years leading up to the trail, in order for me to feel some measure of safety and security, that everything would be ok, I had step behind Damien because I was too scared to walk side by side.

Sixes would like a guarantee that if they do all they are supposed to do, then God (or the company, or their family) will take care of them. They believe that if they and their allies manage their environment well enough, then all unpredictable and potentially dangerous events will be avoided or controlled.... There is nothing that Sixes can do in the external world that will make them feel secure if they are insecure within themselves.
~ Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson

The fact that I would do this, step behind instead of walk side by side, that I would think that following seemed like the "right way", the "best way" to minimize risk and insecurity; those thoughts took root because of beliefs I held about marriage.

And that's where we have to go now in this story.

This post is a continuation of my last one. I'm going to explain the Herbs & Essential Oils Super Bundle, tell you what I like about it, and what resources I plan to use. I will also talk a little bit about essential oils.

The thing I appreciate most about this bundle is how focused it is on one topic. Most bundle sales don't appeal to me in part because there is simply too much stuff. Too much digital stuff, is still too much stuff.

And of course the subject is exactly what I need right now to help me get my act together for the next cold and flu season.

Bundle Details

The bundle contains 20 resources which include 4 online courses, 14 ebooks, and 2 printable packs.

I bought a bundle for myself (full disclosure: at a discounted affiliate rate) and I've done an overview of most of the material to plan my course of action in using these resources.

I'm impressed with the depth and scope of what's offered in the focused topics of herbs and essential oils. I'm impressed with the variety of teaching methods - audio, video and reading materials. And I'm super impressed with bonus offer.

The bundle costs $29.97 and is such a good deal, as I describe below.

It's only available till Monday, June 27th 11:59 EST. I have no idea if it will return later in the year as flash sale. (I usually despise flash sales, they seem so gimmicky.) If you think you can use these materials, I would take advantage of the sale while you can.

Here's what I like in these resources and what I plan to use.

This bundle has more value than my original plan to buy a couple online courses to get me ready for next winter. I do feel I have to work for it a little bit more than if I bought a specific, targetted "cold & flu" course. I have to sort through the 20 resources and set up my learning path, but I've pretty much done that work already in reviewing the material to write this post. In addition, I get more than the cold & flu material and the bonus offer is worth the bundle price alone.


  • The ecourse I am most excited about is Herbs & Oils: Beyond the Basics from Vintage Remedies. It covers oils and herbs, including safety and toxicology, effective dosing and advanced research. One of the things I found most frustrating this winter, as we dealt with real sickness, is the "try a bit a this" approach and folksy-type wisdom people like to dole out. When you're not very sick, when the cold lasts a couple days, folksy wisdom is nice; sipping hot tea in bed, etc. But I want to know what really works when you're battling a beast, in what kind of doses and when to use it. I'm hoping this course will teach me.

  • 5 Multi-Use Herbs (And What to Do with Them). This is a video teaching. Yay for not having to read more stuff. I love when things - furniture, food, etc can serve multi-purposes so I'm keen to learn about multi-use herbs, especially since yarrow grows like a weed in my yard and it's one of the herbs taught. I've been feeling really bad about my weedy yard and then this bundle comes along and I realize what a gift it is to have so much yarrow at my disposal!

  • The Essential Oils Course course by family physician, Dr. Edie Wadsworth. I'm especially interested in her teaching on efficacy, emotions, and safety. This teaching has a very strong Christian bias, that frankly, I am uncomfortable with, but oh well. I'm hoping it won't detract too much from what I'm learning. From the little bit of research I have already done, I believe I could increase my emotional wellbeing and lower my stress and anxiety with essential oils. I'm currently taking an online course, gifted from my mom, to help me in this regard. I'll be curious to see how Dr. Wadsworth teaching compares to what I'm doing already.


  • Wellness Mama is one of the go-to resources in the blogging world for recipes and DIY on all things wellness, herbal, make-it-yourself wisdom. I'ved used her recipes a lot over the years: non-toxic cleaners, homemade makeup for Brienne, etc. Her book Handbook of Home Remedies is very extensive. I'll be focusing on the cold & flu protocols for now. But this is one of those comprehensive resources you can have at your fingertips and if your cupboards are stocked (she gives a list in the front) you can make what you need as situations arise.

  • Cold & Flu Season: Are You Ready? (not yet, but I will be). This is one of the main resources I will be scouring when I put together my plan.

  • Common Sense Home Remedies Book #1 – Head, Throat & Chest - This ebook feels like folksy wisdom but I will be pulling recipes out of here. The last section on Home Remedies for Seasonal Allergies is very intriguing to me. In the past few years, I've noticed our family suffering more with these, not significantly but some. It could just be that we are being exposed to new pollens - I noticed the symptoms on the trail and also this year in Montreal. It could also be exacerbated by dairy consumption, something we didn't eat for years but are now eating (mostly organic and raw) more frequently.

  • The Beginner’s Guide To Adaptogens: Herbs For Energy, Stress Relief & Immune Support Adaptogenic herbs are something I have been experimenting with, mostly as related to mental and emotional health. Adaptogens are herbs that support good health, which includes immune function. As I understand it, "they build you up" and they are notable for their support in adrenal health. I use them in supplement form as part of my winter wellness toolkit and also as part of my anxiety solutions. But my knowledge of how they work and how to incorporate them, beyond supplement form, is surface at best. I'd like to move my knowledge of adaptogens beyond experimentation and buzz word recognition into sound practice. I'd also like to learn how to make my own preparations to save money.

  • Homegrown Healing: From Seed to Apothecary is a comprehensive herbal resource. Herbal knowledge is basically the same across most of the resources I've found. What makes this ebook unique is the gardening emphasis which I am keen about right now as I have a full sun, tabula rasa (albeit weedy) backyard and I am designing gardens right now.

  • Essential Oils: Separating Truth from Myth - The next section of this post explains why I appreciate this ebook de-bunking 25 myths about essential oils. I don't think the author holds 100% of the truth, but the information seems balanced. I had believed the myth that essential oils are superior to simple herbal remedies, which is part of how I lost the little bit of herbal knowledge I did have. I replaced it with an over-reliance on a product I didn't entirely understand. And when we got really sick this winter, in spite of using essential oils, I felt a bit misled. I'm not blaming anyone. I need to arrive at my own understanding of these things, not take other people's positions, even people I trust, for gospel truth. (This is something I am prone to by nature.)

The cost of all these resources as stand-alone products is $324.90. Even if some are over-valued (another gimmick I despise) it's still a great price.

Let's talk about Essential Oils.

I have a lot of confusion about essential oils.

They are a "relatively" new thing in the North American natural health and wellness community. I've seen them in health food stores for years but dismissed them as over-priced incense. And their meteoric rise in popularity over the past few years is due to multi-level marketing, of which I am highly suspicious.

One of my dear, close friends has used essential oils therapeutically for years and her advice is sometimes different from my friends and relatives who got into this very recently through the MLM side of things.

I started using essential oils a few years ago, and honestly, I just don't feel educated enough. At first, I thought they were ok to just experiment with. "It can't hurt!", bloggers, acquaintances, all essential oils newbies, were telling me. Well, yes it can.

And just because you've been using a product for a few months does not make you an expert.

I feel fairly ignorant about essential oils for health, but haven't had the mental energy to do anything about it. This winter I was extremely frustrated with how hit-or-miss it all felt. I'm not asking for guarantees but it's important to me that I'm using best practices and that I'm learning from people who have extensive experience and a scientific understanding (that's my bias).

The science around essential oils is exploding but a lot of confusion still exists for me.

I also don't like all the "start a business stuff" that accompanies so much of the essential oil teaching and online health teaching in general. I don't want to start a business or be coached in reaching my potential as a consultant. There is nothing wrong with these aims of course, they're just not mine.

My aim is to use essential oils with knowledge and confidence and I feel this bundle offers that kind of teaching.

This winter I watched a great, free video from Lisa Grace Byrne about essential oils. And I found her approach completely refreshing and well-grounded (no pun intended). You can access that here. Her teaching always feels so solid to me, and trustworthy. This video is not about cold and flu but overall wellness and self-care, her speciality.

The Bonus Offer (more than icing on the cake)

The bonus offer in the bundle is fabulous.

In order to use essential oils and herbs you have to have them in your cupboards. You can grow your own herbs, or wild-harvest them, but most of use buy what we need. And very few people are set up to make their own essential oils. You need the stuff to use the stuff.

The bonus offer of this bundle has you covered with a 50% (50%!) coupon code for the online apothecary Golden Poppy.

The discount applies to bulk herbs and essential oils.

Here's the bad news, it's only good for shipping in the U.S. I happen to be traveling to the U.S. this summer so I had my order shipped there. If you are in Canada and can't access this, I'm sorry. (I know, it sucks.)

Here's a screenshot of what I ordered:

You can see that my savings were greater than the price of the bundle. I needed these oils anyway, they were on my to-buy list. This was a sweet deal.

Because I am familiar with doTERRA and I buy almost all my oils through that company (because I am able to support my mom and brother in doing so), I did a price comparison and found that the average pre-discount price of buying oils at Golden Poppy was a bit less than the doTERRA equivalents. This is not surprising because doTERRA's prices are set up for MLM sales. This is not bad or good, it just is.

If you are interested in buying oils and potentially saving money/earning money by having friends/family buy oils through you I recommend doTERRA. I can get you set up with my mom who does this for a business and can walk you through the whole process. You totally want to meet my mom. She's the best.


If you are at all interested in growing your knowledge in herbs and essential oils, you simply cannot go wrong with this bundle, priced at $29.97. And if you take advantage of the bonus offer (you really should), and purchase some herbs and oils at 50% off, your savings on those products pays for your teaching material.

You have a 30 day happiness guarantee with this bundle. I'm not sure how you can go wrong.

If you have any questions about the bundle contents before you purchase feel free to ask me. I will do my best to give you an honest evaluation, based on your needs and interests. I'm on Facebook, you can email me or leave a comment.

I don't know exactly how long I've struggled with anxiety.

When I first started working on this post I thought it must have been sometime in the fall of 2014, post thru-hike, when I named my struggle with anxiety. But I recently found a journal entry from the summer of 2013 in which I wrote that one of the things I hoped to accomplish in hiking the AT was to "learn how to master my mind, to gain the upper hand on my anxiety tendencies".

Sure enough, when I do a search on the blog for "anxiety" that word starts showing up with some frequency in 2013. I was pretty anxious about our hike and all the many unknowns that accompanied that adventure.

I forgot I wrote that in my journal. I didn't accomplish my goal of "mastering my mind" on the AT or gaining the upper hand on anxiety. It was almost the opposite.

Like many people with anxiety I am a really good manager and if I can manage things "just so" and control situations to my liking the anxiety is less prevalent in my life. Generally, I think I "managed" things really well till about five years ago and then things started to go a little off the rails in terms of my sense of security and I was pretty much destined to come face to face with my anxiety.

I know over the years I've recognized times of fear in myself, and of course doubt, but I didn't recognize the underlying anxiety in my life. I'm pretty sure it wasn't as bad when I was a young woman and young mother. I just don't remember it being an issue. I felt fairly secure and confident at that point in my life and that would have definitely helped to ameliorate any underlying anxiety.

One of the tricky things about identifying something in yourself is that you have no idea other people are different. Doesn't everyone always think of the worst case scenario, anticipate the worst? Isn't everyone hypervigilant about danger and risk? Doesn't everyone catastrophize and ruminate? Etc.

I'm pretty sure that the three short episodes of situational depression in my life - late-winter 2012, March 2013 and my trail depression were due to unrecognized and unresolved anxiety.

I have family members who have struggled with anxiety and depression. This isn't particularly special, it feels like in modern society these are common afflictions. My point is, I probably have a genetic pre-disposition to this struggle.

I'm going to share my experience of identifying and dealing with anxiety in my life. I am not a professional, though I've gotten some recommendations from mental health professionals in my family. I'm not in therapy (but I have people to talk to) and I'm not taking medication.

What I share is my own experience and what I've learned from my reading, research, personal practice and disciplines.

My dear friend and wise woman Krista at A Life in Progress partnered with me to share her experiences and educated advice for dealing with anxiety and mood-balance. Krista is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, women's wellness advocate and wellness research geek. Her posts are:

In addition, last year Rachel Wolf published Ten tips to quiet anxiety. Her ideas, though brief, are very useful.

This is a very long post because I want all this information and the story in one place. There are eight sections and you can jump down directly with the following links:

What does anxiety feel like to me?

  • an overwhelming negative outlook on a situation
  • fear about unfamiliar situations and the future
  • the belief that a negative situation I'm currently experiencing is my future
  • a deep insecurity about belonging (or not belonging)
  • worry
  • overly sensitive reactions to unexpected stimuli (I freak out easily)
  • the belief that I do not have the resources I need to cope with a particular situation

The first thing I recognized when I came to accept that I struggle with anxiety, is that over many years I had developed a pattern of negative thinking, and I was so used to this way of thinking I wasn't even aware of it. I did this automatically.

This was one of the big lessons I learned on the trail, my thoughts could be faulty and toxic.

When I came home from the trail I knew I had to change my thinking. My thoughts were sabotoging me.

I recognized I had a problem, big time, but I also asked myself why the anxiety erupted in my life now. I've always been high strung, "anxious", a worrier, and tend towards pessimism over optimism, but none of that had derailed me the way I experienced on the trail and in the few years leading there.

At that point, in fall 2014/winter 2015, to help me answer the why question, I returned to studying my personality and increasing my self-knowledge. And what was glaringly obvious was that I was deeply insecure. I was crumbling. Some of these insecurities were "real" - the financial instability of our on-line business and self-employment. Others were things I perceived as insecure, and because perceptions are powerful and thoughts can create our reality, these were just as real.

I'm still pretty insecure in a lot of ways, not just related to finances or stability. I'm working on it.

Security & Stability

Security and stability are hugely important to me. I used to be ashamed of this since these traits make me less likely to take risks and more resistant to change. Mindsets that modern people are supposed to embrace in order to keep up with the times.

Years ago, when I met Damien and was assessing if he was "the one", one of the things I looked for was his ability to provide security and stability. These are core needs of mine and we didn't pay much attention to these core needs of mine for a few years. There was a lot of change and what I perceived as risk, and I slowly become less emotionally healthy because of it. (Core needs can also express themselves as core fears and this definitely happened to me but I'm not going into that right now. I talk a little bit about that in the personality section below.)

The perfect storm had brewed in which anxiety brought me to my knees. Toxic thoughts and ingrained negative thought patterns, an erosion of my sense of security, and a lot of things happening in my life that I couldn't control.

Anxiety is a personal issue but it's also a marital and family issue. How can it not be? So the first steps we took to deal with my anxiety and insecurity were to shift Damien's career back to full-time technology work, increasing our income; and we decided to move to Montreal, and stay here, for the remainder of our active child-raising years. Being able to adequately meet the kids social and intellectual needs greatly reduced my overall anxiety.

It's almost embarrassing to admit that Damien needed to make changes to his career to help with my anxiety, that we needed more money, that we had to change the circumstances, that I wasn't able to rise above this all on my own simply by changing my mindset. These changes haven't been the cure by any means, but it was a step in the right direction.

But that's just the reality, sometimes you have to change circumstances, make shifts in your relationships, etc. to provide the structural support you need so you can make the changes to your thinking. I'm just extremely grateful for a loving husband who recognized what needed to be done, I didn't at the time, and was willing to make those sacrifices for me.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

While I was on the trail a friend and trail angel (and one of the most positive thinking people I've met) told me about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I filed the idea away and came back to it the winter of 2015. I started slow (as I do with all new ideas) with some books from the library and then when we moved to Montreal last summer I got serious with The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Anxiety.

What is Cognitive Behavioralal Therapy, or CBT? Basically, it's re-training your brain and your conscious thought patterns and changing your behavior as a result.

The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Anxiety is a packed workbook, and the ideas repeat themselves throughout but are presented different ways and with different exercises.

I've been working in this book for 6 months and I'm not quite halfway through. You don't have to do the whole book, you can pick the chapters most applicable to you.

There is so much to say about CBT that I just don't have the time to go into here. CBT has shown me that I've lacked emotional resilience and that has gotten me into anxiety-producing mindsets and situations. It has shown me my faulty thinking. It's helped me identity my big anxiety triggers. It's shown me how my behaviors are a direct result of my thinking. This seems obvious but sometimes we think we're stuck in our behaviors, but the truth is we're only stuck if our minds are stuck.

The hardest part for me of CBT is doing it, putting into action what I've learned; re-routing my negative thoughts, being present in the moment of a reaction and choosing to re-direct that reaction.

Some days I'd rather crawl in a cave, where I won't have to interact with anyone or any situations and therefore can "control" my responses that way. And many times I just wish the world would change to my liking and save me all the effort of re-wiring my brain, but that's unlikely to happen.

CBT is hard work. The ideas are not hard, they make perfect sense. I love thinking about those ideas, reading, making notes, but putting them into practice is difficult.

Faulty thinking is a deadly threat to emotional and spiritual health... (and is) even more dangerous because it operates, for the most part, beyond our conscious awareness. Eradicating this deadly disease requires such radical surgery that it can almost be compared to getting a brain transplant.
Geri Scazzero from The Emotionally Healthy Woman

Another book I read last year and am nearly finished is The Emotionally Healthy Woman. My mom gifted this to me and it has been hugely helpful for me. It's not about anxiety, per se, but many of the ideas in this book are straight up CBT strategies and self-awareness principles. I've learned a lot from this book and I love its liberated Christian woman perspective. I highly recommend it.

Diet & Exercise

I have not focused on diet in addressing my anxiety. My diet has changed a bit over the past year, not in response to anxiety, but in response to some life realities: I don't like cooking very much, I have three hungry teenagers to feed, I live in a city with a lot of food options. I'm familiar, on the surface level, with gut mind theories, that what's going on in our gut affects our thinking. I just haven't been able to "go there" yet in my research and experimentation. And I don't know that I will. I'm trying these other strategies first.

And I simply can't imagine giving up my one cup of coffee a day. I'm happy to try every other strategy in the book before that one!

Daily outdoor exercise has been a part of my life for a few years now. I walk, bike, downhill and x-country ski. I recognize the importance of this discipline in my overall health and wellbeing. But I take exception to the idea that all a person needs to do is "get outside for some fresh air" and her anxiety will be resolved.

Things aren't that simple. I disagree with the adage that:

A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world.

This is a popular quote that appears as an image on the web, usually superimposed over a woman running on a beautiful sunny day. I experienced my most intense anxiety, shame, and depression while living in the great outdoors and vigorously walking many miles a day. I didn't need more exercise, I needed psychology, and maybe medicine.

All that to say diet and exercise were not the solutions to my anxiety. They play a role but they are not the answers, for me.

Amygdala & Supplements

In the process of reading The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Anxiety I learned about my amygdala, which was a lightbulb moment. For years I have called myself a panic mom, not in that I get panic attacks (I've never experienced that), but I react and over-react to simple things. The kids know this about me. I freak out easily.

If you have a sensitive amygdala, you'll have lots of false alarms. You are more likely to overreact to things when they are not where you expect them to be, as well as to strange sounds, quick movements, or unexpected changes in emotions.
from The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Anxiety


The amygdala contributes to negative feelings by increasing your perceptual sensitivity for negative stimuli.
from The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Anxiety

As I've gone through the journey of understanding my anxiety I have experienced many "aha" moments when I realize I'm not the only person like this. Learning about my amygdala was one of these moments.

I'm fairly certain I have a sensitive amygdala.

I did a bunch of reading about the amygdala, mostly online, and started taking supplements for the treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). I hate that label, I don't consider myself to have a disorder, I prefer "imbalances in my limbic system".

With a focus on correcting neurotransmitter imbalances in the limbic system, as well as hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysfunction, clinicians can choose from several scientifically supported nutrients and herbs the ones that are most appropriate for each patient to modulate these pathways and change the course of this disorder.
from Natural Medicine Journal Treatment Considerations for Generalized Anxiety Disorder

I'm currently taking magnesium and ashwagandha specifically for anxiety. And just recently I added St. John's Wort to help me get through winter. I also take a multi-vitamin which includes 2,000 IU's of vitamin D and 1250 mg (750 mg EPA and 500 mg DHA) of omega-3 fatty acids daily.

Supplements and dietary aids for anxiety is not my area of expertise or research. For that I direct you to Krista's post on supplements.


Last winter as I read, researched, and listened to podcasts (and interviews like this one on CBC with Dan Harris) it become clear to me that meditation would probably be really helpful. So last June I asked my friend to teach me how to meditate.

Not surprisingly, meditation and mindfulness shows up everywhere in my "how to deal with anxiety" research and reading.

I started meditating because I recognized the power of my mind and my thoughts. And I could see that my reaction to situations, my anxious responses, were driven by my subconscious.

I'm still learning how to meditate but the most important part is just showing up and making it part my routine.

My intention in meditating is to drive down truth into my subconscious. I want to react and respond from beliefs that are fundamentally different than the negativity and fear that drives me. I want to respond instinctively from a place of freedom and truth. This feels like a very tall order.

I don't do an "emptying of my mind" type of meditation. I'm very purposeful in my meditation.

Meditation for me looks something like this:

  • Focus on my breathing (and bring my focus back to my breath over and over again throughout the 10 minute session).
  • Clear my mind by focusing on my breathing.
  • Choose an image, phrase or mantra to "meditate" on. This is the part about driving down truth into my subconscious. I usually meditate on a Biblical truth, last fall I mostly focused on my identity and I come back to this often. Sometimes I will meditate on a few simple verses from my daily/weekly Bible reading. Sometimes I will take myself to a place in nature and "be there" in my meditation.

This is my goal in meditation (and CBT in general):

It’s creating the conditions whereby we can embark on a way of life that is not dictated by our instinctive reactivity, our habits, our fears, and so forth and so on, but stems from an openness, an inner openness, that is unconditioned by those forces, and that allows the freedom to think differently, to act differently, to respond more fully. And in doing so, to allow the human person to flourish. To realize more fully the potentials that each one of us has.
from OnBeing interview with Stephen Batchelor, The Limits of Belief, The Massiveness of the Questions

Learning how to breathe and relax my belly is part of my morning meditation, but I do those things throughout the day also to release anxiety and tension in my body. Deep breathing and relaxing your belly are very easy strategies to implement.

Personality & The Enneagram

I've been studying my personality since I was thirty-five. In fact, thirty-five was a threshold of self-discovery for me, when I started to want to deeply know and understand myself. It was very exciting.

My introduction to personality typing was Myers-Briggs, and oh how I do love that system. It was thrilling for me to read descriptions about my personality. It was a very validating experience, but also puzzling in some ways because I couldn't make sense of my rebellious, non-conforming behaviors within the structure of my personality type, which is ESTJ/ISTJ.

I really like Myers-Briggs and all it has taught me, and recently I've been learning about the cognitive functions of my personality type - how I learn and make decisions - and that has been fascinating and again, validating (yes, I need lots of validation).

MBTI has helped me understand my anxiety by validating the importance of tradition, security, and structures to my wellbeing (when those feel threatened, my anxiety increases), but I found the Enneagram provided greater clarity to understand the root of my anxiety.

The two systems are quite different. One of the main differences, that I see, is that the Enneagram provides a very honest assessment of your weaknesses and explains the unhealthy expressions of your type, but then also provides a path to healing and psychological and spiritual growth.

I don't want to spend too much time talking about the Enneagram here but I do want to say this. I'm a Type 6 and after all the soul-searching I've done the past year it was pretty easy for me to type myself.

All three personality types of the Thinking Center have a problem with anxiety, but Sixes, as the primary type, have the greatest problem with it. They are the type which is most conscious of anxiety—"anxious that they are anxious"—unlike other personality types who are either unaware of their anxiety or who unconsciously convert it into other symptoms..... Even though they belong to the Thinking Center, Sixes are also emotional because their feelings are affected by anxiety.
The Enneagram Institute Overview of Type 6

I could go on and on with quotes and links. "Sixes want to have security, to feel supported by others, to have certitude and reassurance, to test the attitudes of others toward them, to fight against anxiety and insecurity", etc. etc.

I could talk about how my personality type - my loyalty, my anxiety, my desire to be under trusted authorities, my fear of being unsupported - a complex stew - affected our marriage in unhealthy ways, which then increased my anxiety. But all that will have to wait. I do plan to publish that someday.

Suffice to say, looking back through the lens of the Enneagram and MBTI has given me a lot of insight into why my anxiety exploded the way it did.

A lot of people are initially discouraged or disappointed with Enneagram typing. It's not pretty to see your faults, weaknesses and your emotional unhealthiness in black and white. But for me, it was liberating. I'd already identified my junk. I've written it. I've journaled it. Cried it, prayed it, talked to Damien about it.

I wasn't ashamed to see it in a book, I was relieved.

I've looked into my heart and mind and observed things about myself that are not pleasant. I understand how people can do dark and evil things because I saw how in a really unhealthy place I could do the same.

What the Enneagram did for me was shine a light on what I already knew about myself and provide a path forward.

Understanding my type within that framework has given me great hope in my quest to overcome my anxiety.

One of the key features to the Enneagram is what is called integration, which I'm not going to explain here. But what was really cool for me to discover was that the activities I've been engaging in for the last six to eight months in attempting to address my anxiety are the behaviors and attitudes of my type moving in the direction of integration.

In other words, I've been instinctively moving towards mental and emotional health. The Enneagram is giving me language to understand that process and a vision for what it looks like to be a healthy individual with my personality type. And honestly, that vision excites me. I just wish I could be there, now.

Truth & Identity

For a while in my life, perhaps a long while, I had lost sight of my true identity. And I don't mean my personality. That's not my identity. My personality helps explain the way I think, interact with the world, make decisions, my weaknesses and strengths but it is not my true self, or my Essence.

When we are willing to say, "I want to be who I really am, and I want to live in the truth," the process of recovering ourselves has already begun. Riso and Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram

Last year I found my true self again in Jesus Christ. My true self is not a role: "mom, homemaker, wife, writer". It's not my personality type, preferences, or issues: "anxious, traditional, beauty-seeking, etc."

Who I am in Christ is none of those things.

The list of my true identity is vast, but there are certain truths that have really resonated with me over the past year. These are the things I meditate on, as they speak to my particular need, at this point in my life.

Here are two truths that have really impacted me since last summer:

I am hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3) - For me, this feels like the ultimate position of safety and security.

I am free forever from condemnation (Rom. 8:1) - I felt so much shame at the height of my anxiety and I needed to cling to this truth.

Jesus is setting me free from my anxiety because my identity is in him. He died and then conquered death to set me free. This my birthright as a child of God.

I wish I could say I don't struggle with anxiety and insecurity because I've kicked it to the curb with Ninja-like CBT practices, Tibetan monk meditation discipline, and continually living (and acting accordingly) in the knowledge of my true identity.

Not so.

I fall, fail, and trip up a lot but I am confident I have the tools, resources, and knowledge I need to fight this. Anxiety made me feel broken and that there was a problem with my essential self. But I know that's not true.

I have a vision now for what it looks like to be an emotionally and psychologically healthy person of "my type": she's self-confident and self-affirming because she recognizes and trusts her inner guidance. Her faith in God and God living in her manifests as outstanding courage and leadership. She leads from a deep understanding of people's insecurities and frailties. She is filled with the presence of God and feels solid, steady, and supported, as if she were standing on a massive bed of granite. She knows that this rootedness in the presence of God is the only real security in life, and this is what gives her great courage.

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