2019, Community and Values

Happy New Year!

I know, I know: it’s January 23, so I’m a wee bit late. I don’t know about you but January has just passed by without me noticing. What have I been up to?

New year, new possibilities; New day, new opportunities!

Well, I’ve started my second term as a kinesiology student, enjoyed (?) many snowstorms (it’s currently snowing like crazy as I type this), felt cold temperatures that shouldn’t be legal, and tried to breathe and stay relaxed through it all.

Spoiling my plants to Beardbangs planters!

https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/Beardbangs?ref=l2-shopheader-name

I’ve also rekindled with my love of plants and have a few new plants to call my own. I’m trying out the once-famous Pilea and loving my Pothos and Prayer plants way too much. It’s been so relaxing taking care of our plants, re-potting them, dusting them, fussing over how slow or how quickly they are growing… I’ve even started a plant journal to keep track of all their progress and see what works best. It really has been my relaxation practice of the month. Maybe it’s because of all the cold and snow, but connecting with greenery has been so therapeutic!

One of my baby Pilea!

What about food? Well, I’ve been trying to keep up with eating all the greens and making sure to drink all the water. I’ve also started to take a vitamin D supplement, and I can’t say I’ve noticed any difference. However, I know I’m not getting any sunlight as I’m waking up before the sun and coming out of uni after sunset. As my uni doesn’t have any windows in the classrooms, I’m starting to believe that the sun is as mystical as unicorns. So, a vitamin D supplement makes sense for me at the moment.

A few weeks ago, Bonny Rebecca, one of my favourite vegan Youtubers, made a video about not being vegan anymore for health reasons. I felt for her and admired her courage for “coming out”. For her to be honest about this when she has built her entire brand around veganism must have taken so much bravery and guts. Yet, soon enough, the online vegan community came up with many response videos bashing her and calling out on her integrity, questioning her “level of veganism”, some even saying that she was never really vegan. Others even said that they would never give up on veganism, no matter how terrible the health consequences might be.

Really?

After seeing all of this, I felt so ashamed. Ashamed because I spent years calling myself a vegan, supporting the diet and lifestyle, believing that it was the one and only answer to all of mankind’s problems. Mostly, I felt ashamed of the community. How can I call myself a vegan, when other vegans are so plain mean and disrespectful? For me, compassion is the driving force behind my diet change. What would it say about me if I couldn’t spread this compassion to a young woman going through health problems? I’m in no position to judge, criticize or assume anything on her life. It is not my place, and it is nobody’s place. So what’s up vegan community? Are our egos so big that we have forgotten that we are dealing with actual humans? Is the chase for recognition, views and clicks overshadowing basic respect? That’s not the community I want to be a part of.

It would be hypocritical to say that I’ve never had slip ups or that I never crave butter or eggs. I find myself asking: what is really important? To be perfect or to do my best? I choose to do my best. Nobody can live up to the pressure of trying to be perfect 100% of the time. You just try your best and maybe even enjoy the process. It goes for veganism, and all aspects of life!

Beautiful scones of my heart…

As I came back to uni, in a completely new field, I’ve felt a lot of pressure and stress: Am I good enough? Am I fit enough? Am I young enough? Is my brain still capable of studying? Are they going to judge my body? Will I make friends? Will any of my former students be in my classes?

These questions and many more started to take all the space in my mind, and I was struggling with levels of anxiety that I had never experienced before. At my lowest, I realized that I was putting all this pressure on my own shoulders. Nobody but me cared! For all I know, all the other students in my program ask themselves the same questions… and all I can do is offer my best effort. That is more than enough.

This change of perspective came like a sweet wave of relief. All of a sudden, it was okay for me to relax and not work all the time; it was okay for me to eat chocolate and not feel guilty; it was okay for me to skip a workout when I was feeling exhausted; it was okay for me to go out with my boyfriend and have a cookie even if it wasn’t a vegan. It was okay for me to simply experience and live.

So, this is what I want to bring to the blog. Tips and tricks to help you cope with anxiety, plant love, plant-based recipes, vegetarian recipes, exercises, books, teas and cats! I want my blog to be a warm and safe space where I can share posts that will make you feel warm and safe. I’m not striving for perfection anymore: I’m striving for a full life that I can sustainably live. And that is more than enough.

Hoping that you will all join me,

Anne 

Oh, and I’ve also started taking horseback riding lessons! It brings me so much peace, and it’s such a blast working with these wonderful animals.

Going sugar-free for 2 months

Last fall, I tried going sugar-free for 2 months. I had difficulties with my digestion, hormones and sleep. I decided to go on a sugar detox for 2 months to see if it could help me balance out whatever was going on on the inside. So for 2 months, I cut out refined sugars, dates, syrups and even fruits from my diet. This is what I learned from this experience.

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1. Withdrawal is a pain. I know some doctors say that sugar cannot be considered a drug, but the withdrawal was something: headaches, intense cravings and major crabbiness. This lasted for about 10 days for me. Seriously, all I could think of was chocolate for 10 straight days.

2. Vanilla powder and almond butter rock. Vanilla bean powder is your ally! Because we are so used to adding vanilla to sweet treats, adding vanilla to unsweetened beverages and yoghurt tricks your brain into thinking you are eating something sweet. This seriously helped me so much! Almond butter is also a great snack because it is slightly sweet. Best snack: rice cracker with some almond butter and a sprinkle of vanilla powder and cinnamon. Yum!

3. Veggies are the best! Removing fruits from my diet was super hard because they were a big part of it. I compensated by adding a lot more vegetables. I realized that I was actually not hitting my vegetable requirements because I was eating so much fruit.

4. Not all veggies are equal. Because I ate more veggies, I stumbled upon combinations that didn’t really work out. I realized that combining high in sugar vegetables like butternut squash and corn had the same effect as eating sugary desserts. Instead, I tried to focus on dark leafy greens and low in sugar vegetables like broccoli and cucumbers.

5. Craving veggies is a thing. After about 3 weeks on this detox, I started craving vegetables. Not chocolate, but broccoli. I know, right?

6. Fermented foods rock! In an effort to help my microbiome get healthier and to help my digestion, I started including a lot more fermented foods in my diet. I tried to have about 1 to 2 tablespoons of kimchi or sauerkraut to my meals. This added a lot of flavours and really helped me avoid the after lunch down I usually got after eating.

7. Legumes and beans are great! And so much easier to digest! No bloating or any other unpleasantness.

8. Sugar is everywhere! It was difficult to avoid sugar as it is included in store-bought sauces, bread, and even in some brands of plain yoghurt. This cure really made me realize that sugar really is everywhere.

9. Falling asleep is so much easier. No more long hours waiting to fall asleep, I actually really felt tired when it was time to sleep. It also became a bit easier to wake up in the morning.

10. It was possible for me not to crave chocolate every single moment of the day. Seriously.

I hope this will help any of you who are considering reducing sugar. Let me know how it goes!

Christmas 2016- Surviving the Holidays! \\\ Survivre aux fêtes!

(Version française plus bas!)

With less then a week to Christmas, it’s easy to get high anxiety and to feel overwhelmed between gifts, cards, food and planning. All this extra work is also happening at the wrong time: I’m usually super tired from the cold setting in and a general lack of sleep. So, this year, I really thought about how I would deal with the holidays without using the last bits of energy I have. I also realized that being a ball of stress was probably not fun for the people surrounding me. Here are some questions that helped me destress and prioritize for a stress-free holiday season.

surviving-the-holidays

  1. What are my priorities? This is probably the most important question to ask yourself: what is it that you want out of this holiday season? Personally, I want to feel refreshed, energized and happy. I want to spend as much time as possible with my family, in my pj’s, reading, watching movies and having a good time. I want to see friends, but also to reconnect with myself a little bit and to take care of myself. Do I need to spend a gazillion hours in front of the stove for that? No. That’s settled then! I really feel like sitting down and writing down some priorities helped me get rid of unattainable standards that got into my mind at some point. There’s nothing wrong with a little downsizing!
  2. How much time do I have? Christmas this year is on a Sunday, which means that most of us will be working until Friday and start celebrating on Saturday. That doesn’t leave a lot of extra days to do last minute shopping or cooking. It’s important to recognize that and to realistically count how many hours will be available and to work with that number.
  3. How much money do I have? Gifts really are the perfect thing to make you feel cheap and poor (always a great combo!). This year, I set myself a very clear gift money budget and really stuck to it. I also wanted to make Christmas more personal by making most of my gifts myself (see DIY gifts), which meant that I didn’t have to spend as much money to have really cute and fun gifts. Having a clear limit really helped reduce my anxiety levels because I tend to let myself go overboard when it comes to Christmas gifts, which usually means that I start the year completely broke and stressed out. Not good!
  4. What can I prepare ahead? Finally, once everything is planned and clear in your head, try to give yourself a break by making things ahead. For example, I’ll be serving some curried cauliflower soup . Well, it’s already made and sitting in my freezer, ready to be warmed up on Christmas day. That’s one thing I will not need to worry about. I also grated a lot of carrots and beets for a colourful salad, and made some sauerkraut as a side dish. During this week, I’ll also be making some bean dips, salad dressings and cut out the veggies ahead. That way, it will be a simple matter of roasting and assembling. Stress? What stress?
  5. What can my guests bring? I really think that assuming everything is the worst idea one can have for Christmas. Don’t be shy and ask your friends and familly to bring some things to0. It’s the season for sharing, isn’t it?

I really hope these few tips will help make your holiday season less stressful and more enjoyable. Do you have any other tips?


Je suis tellement excitée que Noël soit dans moins d’une semaine! Ça pourrait également être stressant: les cadeaux, les cartes, la nourriture, l’organisation… il y a de quoi paniquer! Surtout que les fêtes de fin d’année arrivent alors que je suis fatiguée par l’hiver qui commence et beaucoup de travail. Cette année, j’ai vraiment fait un effort pour ne pas utiliser mes dernières pépites d’énergie en vue de passer des fêtes heureuses et reposantes. Il n’est également pas très agréable d’infliger la version stressée de moi-même à ma famille et à mes proches. Voici quelques questions qui m’ont aidées à rendre cette saison des fêtes la moins stressante possible.

survivre-aux-fetes

  1. Quelles sont mes priorités? Cette question est sans doute la plus importante de toutes: qu’est-ce que j’attend de cette saison des fêtes? Personnellement, j’ai envie d’être énergisée, reposée et détendue à la fin des vacances. J’ai également très hâte de passer du temps avec ma famille, en pyjamas, à lire et à regarder des films. J’ai envie de voir quelques amis, mais aussi de me reconnecter et de prendre soins de moi. Est-il donc nécéssaire que je passe milles heures devant mon four? Non. Voilà une chose de réglée! Je pense vraiment que de prioriser ses objectifs est primordial pour éviter de se mettre des standards incroyablement élevés en tête. Après tout, c’est aussi le temps de se gâter un peu!
  2. Combien de temps m’est disponible? Comme Noël tombe un dimanche cette année, ça veut dire que la plupart des gens vont travailler jusqu’à vendredi et commencer à célébrer samedi. Cela ne donne vraiment pas beaucoup de temps pour faire le magasinage de dernière minute et la bouffe. Il est donc important de compter le nombre d’heures qui pourra réalistiquement être allouées à la préparation de Noël et de s’y tenir.
  3. Combien d’argent m’est disponible? Les cadeaux de Noël, c’est parfait pour se sentir pauvre et radin. Cette année, pour éviter de me sentir mal, je me suis fixée un budget de Noël, et je m’y suis tenue. De plus, j’ai eu envie de rendre mes cadeaux plus personels en en fabriquant une bonne partie. Avoir un budget clair m’a vraiment aidée à faire mes choix et à reduire mon niveau de stress en m’empêchant d’exagérer et de commencer l’année complètement fauchée.
  4. Qu’est-ce que je peux préparer à l’avance? Cette année, j’essaye de me laisser une chance de profiter de la journée du 24 en préparant autant de choses que possible à l’avance. Par exemple, j’ai déjà préparé mon entrée: une soupe au curry et au chou-fleur. Elle est déjà au congélateur, prête à être rechauffée et savourée! Une chose en moins sur ma liste. J’ai également préparé des carottes et des betteraves pour faire une jolies salade colorée, et j’ai mis de la choucroutte à fermenter pour un petit à côté. Cette semaine, je vais également préparer des tartinades de légumineuses, mes saucess à salades et découper les légumes pour que le 24 ne soit plus qu’une question d’assemblage et d’enfournage. Parfait!
  5. Qu’est-ce que mes invités peuvent apporter? Si vous recevez des gens pour les fêtes, il est probablement déraisonnable de tout assumer. N’hésitez pas à faire participer vos amis et votre famille! Après tout, c’est la saison du partage, non?

Voilà! J’espère que ces quelques questions vous aideront à passer de belles fêtes avec le moins de stress possible. Et vous, quels sont vos trucs?

 

I’m a mindfulness instructor!

I feel like I have reached a new level in “hippie-land”!

Joke aside, I have completed my 12 weeks training with Mindful Schools to be a mindfulness instructor this week. How exciting! As an end of training celebration, I’m sharing some thoughts on how this happened.

IMG_2869

Flashback to the beginning of the year: This year, I have been assigned with six groups of 30 to 38 students. I know most of them as I taught them last year too, and I know that many of them have a great potential that is hindered by their anxiety, stress, or strong feelings/emotions.  This is my problem because it makes it difficult for students to learn when their minds are busy processing all kinds of thoughts. It is also a personal problem because teaching is hard! You are dealing with so much more than the curriculum: student meltdowns, administrators, parents, and taking all this personal stress at home because you care for the kids in front of you. Add this to regular-human-being stress, and you are pushed off balance on a daily basis. So, this beginning of the year is hard, and I feel resource-less.

Meeting with Charity Bryant: At a teacher conference, I get to meet Charity Bryant who is a mindfulness instructor who started out as an English teacher. Her presentation is inspiring, and I feel like she is describing my students when she tells us about her own students and experience bringing mindfulness in the classroom. I need to know more so I write to her ,and she tells me about the online training given by Mindful Schools.

Training with Mindful Schools: I start with the six weeks mindfulness fundamentals and follow through with the mindful educator course. I feel very lucky to have received a scholarship because this training is very complete and thorough, but would have been inaccessible to me as I’m paying it on my own.   Not only does this training help my students, it also helps me face difficulties and deal with my emotions better. Things are still hard sometimes, but I feel like I have a better tool set to face them.

Introducting mindfulness at school: To give me courage, I start offering a mindfulness workshop once every two weeks for interested students. As the meetings go by, I gather experience and confidence with this ideal group. I then introduce mindfulness as a daily routine to my different groups. I am amazed by the curiosity and willingness to try that my students are showing. Most importantly, I feel that my most difficult, disturbing students are responding to this very positively. I also welcome their suspicious as to this “voodoo stuff” and discuss research and brain functioning with them. I really like how it creates an open, ready-to-learn environment where the students are taking time to slow down and connect before starting to work. Is it time lost? Not really. Since they are relaxed and available, I don’t need to bring them back to the activities as much, instructions and modelling take less time because their attention is there, and I can tap in to their new capacity to pay attention with a shared and understood vocabulary.

The results of implementing mindfulness in my classroom might sound magical and untrue. And yet, they are real. My students are still teenagers, but somehow, they are more focused, calmer and more available to learning, to their peers and to my interventions. I really love our 15 minutes of practice each class because it gives me a chance to teach them something out of the curriculum that is precious and truly helpful. I am really glad to have done this! Let me know what you think!