An Anti-Inflammatory Journey
Here’s your friendly reminder to take care of your mental, physical, and spiritual health. Lately, I've been focusing on the physical because it’s hard to address anything else when I don’t feel well. A way to begin taking care of yourself is to pay attention to the signals your body is putting out. If you’re feeling unusually tired or run down, experiencing random skin issues (acne, eczema, and psoriasis), joint pain, anxiety attacks, and depressive symptoms (lowered mood, fatigue, and lack of enjoyment) - you may be dealing with inflammation brought on by chronic stress.
Our bodies can respond to stress by creating inflammation, which a way of reacting to the stress. For example, when we catch a cold, our body can become fevered, which is our body’s way of getting rid of the virus. Chronic stress causes our body to stay in an inflammatory state or “attack mode” at all times, which can cause serious damage to our immune system.
For the better part of this year, I’ve been dealing with crippling joint pain in my wrists, which I felt was highly unusual for someone who is 25. My doctors prescribed over-the-counter ibuprofen, told me to find wrist stretches on YouTube, and to stop typing so much. But the pain persisted. It’s safe to say I felt hopeless and alone, so I turned to, our friend, the Internet. I discovered tendonitis, which is a form of inflammation. That was the moment when my anti-inflammatory journey began.
As I went down the Google rabbit hole, I realized I'd been dealing with stress-induced inflammation for a long time. My symptoms included constant acne flare-ups, fatigue, mood swings, anxiety, and digestive issues to name a few. I blame my chronic stress on being a freelancer and gig culture, tumultuous relationships and friendships, and the wear and tear of society in general.
Luckily, the interweb also lead me to anti-inflammatory steps I could begin to take, such as making changes to my diet, taking vitamins, and trying meditation. I learned that inflammation can be caused by food sensitivities (dairy, gluten, processed food, refined sugar), an imbalance of bacteria in the gut, toxins from the environment and beauty products, and other factors related to lifestyle.
After learning this information, I created and began my self prescribed, Anti-Inflammatory Protocol. I’ve started going to acupuncture once a week for my tendonitis and stress relief. I take omega-3 fatty acids and collagen for joint pain, a probiotic to balance my gut, and zinc/B-complex for skin issues. I’ve adopted a dairy-free Pescatarian diet and try to eat a leafy green salad once a day.
Living in NYC, it’s impossible to avoid toxins in the air, so I try to habitually drink lemon water as a daily detox. I’ve also been exploring the world of non-toxic beauty and recommend brands like Schmidt’s for deodorant, Acure for face wash, and Hello for toothpaste. As far as lifestyle changes, I still like to indulge in a glass or two of wine, but I consciously remind myself to have a glass of water in between each drink. A girl’s gotta have some fun!
But when it comes to stress, I feel like it's a daily battle. Meditation has been a game-changer for me. Especially, to the sounds of Native American flutes, which I find to be really peaceful. Some other helpful habits include journaling my feelings or writing a gratitude list to read whenever I’m feeling down. I also do YouTube yoga classes (a favorite below) and try to make time to hang out with people that make me happy.
And I’m happy to report my inflammation issues are in a much better place today. I continue to get acupuncture, do daily stretching, and take physical and mental breaks at work. Using a CBD balm has helped to ease the pain in my hands and allowed me to continue working, while maintaining my sanity. As far as supplements, I’m still taking probiotics, which has greatly improved my digestion and gut health, and omega-3 fatty acids and collagen. I do only see a slight difference in my joints but I will say, my nails and hair are visibly stronger.
I’ve added herbs to the mix to aid my body in the elimination of toxins and stress, like calming Ashwagandha tea, and liver detoxifying Milk Thistle and Burdock Root, both in pill form. Ever since I started the Milk Thistle and Burdock Root, my breakouts have been cut in half!
It’s a challenge to be consistent with my self care routines like meditation and journaling. Instead of focusing on consistency, I’ve decided to put more effort into enjoying the activity when I do make time. When I feel the urge to clear my mind, I’ll do a “ brain dump” exercise by writing down everything on my mind. It’s a small thing, but afterward I’m left feeling lighter and amazingly accomplished.
I encourage you to pay attention to the signs your body is throwing out and do your research. Try to be patient and kind to yourself and your body - it needs to carry you 70+ more years.
Alexandra Rodríguez is an illustrator from from Puerto Rico currently living in Brooklyn, New York. Alexandra’s main focus on her personal art is design and illustration. You can find most of Alexandra’s work on Instagram: @catscratchale (website under construction). For commissions, collaborations, or questions you can send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.