Trusting My Body to Complete a Marathon

During my virtual and in-person breathwork classes, I encourage participants to forge a deeper connection with their bodies. Using different mantras and sayings, I aim to awaken people to how powerful their bodies truly are.

Unfortunately — thanks to the media perpetuated, money-making notion that humans should constantly alter their physical appearance to be worthy — many of us spend way too much time criticizing or even disassociating from our bodies.

Whether you find yourself overeating, numbing with alcohol or drugs, punishing your muscles and joints with overexercising, or any other obsessive behavior — almost always, the goal is to stuff down an uncomfortable feeling. When, in actuality, you’d be a lot happier if you let yourself feel the sadness, anger, or other uncomfortable emotion, so you could then release it and move forward.

Over time, built up resentments, self-righteousness, and self-doubt can — on a minor scale — cause you to take your issues out on innocent bystanders. On a major scale, this ever-present tension can lead to anxiety, depression, stress, and inflammation — which can then cause cancer, autoimmune diseases, and other ailments.

So, how can you nip these nasty emotions in the butt before they become a relationship-ending, life-threatening issue?

Breathwork is a great solution, especially if you want immediate results. Many of my clients experience a relaxed, euphoric feeling as soon as the session ends. This mood shift can last hours or even days. They also report feeling “lighter” and less of a hostage to their emotions. Meditation is wonderful too, and I incorporate it into every Conscious Connected Breathing session — but meditation on its own can take weeks, months, or even years to have an affect.

You can also connect to your body by shaking up your fitness routine. If you don’t have an exercise regiment; start with something manageable, like walking 10 minutes a day. Anything is better than nothing!

For me, physical activity has been a non-negotiable for as long as I can remember. Since running has been my go-to cardio for over a decade, I decided to challenge myself by signing up for my first marathon. I knew the training and race itself would allow me to connect with my mind and body on a whole new level.

For several years, I had toyed with the idea of running a marathon. This dream was brought to the forefront when I made several friends in Los Angeles who happened to be ultra-marathon runners. In case you’re not familiar- these extreme athletes run 50 to 100 mile races. With proper training, diet, and equipment, they complete a feat I previously deemed impossible.

The more time I spent around this badass energy, the more open I felt to challenging myself. If they can run 100 miles, I can run 26.2!

As soon as I signed up for the Atlanta Publix Marathon, I messaged my friend Eimanne, who has completed several 100 mile races. She promptly sent over a training guide, and after pushing through a wall of anxiety, I began my four month journey.

I told myself that if I stuck to the training guide perfectly, I would be safe. All of my doubts would be erased and my body would perform as it needed to.

And I did just that for the first two months of training. I pushed through fatigue, tears, and self-doubt, rearranged my schedule, put on rain gear, climbed on a treadmill, set aside time on vacations, swallowed an anxiety attack, and got it done.

Of course, there were many moments of bliss, too. My 7, 10, and 12 mile runs were beyond enjoyable. Halfway through, my face hurt from smiling so hard. No pain, no boredom, no pooping myself. It was a pure runner’s high.

But my flawless rain or shine record came to a screeching halt when I contracted the Omicron strand over Christmas. For 48 hours, I tried to convince myself my fatigue, congestion, and soreness resulted from a bad night’s sleep. I jumped in a 50 degree pool and barely flinched. I climbed up the side of a dam while my body ached worse than the day after Barry’s Bootcamp.

I was not going to miss my 15 mile run!!!! I WAS FINE.

So, I attempted it that Sunday, and made it about 100 feet before surrendering to the sickness. My ‘push through’ mentality had warn down my immune system to the point that COVID-19 finally got me. After five days of Netflix and hate myself, I took my dog for a 2 mile run. I feared if I didn’t do SOMETHING soon, my body would regress, despite two months of training.

And at first, it felt like it did.

I’ll never forget my first longish run post COVID. My legs felt like lead. My nose was running faster than I was. And my victim playing, self-saboteur alter ego reared its ugly head. I thought, this is it. All of my hard work for nothing!!!

Even though it was only the end of December and my marathon wasn’t until February 27, I was convinced I was doomed.

Luckily, my sane side took over and calmed me down. I went home, regrouped, and tried again. Within a few days, my body recalibrated. I felt like I had never stopped training.

After that speed bump, I began to trust my body a little bit more. I didn’t have to be perfect to train successfully. Whether I was sick or not, my body needed more rest and recovery than I was allowing it. And after that week of downtime, my cardiovascular capabilities skyrocketed. I could run 15 plus miles breathing in and out of my nose almost the whole time (which is beneficial, because it activates your parasympathetic nervous system, keeping you calm and focused — while mouth breathing during exercise activates fight or flight mode – causing tension and inflammation in the body through the release of the stress hormone, cortisol).

Even though I was very grateful for a jumping off point, I decided it made more sense to listen to my body’s signals than an impersonal running chart.

My next physical challenge occurred while visiting Los Angeles in mid-January (for those who don’t know, I lived in LA for 6 years and now live in Atlanta). While running and reading a text (an absolute NO NO), I fell and injured my left hand and my right knee. Luckily, the knee healed quickly, but my hand still hurts to this day. Thankfully I don’t need my hand to run.

Apart from that, I enjoyed several lovely trail runs with the ultra-marathoners, and was feeling pretty confident.

So, upon returning home, I decided to go for an 18 miler.

Since my latest pair of running shoes dug into my ankles and drew blood, I decided to put on my old, worn out sneakers (mistake #1) while fighting through soreness from a recent HIIT workout (High Intensity Interval Training) (mistake #2).

I survived the run — despite going to the bathroom in the middle of the woods near a homeless camp (RIP my favorite pair of gloves) — and enduring extreme foot pain. At first I wasn’t worried — pain is a part of marathon training — but after several days of limping, my anxiety peaked.

I started researching my symptoms online (mistake #3). Once I read that foot fractures can result from worn out shoes and sore muscles that can’t absorb shock efficiently, I was convinced the marathon was a no-go. The recovery period was 4 to 6 weeks and February was around the corner.

I decided to take two weeks off from exercising, which may be the longest I’ve gone in my life. I iced my foot, took cold baths, incorporated Epson salts, and tried to avoid super inflammatory foods.

Out of the blue, a friend of mine in the Atlanta area reached out to see how marathon training was going. He also happens to be a physical therapist that specializes in pain management. I told him about my foot issue and he said he’d take a look. A few days later, I made my way to RockBox Fitness in Sandy Springs.

Turns out, sore calf muscles were causing my foot pain. An issue that stemmed from my strong aversion to stretching. Geez, when will I learn??

But alas, my foot was not broken! I could run again!

At this point, I had experimented with exercise and my foot seemed okay, but still- getting professional clearance lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. He also recommended I buy ANOTHER PAIR OF SHOES with more cushioning.

Running a marathon is an investment — physically, mentally, and financially.

The foot pain came and went over the next couple weeks, but never as severe as the 18 mile run. Before I knew it, the marathon was in 5 days. It was time to get all my gear sorted and hopefully ease any remaining anxiety.

After co-leading a hot yoga / breathwork class with Tara Van Dam, (another long distance runner that had recently come into my life), I decided to check out Highland Runners. The store popped up on Yelp and I recognized the name. Pretty sure someone had recommended it.

As fate would have it, I ended up spending an hour and a half in the store, chatting away with the owner about running, breathwork, celebrities, and whatever else. He guided me toward the perfect shoes, gels, compression socks, and lubricant for my first marathon.

I left Highland Runners knowing everything would be okay.

The Wednesday before the Atlanta Publix Marathon, my mom, aunt, and brother came to town to visit and cheer me on. We spent the next few days touring Atlanta, which was a good distraction for my growing nerves.

The day before the race, my friend Chrissy drove from Alabama and stayed over. She was running the half-marathon on the same day.

I tend to be directionally challenged, especially after waking up at 4am, so I was beyond grateful to have her there to help find parking, the starting line, and more. Chrissy is also a breathwork facilitator, so naturally, we did some deep breathing exercises in the car before the race.

However, no amount of aid could’ve prevented my racing bib from falling out of my packed bag. Yeah, that happened. My boyfriend had to bring it to me in the wee hours of the morning — 10 minutes before the race started. A fucking hero!!

Now, it’s 7am. The first wave of runners has taken off. I lost Chrissy in the sea of people. But, I have my headphones, my training, and my compression shorts. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

It’s dark, cold, and rain has been falling from the sky since I stepped outside. BUT THAT’S OKAY.

Fun fact: Rain helps you run faster, because your body doesn’t have to expend energy cooling you down.

Once I pin my bib and turn on my killer playlist, I start to take in my surroundings. I feel excitement emanating off my fellow runners. I make eye contact with smiling faces. I hear the announcer’s cheerful voice.

Let’s do this.

Before I know it, everyone around me is moving forward, and I am too. I fight the urge to cry tears of joy. All of the blood, sweat, and tears from the past four months led me to this moment.

No matter what happens, I know I gave it my all. No one can take that away from me.

I began praying to everyone I know who has died to protect me and guide me. I don’t need to qualify for the Boston marathon, I just need to cross the finish line in one piece.

As I passed each mile marker with relative ease, I kept coming back to how often I underestimate myself, ESPECIALLY MY PHYSICAL CAPABILITIES. My body is fucking powerful. My body is strong. My body is resilient. I am a beast. I am a warrior.

I can’t believe I almost quit training because I feared I would permanently damage my foot. Yet, here I was, rounding mile 20, with no foot pain.

Honestly the worst thing that happened was my bib falling off multiple times (I eventually stuck it in my pocket). And by the end my hands were too cold to unzip my pocket and reach my gels and Advil lol.

With that being said, how many times in my life have I stopped myself from achieving greatness out of fear? How many times were those fears unjustified?

Probably every time.

How many times have you allowed fear to keep you small, comfortable, and stagnant?

Probably more often than you’d like to admit.

I ended up completing my first marathon in 4 hours and 25 minutes; which was 20 minutes faster than I predicted. Despite gaining a good 7 pounds during training, I moved with ease and grace. My foot didn’t hurt at all, and my soreness levels during and after were pretty average. HACK: Take a cold bath the same day as the race to prevent inflammation. And stretch! Even if it’s just for a few minutes.

Having my family there cheering me on when I crossed the finish line – STILL BREATHING THROUGH MY NOSE 26.2 MILES LATER – was priceless. I haven’t lived in Rhode Island (where I’m from) since 2013, so I was beyond grateful to have them there in person for this major milestone.

Honestly, almost every aspect of training for and running a marathon shocked me. What I had in mind going in was not my reality THANK GOD.

For example, I was not hungry at all after the race and the following day. I had to force myself to eat — which is VERY UNLIKE ME. I also felt emotionally depleted and extremely anxious the following day. Hands down, the mental hangover trumped my physical soreness.

I have a new level of appreciation and gratitude for what my body and mind are capable of. Which, in a perfect world, we should carry with us whether we run a marathon or not. But since we’re only human, it doesn’t hurt to push boundaries for that reminder 🙂

TO CONCLUDE: Marathon training & running may seem like a solo endeavor, but it is in fact a team effort. From my friend sending me her training guide, to my boyfriend brining me my bib at the last minute, I could not have done this without other people.

SPECIAL THANKS TO:

Eimanne Zein- ultra marathon runner with a super helpful YouTube channel for the aspiring or experienced racer

Julio Diaz- ultra marathon runner and amazing sports masseuse

Sean Merck – cardio boxing instructor and pain management specialist at RockBox Fitness in Sandy Springs

Alec Sunwoo – owner of Highland Runners and overall running expert

My mom, Aunt Lisa, brother, boyfriend, dad, Chrissy, and everyone else who provided love and support!

Oh, and I ended up running in Saucony shoes. Highly recommend.

MUCH LOVE XO

Food Freedom: Why I’m Never Dieting Again

Vegan, vegetarian, Master Cleanse, Fruit Cleanse, keto, paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, Pescatarian, Reset Cleanse, fasting, tracking calories, laxatives, weighing portions, hypnosis, one-on-one therapy, group check-ins, intense exercise, removing trigger foods, appetite suppressor pills, Overeaters Anonymous, intermittent fasting, Juice Cleanse: what do all of these weight loss modalities have in common?

I’ve tried every single one.

And guess what? I still love food. I still think about food more than anything else. I still crave that cookie, head for the cupboard when I’m stressed, and eat faster and at a higher quantity than anyone I know.

This use to keep me up at night. This use to drag me into a spiral on a regular basis. This caused me to binge, restrict, and ultimately tainted my main source of happiness: Food.

So, like most people alive today, I took my issues to Instagram. And I actually made some positive discoveries.

Before I get into that, I’d like to acknowledge a lovely human I met several years ago. She is a therapist who specializes in eating disorders. One day, when we were having a drink and some nachos in Santa Monica, I opened up about my disordered eating. I had recently gone to a couple Overeaters Anonymous (OA) meetings and wanted to know her thoughts on the program.

She explained she advises against counting calories, restricting, cutting out food groups, missing events out out of fear of trigger foods, and using exercise as a means to justify eating. All of these tactics I had practiced at one point or another, and even been encouraged to partake in by supposed experts.

“We recommend people eat balanced meals that include fats, carbs, and protein. So, technically, nachos fit into that category,” she said.

I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, no pun intended. However, I still wasn’t 100 percent ready to put away the scale and delete MyFitnessPal.

Okay, back to Instagram. During the height of the pandemic and again around my birthday in May, I came within four pounds of my goal weight. Honestly, I wish I had stopped there and focused on maintaining. Instead, I pushed myself into a binge / restrict cycle that inevitably brought me up the scale a few stubborn pounds.

It was around that time I started watching “What I Eat In A Day” videos on Instagram. For hours, I would observe people eating (not in a gross way — these people were mostly fitness models). I learned later this is also a symptom of an eating disorder.

Eventually, all of these photos and captions about eating disorders began popping up on my Explore page. I watched women and men share their journey from suffering with an eating disorder to recovering through “food freedom” and “intuitive eating” practices. I heard psychologists, psychiatrists (including my own), and nutritionists support the same mentality my friend explained years prior. The disordered eaters discussed their inevitable junk food consumption and weight gain after breaking the diet cycle. Eventually, these normal-seeming people found what worked best and forged a healthy relationship with food.

At this point I was still tracking calories, running solely so I could eat a dense meal without shame, and regularly lashing out at my boyfriend because I was hungry.

Something had to change.

I was never fat. I was still miserable when I lost weight. I booked acting and modeling jobs at all different stages of weight fluctuation.

Why was I putting myself through this??

A big reason I stayed on the dieting merry-go-round was to impress other people. When family and friends complemented my weight loss and muscle gain, I felt I finally had control over something. No one could deny my progress: my physique was out there in the open. Every time I’d go home to Rhode Island, I’d obsess over how much weight I had to lose beforehand, and how much weight I’d gain while visiting.

In the end, the childhood trauma around being “too big to model” or “too big for guys to like me” or “too big to wear tight clothes” was running the show; not me. I had given away my power to false ideas — a voice in my head that didn’t belong to me.

And yes, being in the entertainment industry has been a trigger. For a while, I felt I had to be stick thin to book theatrical and commercial jobs — even though, like I said, I’ve booked jobs in my thinner and thicker phases. However, a theme kept coming up that I was too “in the middle.” Agents didn’t know where to put me. Athletic build but not super ripped, not plus size or curve but definitely not thin enough for runway, too tall and too sharp of a bone structure to be relatable; I was a marketing conundrum.

However, a lot has changed. Recently in a Zoom acting class, I watched a younger version of me waltz onto my laptop and slay her scene. The teacher praised her, listing shows she could see this young actress going out for.

But wait a minute! She had flabby arms. And maybe even some flab on her stomach. Thick legs like me!

And then it hit me.

IF YOU’RE GOOD, NO ONE CARES.

I see more actors and models nowadays focusing on their craft, camera presence, and mental health, while physical activity remains an added bonus. Thank God. The people in power are finally getting a clue.

As most people know, America has a high obesity rate. So, the majority of us don’t relate to Twiggy lookalikes. People in catalogues should represent something attainable, not a body type that maybe 2 percent of women are born with.

Back to physical activity. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love exercise. I’m training for a marathon for God’s sake! Fitness remains my number one form of self-care, more so for the mental than physical benefits. But when it comes down to booking a role, the casting directors will almost always pick the person who tells the truth of the character — or who they feel can best sell the product — over the one with a flatter stomach.

So, at this point, I’m eating whatever I want. Lucky for me, I’m someone who prefers healthy food and exercise, but also loves cookies and pasta.

Speaking of that, I just had a bag of cookies delivered to my house for $20.

And that’s okay. I have gained five-ish pounds since I stopped stressing about menu options, counting calories, and restricting my diet, and I couldn’t be happier. I feel sexy, alive, and in touch with my body.

Granted, Food Freedom is still very new to me. I’m in the process of figuring out my routine, and I’d be lying if I said I don’t panic about weight gain. But in this moment, I’m loving life and praying I stay on this track.

To conclude, I’ve felt inclined to address diet culture with the holidays around the corner. I want people to know they have another option besides binging during Thanksgiving and Christmas, hating themselves, and starting Keto on January 1, only to be back at square one by January 15.

Maybe this year, try taking the shame, guilt, and overall negativity out of eating.

Let’s do an experiment: Tell yourself to not think about a pink elephant. Let me guess, a bright pink elephant just popped into your head! Same thing goes for overeating. If you tell yourself you can’t eat any desserts at a Christmas party, guess what? All you’ll think about is the desserts, and you’ll either end up eating so many you get sick OR you’ll be miserable the whole time, knowing you have to be “good.” Neither outcome is ideal.

Try this: view eating as an experience. Sit with each bite and observe the texture, flavors, and crunching sounds. If you find yourself panicking about an upcoming meal, binging, restricting, or all of the above, journal about it. Meditate on it. Breathe through it.

If you’re in a social situation (one of my binging triggers), find a new person to talk to. Put yourself out there. Don’t take things personally. Food is for pleasure and fuel, not to stuff down feelings of discomfort.

At the end of the day, no matter what happens, look in the mirror and say, “I enjoyed every bite of that cookie. I love myself and all of life’s amazing treasures.”

Stress is the enemy. If you’re stressing about eating a cookie, you’re probably doing more damage to your body than taking in the calories. These are facts, guys. Eat one, or two, or three, and stay positive. Do the same thing when you eat “healthy” foods.

Just trust me. Try it for a month. I guarantee you’ll be happier. I promise, at the end of the day, happiness is worth a few extra pounds on the scale.

Much love xo

Bedtime Routine: Brush Teeth, Wash Face, Tape Mouth

My mom bought me the book Breath by James Nestor after I earned my breathwork facilitator certification. It sat on my car passenger seat for a couple months while I wrapped up other books and projects, wary to take on something else. One day while sitting in the lobby of a carwash, I decided to dive in, and haven’t looked back since. I’m not even halfway through this non-fiction, research-driven exploration of humanity, and I’ve already learned more than I did in college. 

Somewhere in the beginning of the book, Nestor discusses why and how humans evolved from having perfectly straight teeth to needing pallet expanders, braces, and more. It brought me back to the fact that my parents never made me get braces. My brother did, but I didn’t. And yes, my teeth are passable, but there is a significant amount of crowding that has led to several health issues.

Around the age of 18, I talked to my dentist about my options. He explained in order to have a Crest commercial smile, he’d have to remove eight teeth total: four wisdom teeth and four molars. What the hell? That seemed extreme. So, I had my wisdom teeth removed and then went with Invisalign — I didn’t expect perfection, just something better than what I was born with. Soon after completing my trays, I moved to Maui to live on a farm for a month and threw all common sense to the wayside. My retainer was one of those ‘common sense societal constraints’ I couldn’t be bothered with. Well, as soon as possible, my stubborn teeth went right back to their starting position.

Sorry mom and dad, I’ll pay you back someday. 

Nestor talks about how he had a similar predicament in his youth. His pallet, which on a ‘normal’ person expands side to side, rose vertically instead. I ran my tongue around the roof of my mouth. Yup, same here! But lucky for Nestor, his parents made sure all eight of his teeth were removed in preparation for braces and other decorative headpieces. 

However, he still struggled with breathing and other health issues stemming from the space beneath the face. But like all seemingly unfortunate circumstances, they’re a blessing in disguise. 

Nestor’s ailments led him to a breathwork class, recommended by a physician. His initial skepticism stayed with him for the first 20 minutes. It was around that time he passed out, only to be woken up by the teacher in a pool of his own sweat. He recalled a euphoric feeling for several days after, which prompted his quest to discover what happened to his mind and body in that creaky wooden warehouse. That’s when the idea for Breath came to life.

SIDE NOTE: I recommend reading Breath if you’re interested in the connection between our evolution, crooked teeth, breathing issues, and the deteriorating health of the human race (and how to fight back). For this blog, I’m focusing on why I related to Nestor from the jump, and the specific benefits of mouth taping.

Mouth Breathing = Malnutrition

So far, Breath consists of interviews with medical professionals and experiments where Nestor plays guinea pig. The most shocking studies so far involve the dangers of mouth breathing. According to Dr. Mark Burhenne, DDS — who has studied the links between mouth breathing and sleep for years — mouth breathing can cause snoring and sleep apnea. It also contributes to periodontal disease, bad breath, and is the number one cause of cavities. 

For optimum health and wellness, nose breathing beats out mouth breathing hands down. Nose breathing causes the sinuses to release nitric oxide, which helps the body and mind maintain healthy immune function, mood, weight, sexual abilities, and circulation. On the other hand, mouth breathing through the night blocks this essential molecule.  

To further prove how mouth breathing handicaps human function, Nestor had his nasal cavity obstructed for a week and a half by Dr. Jayakar Nayak of Stanford’s Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery Center. During that time, Nestor could only breathe out of his mouth. Halfway into the experiment, Nestor’s blood pressure spiked to stage 1 hypertension, his body was in a state of stress, his pulse increased, body temperature decreased, and mental clarity disintegrated. These statistics steadily worsened for Nestor and the other participant. 

What really intrigued me was the correlation Nestor brought to light between mouth breathing and ADHD. I’ve struggled with ADHD for as long as I can remember, and even though I don’t snore (often), I sleep with my mouth open. My parents have said they’ve peeked in my room while I was sleeping to find me on my back, mouth breathing. My partner confirms this.

Before reading Breath, I was already on a quest to find natural remedies that ignite focus. These include running anxious energy into the ground, meditating to calm overthinking, or waking up at 4:30am, long before distractions take flight. However, when it comes to tasks I have an aversion to, nothing works quite like Adderall, or a fast-approaching deadline. So, I surrender.

How does mouth breathing cause ADHD?

During Nestor’s monitored self-experimentation, he could attest to the fact that mouth breathing inhibits the production of brain cells. This was originally discovered in a Japanese study [on humans] from 2013. The same trial found that mouth breathing disturbs the flow of oxygen to the area of the brain associated with ADHD: the prefrontal cortex. 

So, what does Dr. Burhenne — the Silicon Valley dentist mentioned earlier — recommend? 

Mouth taping before bed.

In the book Breath, Dr. Burhenne recalls how mouth taping helped his five year old patient conquer ADHD; a learning disability directly correlated with bedtime breathing issues. 

Nestor remained skeptical until Ann Kearney, a doctor of speech and language pathology at the Stanford Voice and Swallowing Center, not only condoned mouth taping, but practices it herself.

Due to mouth breathing, Dr. Kearney’s nose had atrophied, worsening her congestion issues. Mouth taping forced her to breathe through her nose at night, strengthening her nasal cavity, which naturally healed her nose obstruction. 

“Use it or lose,” Dr. Keaney stated during her interview in Breath.

My experience with mouth taping

The night after discovering mouth taping, I decided to give it a shot. I found clear Scotch tape to be tolerable enough for this new venture. To my surprise, I kept it on the whole night — but don’t be bummed if you end up ripping it off. Dr. Kearney said she ripped hers off the first night after five minutes, and that it took several weeks to fully adjust.

After about a week of mouth taping, I’ve noticed significant changes in my WHOOP app. WHOOP monitors my sleep through a variety of metrics, all gathered from my heart rate. The major changes I’ve noticed since mouth taping include improved respiratory rate and a notable decrease in sleep disturbances (from 11 a night to about four). On top of that, I’ve been working on a blog post that requires considerable research since 6 am, and I’m not getting paid to do it (yet). I can’t deny feeling more focused and capabale than usual. Of course, it’s still quite early in my self-experimentation, but I am remaining hopeful! 

Great, so how do I mouth tape?

Well, you can do what I did and grab some clear Scotch tape. Or, you can test out other brands. Nestor said he uses a square sticker from 3M for his nightly mouth taping. Since taking on this bedtime ritual himself, Nestor said his snoring decreased from four hours to 10 minutes. Over time, his sleep apnea disappeared, and he stopped waking up in the middle of the night to pee. This is because nose breathing prompts the pituitary gland to release vasopressin, which allows you to sleep soundly — without bladder interruption. I’m not going to lie, I am an avid night-peer, and the mouth taping hasn’t changed that. Yet. I remain positive.

Mouth breathing during breathwork

Ironically, the breathwork I teach requires mouth breathing, but only for short periods of time with a controlled pattern. Therefore, it is not dangerous and still provides benefits such as stress, anxiety, and depression management, decrease in blood pressure, and diaphragm strengthening. Plus, Nestor’s Breath journey began with a breathwork class, and the unexplained relief and euphoria he experienced after. 

To bring this full circle, breathing is a powerful tool that can make or break our health. Before adding another pill bottle to your medicine cabinet, I encourage you to look at how you’re breathing. 

You already have so much power inside of you, don’t give it away before looking at what the magnificent human body has to offer. 

The Magic Behind An Artist’s Date

I’m reading The Artist’s Way for the second time to help break through emotional blocks. My former post explains this more, but to summarize, I visited home for three weeks, started focusing on my breathwork business, felt detached from acting, signed up for an acting class, got called out for my lack of emotion, and went deep into a self-doubt spiral.

Ironically, when I completed The Artist’s Way 12 week program in 2019, I felt more lost than ever. I even considered becoming an event planner instead. And yes, I’m great at connecting people, but I’m also helplessly unorganized (I’ve gotten MUCH better, but still far from where I’d like to be). Thankfully, this absurd urge passed.

However, it was replaced by a new level of global insanity: The Pandemic. Since I live with a sober, loving partner and already have healthy coping mechanisms in place (unlike the majority of the world — which came to light in a big way), the pandemic didn’t turn me into a fat alcoholic on the verge of suicide (which would’ve been my reality if COVID-19 struck a few years earlier). Instead, I took the pandemic as an opportunity to better myself physically, mentally, and spiritually. I spent the majority of 2020 discovering YouTube HIIT workouts and developing my craft in Chris Field’s monologue and script analysis classes.

Chris’s gentle, wise, and magical approach helped me rediscover why I’m pursuing acting in the first place. Yes, the “entertainment business” plays a huge role in your “success,” but at the end of the day, it’s the life or death need to tell stories that propels you through rejection, depression, and inevitable questioning. No matter how dark the tunnel, if you know your ‘why,’ you’ll always find the light again.

So, it’s no surprise that after taking Chris’s classes for a year, I moved to Atlanta and booked like crazy. But after a few months of low-budget non-union films, projects that never came to fruition, background commercial jobs, and no Southeast reps to speak ok, I knew I deserved more.

And promptly the universe said, “Okay then, time to level up!”

To which I responded:

“I’M SCARED. I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS ANYMORE. I’M BROKEN. I’M NUMB. I HATE MYSELF.”

And then, my personal favorite, directed at everyone in my life:

“IT’S YOUR FAULT!!!!!!!!!!”

Speaking of blaming people, I’m almost done with the Fourth Step in Al-Anon and I have over 100 people on my Resentments list. If I’ve known you for more than a week, you’re probably on there.

Anyway, the black hole of depression ensued. And I can already say it has been one of the most important experiences for my career and overall wellbeing.

So, here we are — today. Let’s get to the Artist’s Date.

What is an Artist’s Date and how do you go on one?

Julia Cameron, author of the Artist’s Way, describes an Artist’s Date as assigned play. Each week, you pick a place to explore by yourself for two hours; no cell phone, no girlfriend, no dog. ALONE. Some examples include walking in nature, visiting an art museum, taking yourself to a fancy restaurant, going to a concert, seeing a movie, reading fiction in a coffee shop, etc. If you and your inner child find it pleasurable, it’s a go.

On the surface, an Artist Date seems easy. You probably spend more than two hours a day on Instagram, so just take two of those hours once a week and go to a park. But unfortunately, many of you will never go on an Artist’s Date.

You may have felt excited initially reading about it. Different possibilities popped into your head.

“You know, I’ve been wanting to try that sushi place, but my husband hates seafood. Maybe I can go by myself and bring a mystery novel!”

But then, another voice creeps in. The ego. And the ego wants to keep you safe, comfortable, and in a predictable routine.

“You’re too busy. And didn’t Richard say someone got food poisoning there? Maybe that was a different place…either way, just to be safe, let’s eat canned soup again. Or maybe you could go with Susan? Eating alone is weird…do you want people to stare at you and wonder if you’re newly divorced and lost all your friends?”

Listen to me, young grasshopper. If you’re still reading this, you probably want to better your life. So, let’s start here: stop giving a flying f*ck what other people think. Does anyone in that restaurant care about you or your mental health? No. But I hope you do. And you’re the one who is going to be left with regret if you don’t value, love, respect, and nurture yourself.

Also, if you struggle spending time alone, you DEFINITELY need an Artist’s Date. Maybe even an Artist’s Week. Once you confront your thoughts (I know it’s scary) and learn to love your beautiful, imperfect self, you’ll be a lot happier. I promise.

How do you learn to love yourself? Well, regular Artist’s Dates are a good place to start.

Do you know what you truly love? What brings you joy? What connects you to your highest self? If it involves a loud bar and vodka, you’re lying to yourself. If it involves a reality TV show or mindless social media scrolling, you’re lying to yourself. If it involves judging/ talking shit about other people, you’re lying to yourself. If it involves binge eating, you’re lying to yourself. Hate to break it to you, honey.

You can enjoy those things every now and then, sure. I know I do! But after an initial serotonin spike, “activities” of this nature tend to leave us feeling worse off. How you feel after a situation / state of being will tell you if it’s contributing to growth or stagnation.

Okay, back to me! Yesterday, I took myself on a date to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. I turned off my phone, took notes, observed, and allowed myself to experience all the emotions. I particularly loved the Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe temporary exhibit. I could write a whole blog about her, but I’ve digressed enough for one post.

When I went to turn my phone on, I realized my already cracked screen had completely stopped functioning. I couldn’t enter my passcode, I couldn’t turn my phone off, and worst of all, I COULDN’T ACCESS MY GPS.

Here I was, a directionally challenged person in a brand new city with no road map. I knew to head Northwest, and that’s about it. This all happened after taking 15 minutes to find the right parking garage WITH A GPS, for God’s sake.

So, I began my journey. My knuckles turned white as I gripped the steering wheel. Heart racing, eyes squinting, I thought back to the first time I drove to Boston after getting my license in 2007.

I missed turns. I cursed God. I told Him I was going to tell everyone I had a terrible Artist’s Date. I cried. I screamed. I judged the people talking on the radio. I stared at other drivers and mouthed “HELP,” but no one acknowledged me.

“Another person having a breakdown on the 85 North,” they must have thought to themselves.

And then, after about 45 minutes, something in my gut said to turn around on the side road I had taken.

Part of me thought, “You can’t trust yourself, you’re terrible with directions! Just go into a gas station!”

And the other part of me whispered, “It’s okay. It’s safe to trust yourself.”

So, I turned around, got on the 285 West, and prayed I’d see a sign for Cobb Parkway. And sure enough, it appeared like magic!

I laughed. I fist-pumped. I apologized to God / Universe.

And then I said, “thank you.”

I’ve been doing all this inner work (breathwork, journaling, meditation, affirmations, etc.) to form a better relationship with myself. And as you know, the foundation of all healthy relationships is TRUST.

God / Universe answered my prayers by forcing me to trust myself. It was uncomfortable, frustrating, and downright infuriating, but I survived. During that very long hour, I developed a deeper sense of trust in myself. The Universe helped me realize I could have something “bad” happen, express my feelings about it, and still come out on top. My day wasn’t ruined because one thing went wrong. Quite the opposite, actually.

To conclude, Artist’s Dates will change your life, growth comes with pain, and the Universe has a plan for you. Just trust yourself.

When Red Pulls You Out of a Black Hole

Since returning home from my three-week adventure in Rhode Island, I’ve felt inconsolably depressed. Every day, for at least part of the day, a numbness consumes me. I can only describe it as feeling “dead inside.”

Depression is something I’ve struggled with on and off my whole life, and I think I always will. That may sound, well, depressing, but it’s not. I have healthy coping mechanisms, and when I take action, I’m usually fine.

However, our minds like to play tricks on us. Often times, the thing we need to do the most is the last thing we want to do. I wish I could find more elegant wording, but my brain desires simplicity today.

Speaking of simplicity; I typically aim to focus on one life goal at a time. The idea is to strengthen my stamina muscle to avoid overwhelm and despair. But then I go on social media, and I see people doing hundreds of things at once!

“Oh wow, that woman has a baby, a husband that might as well be a baby, a full-time job, exercises five days a week, and volunteers at a gorilla rehab center?? I don’t have a kid or a gorilla, I can surely focus on acting AND launching a business AND training for a marathon AND being an awesome partner! NO PROBLEM!”

(By the way, I’m currently eating hummus with my finger, to give you an idea how that turned out.)

The whole time I was in Rhode Island, I worked on launching my breathwork facilitator business with my career coach. I exercised regularly. I did my mindfulness practices. And, most importantly, I connected with family and friends. I realized I hadn’t felt like myself since…well…maybe 2019. I don’t think I’m alone in that.

As many of you know, I moved from Southern California to Georgia in March 2021. And to be honest, the transition started out great. I was booking more commercial and theatrical jobs than ever, getting noticed by top managers, and had a sick month long gig as a virtual assistant. I even reached my high school weight, which I didn’t think was possible. Ironically, this all happened while my partner and I were temporarily living on his family’s farm, almost three hours from Atlanta. Getting to and from the city for work was a hassle, but we did what we had to do.

But when we moved to Smyrna in July (15 minutes outside Atlanta) — the place we always intended to be — something shifted. I’m still not sure why. Maybe the nature in rural Georgia brought out my creative side and kept me open to possibility. Maybe I let the slowness of the entertainment industry in the summer catch me off guard. Maybe the fact I was starting from scratch at age 31 was finally getting to me. Whatever it was, my high took a nosedive; such is life.

Part of me looked forward to going home in August, but part of me dreaded it. Even though I had just wrapped a Michelob Ultra commercial and a short film, I felt like I wasn’t where I needed to be to take a “break.” WHATEVER THE FUCK THAT MEANS.

So while in Rhode Island focusing on my breathwork business, acting felt like less of a priority. Which made me panic. And in that panic, I signed up for an audition Masterclass I placed in previously but couldn’t commit to at the time. Well, I discovered my acting muscle had gone limp due to lack of practicing. Shocker. I felt totally out of touch with my emotions; “dead inside.” I took two more classes, and my situation became progressively worse. After some verbal abuse, my teacher gave up and assigned me a new scene. Then, amidst the confusion, I signed up for a marathon — just to see how much I could spike the overwhelm.

My highest self wanted to work on launching my breathwork business, and that’s it. However, my inner self-saboteur had other plans. Every time I disregarded my inner voice, my depression engulfed me a little bit more.

To top it all off, my period is 10 days late. So, I’ve basically been PMSing for three weeks.

My acting class is on Wednesday nights, but I won’t be there. And guess what? As soon as I made the decision to send the “I’m not going to make it” email, I got my period. That’s enough of a sign for me.

Does this mean I’m quitting acting? I don’t know. And I’m not trying to figure that out tonight. I did pay for another month of class, so chances are I’ll be there next week.

The point I’m making is, we always know what’s best for our highest self. And unfortunately, what’s best for our highest self can piss our ego off. Hence, the self-sabotuer makes an appearance.

At the end of the day, ego wants to keep everything comfortable. My ego, after many years of therapy, has accepted my identity as an actor. So, throwing in “breathwork facilitator” caused some internal drama.

So, how do we stay connected to our higher self? You guessed it: mindfulness practices. And what routines did I break right before the depression slipped in? Daily affirmations, meditation, breathwork, journaling, Al-Anon meetings, and more. It even got to the point where I couldn’t exercise — which is when I know something is REALLY off.

If I am doing at least three mindfulness practices a day (breathwork technique that can shift your mood in 3 minutes), I guarantee I am getting shit done. I’ll have an off day here and there, like any human, but this ‘week plus depression’ hasn’t reared its ugly head in years. It’s a good reminder that our work is never done. Self-care needs to happen on a daily basis to be the best version of ourselves. From this nurturing place, we cultivate the energy to help others, free of resentment and expectations.

Happy to say I’m feeling slightly better now that I have my period and I’m sharing my feelings with you all. Sorry for the missed newsletters; I hope this makes sense to someone!

The Dangers of Complements

Earlier this week, I listened to a recording from a meeting I had missed. I’ll keep the group name private, but its focus is healing an individual’s relationship with food. A courageous woman dear to my heart introduced this month’s topic: Body Image.

“Now, before we began, who would like to share a challenge or success they encountered this week? Come on, be brave and unmute yourselves,” she cooed.

As you can imagine, the resistance was palpable. Who doesn’t have a hang up about their body?

Finally, a participant unmuted herself and shared a challenge that struck me at my core. After months of weight loss and wins, a complement from a coworker was what derailed her. Someone simply acknowledging her weight-loss left her feeling so vulnerable, so resentful, she began to backtrack on her progress. This particular incident occurred months ago, but the wound remained.

She could pinpoint the moment her efforts unraveled, but she couldn’t figure out why a complement, of all things, was what did it.

As I walked my dog down a busy street, tears welled up in my eyes. In the past, complements notoriously caused me to backtrack on progress, and not just complements on my physical appearance. One time a friend complemented my defensive skills during basketball practice, and as soon as the words left her mouth, I let her score.

The group leader gave her own explanation. She believed the coworker’s comment made the participant feel “seen” in an uncomfortable way. Usually when a person struggles with something, they try to hide it. For example, an overweight person may fill their closet with black clothes.

When the coworker acknowledged her weight loss, the participant heard, “I remember when you were fat. Good thing you lost weight, you look so much better now!”

Her “secret” flaw was actually out in the open for the world to see, judge, and comment on.

In that moment, her ego perked up and said, “Let’s go back to the way we were so you don’t have to feel uncomfortable anymore!”

My issue with complements goes in a different direction. Words of Affirmation is my Love Language. For this reason, those who identify as men have easily charmed me into less than ideal situations, or made me believe things that weren’t true. Complements from women, on the other hand, cause me to retort back with a negative quality about myself. For example, if someone who identifies as a woman struggles with her weight and then comments on how toned I am, I feel compelled to make a comment about my thighs, in hopes she will feel better.

Over time, complements became a warning sign; “don’t trust that person.” It seemed there was always an ulterior motive behind the nicities. So, on a subconscious level, it made sense to take an opposing action to keep myself safe; ie, go home and binge eat if someone commented on my weight loss.

Breathwork, meditation, daily affirmations, journaling, and overall maturity have improved my relationship with complements. And hearing this angel lady vocalize her experience in such a brave and vulnerable way only heightened my awareness.

How do complements make you feel? Would you be comfortable standing in the middle of a room, while each person complements you? I experienced this in several acting classes, and witnessed it happen in breathwork teacher training. It’s pretty amazing, and also very difficult for most people!

Email me at victoriaant517@gmail.com if you’re interested in breaking through your aversion to complements or if you’d just like to chat more about this topic.

Much love!