It's Time To Take Back Your Life

Month: April 2024

Stress, Depression and Suicide

The world seems to be upside down right now.  Stress is at an all-time high, and doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

Disclaimer, I am not a physician, nurse, registered dietician, physical therapist, or mental health professional.  This is my story and what I have done and learned over the course of my journey.  If you plan to start a diet or exercise program, please get approval from your doctor.

Stress is defined as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances” or “something that causes mental strain”.

Stress can manifest in many different ways in our bodies.  It can be psychological, or physical.  It can increase headaches, acne, rapid heartbeat, sweating, changes in appetite, and digestive health issues such as bloating, nausea, and vomiting.  It can cause chronic pain and more frequent bouts of sickness including infections.

Stress and anxiety are very closely related.  They go hand in hand.  They can share many different symptoms such as muscle tension, moodiness, sleep interruptions, lack of concentration, and digestive problems.

Stress is a normal human reaction that has been built to trigger our fight-or-flight response.  We have all heard the story of the caveman facing the tiger, right?  It helps keep us alive.  That is what we call short-term stress.

In today’s world, we have many of the same modes but they have taken various forms and resulted in more of a long-term modality, like financial, a bad job or boss, layoffs, robberies, rape, or unhinged or politically driven individuals that walks into a school, church, or mass event with bombs and automatic weapons.  Countries and people are being persecuted for their beliefs.  Hostages being taken, and wars breaking out. All we have to do is watch the news.

The current state of our world today keeps us in a state of “chronic” or continuing stress.  Our bodies never get the opportunity to reset.  Our cortisol and adrenalin levels remain high for extended periods and begin manifesting physical and psychological symptoms.

Maybe you are going through an upcoming big test, or found that your partner cheated on you. How about a messy divorce, or a child that is on drugs, or going the wrong way in life? Then it could be the death of a family member or members. The loss of a beloved pet, or a sick child.  Maybe you just received a very serious diagnosis. Then there is the loss of a job, with your income and benefits along with it.

The loss of a job, divorce and health diagnosis, are huge. Then can and will cascade into financial stress. The threat of bankruptcy, and losing your home with nowhere to go, might be around the corner. All of these things come with an attached debt factor.

The pathway from chronic stress might look like this

Stress > Anxiety (Panic Attacks) > Depression > Attempted Suicide > Death

The World Health Organization estimates that over 5% of the global adult population is suffering from depression.  That is 400M people. Chronic or continuing stress is difficult on the body.  

Symptoms of Stress/Depression

According to, 

Physical symptoms of stress include:

  • Aches and pains
  • Chest pain or a felling like your heart is racing
  • Exhaustion or trouble sleeping
  • Headaches, dizziness or shaking
  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle tension or jaw clenching
  • Stomach or digestive problems
  • Decreased Libido
  • Weak immune system

Stress can lead to emotional and mental symptoms like

  • Anxiety or irritability
  • Depression
  • Panic Attacks
  • Sadness

Often, people with chronic stress try to manage it with unhealthy behaviors including:

  • Drinking alcohol too much and too often
  • Gambling
  • Overeating or developing eating disorders like bulimia or anorexia
  • Smoking
  • Using drugs

Things you can do to improve your mood

Because stress is subjective, which means there is no test in which to measure it,  only the person experiencing the stress knows the extent of its severity.

If you are experiencing stress, what are some of the things you can do to help yourself?

  • Get out in the sun and go for a walk
  • Exercise
  • Practicing Moments of Gratitude
  • Set goals for each day, week, and month.  Narrowing your view will help you feel more in control.
  • Consider talking to a trusted friend if you have one
  • Consider talking to a therapist
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Chair Yoga for those who are limited
  • Tai Chi
  • Breathing exercises
  • Muscle relaxation exercises
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Try and disconnect from social media and TV for a better night’s sleep
  • Stay positive
  • Except that you cannot control everything
  • Learn to say “no” to friends and family
  • Journaling
  • Stay connected to people who keep you calm or make you happy
  • If that is not an option, then listen to a motivating podcast or YouTube Channel.

Warning Signs of Depression

Here are a few warning signs someone might display if they are experiencing high levels of stress and depression:

  • Talking out wanting to die, guilt, shame, or being a burden to others.
  • Feelings of 
    • Emptiness, hopelessness, trapped, or no reason to live
    • Extremely sad, anxious, agitated, or full of rage
    • Unbearable emotional or physical pain
  • Making a plan or researching ways to die
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, school, or work.
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Using drugs/alcohol more
  • Eating or sleeping more or less

The World Health Organization estimates that over 703,000 people globally commit suicide each year.  Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States and is the fourth leading cause of death among those 15-29 years of age.  The highest suicide rate is those 85 and older.  Males are 4x more likely to commit suicide than females.  

According to the CDC (2021) stats, 48,183 people committed suicide.  That equates to 132 suicides each day. Suicide is the number 11 cause of death in the United States. It is number 4 for the ages of 15-29. It is highest in individuals over 85 years of age. If you or someone you love begin to feel overwhelmed, talk to a medical professional immediately.   If you are abusing drugs and alcohol, please get help.

If you have thoughts of hurting yourself, please seek a professional or reach out to the Suicide Hotline at:

Text 988 on your phone 

Chat on the web at

Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Text “Hello” to 741741 for the crisis text line

The hotline is also for caregivers.  If you are concerned for someone, you can call this number as well.

We don’t need to shy away from this topic just because it is very uncomfortable.  This is not something that just goes away, if allowed, it can manifest.  It all starts with stress.

If you have kids, learn the warning signs. If you have a friend or family member exhibiting some of these characteristics, please reach out and try to have that coversation. If you have a loved one in a long-term care facility, please ask the staff how they are doing and look for signs of disassociation, depression, not wanting to eat, not wanting to get out of bed or socialize. These could be all signs of depression.

2024 Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 Lists

Let’s face it, groceries are expensive.  They are even more expensive when you purchase organic produce.  But, there is a hack that will give you the most bang for your buck.

The Environmental Working Group or released its 2024 Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 List.  Should you use these as a guide when making your produce choices?  I say yes!  I use this list all the time, when making the decision to buy organic over conventional produce.

The Environmental Working Group or EWG, tests all produce every year for the amount of pesticides load in each fruit and vegetable found.  They release the results each year in the form of lists.  These lists are called The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15.  

If you have never heard of these lists, get ready to add a great tool to your arsenal toolkit for a healthier lifestyle.  The Dirty Dozen List is the most helpful list for picking clean fruits and vegetables that come with a lower pesticide load.

So, if you are considering starting a diet or changing your habits, these lists will go a long way in helping you save money.  The Dirty Dozen are the 12 top fruits and vegetables that contain the highest pesticide load.  These are pesticides like round-up and others, which we know cause cancer.  You will want to purchase these in their organic form.

The Dirty Dozen is as follows:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale, Collard, and Mustard Greens
  4. Grapes
  5. Peaches
  6. Pears
  7. Nectarines
  8. Apples
  9. Bell and Hot Peppers
  10. Cherries
  11. Blueberries
  12. Green Beans

The Clean 15

Now, the Clean 15 is the list that has the lowest amounts of pesticides and you can save money by purchasing conventional products instead of organic. This provides a great cost savings when you are at the store shopping.

These are:

32. Carrots

33. Sweet Potatoes

34. Mangoes

35. Mushrooms

36. Watermelon

37. Cabbage

38. Kiwi

39. Honeydew Melon

40. Asparagus

41. Sweet peas (frozen)

42. Papaya

43. Onions

44. Pineapple

45. Sweet Corn

46. Avocados

You can find the lists on, and I urge each of you to use these when shopping.  Snap a picture and save it to your home screen on your phone.  That way, you will have it with you every time you shop.  


Struggling with My Diet

It is April now, and I have been on my whole food plant-based diet for a about four months now. I did have some meals that I flexed out, but it has remained about 96% plant-based. My weight has recently plateaued with a 36 pound weight loss, and I am struggling to move the needle.

Don’t get me wrong, I am very excited that I have lost the weight I have, but I am struggling with my “personality tendancies”. I have a tendancy of “rise and repeat”, so I am not varying my diet as much as I should be.

I do not know a lot of recipes for plant-based dinners that are quick and easy. I have cookbooks and the recipes are only a search away, but I tend to run out of steam in the very early evening. Most of that is contributed to my pain in my feet, hip and back. What is that from? I think it is a result from years of inflammation that has resulted into several chronic diagnoses.

What have I been eating? Well, for Breakfast, I have oatmeal with blueberries, strawberries, flax and cinnamon. Lunch can be a salad or protein shake, with a EarthChip Organic Vegan Protein, banana, greens, applesauce and plant-based milk. Dinner is generally a pot of homemade soup or chili with with plenty of beans and veggies, or if I am in a pinch, I make a quick bean burger, loaded with Dijon Mustard and veggies. My snacks can be hummus and chips, or hotsauce and chips. I have stopped alcohol now about 7 months now, and to tell you the truth, I miss the habit of the wine and cheese while I was cooking dinner, but I don’t miss the increased blood pressure or the poor sleep that always followed.

I have ordered some Anthony’s Textured Vegetable Protein, which is gluten free, and non-gmo. I have also ordered some Butler Soy Curls. I hope both of these will give me some new options to increase my protein intake and give me some quick and easy meal ideas like tacos and burritos, with veggies, and hotsauce. I think the soy curls might be excellent for my own fajitas, with bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, squash, and hotsauce.

One pot dinners are really my goto now. I eat to fuel my body and not feed my face. I do not need a full three course meal. The one struggle I am really having a difficult time with is yogurt. I love yogurt each night as a sweet snack with granola or fruit. I try not to eat too much fruit at night though. I have noticed that it increases the pain of my inflammation the following day.

This week I have increased my walking to at least 30 minutes a day if it is not storming. This is spring and I am in Texas. I have gotten some cabbage, both green and purple, and I am going to nail down a recipe to substitute for my chicken salad. That is always a quick and easy sandwich if I am ever caught at night, either not feeling well or simply too tired to cook. Also, I need to prep salads and have them ready to go in containers so I can pull, dump and add dressing, and I have a healthy meal. Things like this will ensure, you do not hit the local drive-thru or order a pizza.

I do need to find some recipes for soy blocks. One that I can crumble into a stir-fry or scramble. Theses will add good options as well. I have not gotten into the soy meats yet. I drink a ton of soy milk, but not meat as of yet.

I have some vegan cookbooks, but I will say that the meals are more complex than I would like. I also have Plant-Based on a Budget Quick & Easy, by Toni Okamoto along with her other book, Plant-Based on a Budget. She has some good idea recipes, but in my opinion, she uses too much oil in all her recipes. So, I constantly have to substitute vegetable broth, apple sauce or other things . The jury is still out on the healthy benefits for someone that has to stay away from nuts and oils. She uses a great many of both in her recipes.

My advice to you, is to think about your favorite meals you loved and consumed prior to your diet restrictions. Now, try and nail down a recipe that tastes exactly like it. Get creative and think outside your box. I didn’t think this was possible until one day. I made a recipe of a cold slaw salad and when I closed my eyes, it tasted exactly like my southern potato salad recipe I used to make to accompany my sloppy joes and barbecue ribs. This is a win/win. Anytime I can incorporate cruciferous veggies into my diet, is a good thing being a cancer survivor.

As I told you before, change will not come overnight, and I am your living proof. You must grow your own recipe book with things you like. I tried keeping all the recipes in all the books and marking the pages, but I could never find the recipe I was looking for, when I needed it.

I hope this helps and gives you some encouragement to move forward in your journey to a healthier life. Only you can do this, it is not going to be done for you. But, I can tell you, the benefits far outweigh the effort!



The following above article may contain affiliate partner links.  I could earn a small commission, at no cost to you, for any qualifying purchases.  

This blog is for entertainment and informational purposes only.  The information contained within this blog is not intended to diagnose or cure any medical condition.  I am not a physician, licensed dietician or physical therapist.  

This blog is the result of my personal experiences and what I chose to do for a healthier lifestyle.  As always, before you begin a diet, exercise program or add supplements, please consult your healthcare professional.