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Self-care Series: Part 4

Hello stranger!

How is life treating you?

I am sorry I am taking so long to write, I have been really busy lately, and it will probably get even more intense. I might have some great news soon, but I still don’t have confirmation, so I will not spoil anything for now.

I guess just keep your fingers crossed for me, pretty please!

I am officially 23, and it feels kind of strange, I mean, a few days ago I was excited to be in my pyjamas at 9 pm and I can easily get used to it.

I can’t believe four years ago I left my home country to move abroad completely alone.

Around this time in 2018, I had my first interview ever, a week later I was told I got the job and I went to Italy for my training course which was six weeks. Immediately after finishing, I moved to the U.K., and despite moving a lot, this country has been my permanent home ever since.

At the beginning of 2019, I actually wanted to move to the Netherlands to study, however, I wasn’t much informed about student loans there, and I guess I was scared that I won’t be able to cover the costs with work and university. I was probably completely wrong, I should have gone for it, but maybe I had to be in the U.K. for the whole 'character development' that lead to the creation of this amazing blog.

Can’t change the past, but I have been learning so much, so cheers to growth!

You know, no rain, no rainbow!

I finished the two courses with CFG, I was supposed to have a group project for the web development course, but nobody was doing any work, so I eventually worked on it and submitted it alone, and I am so proud of it, I even received a badge on my certificate that I am a highly commended candidate. I came up with this idea to create a website that is meant to help you navigate through your emotions better, then I created my design too, and I know this project has a lot more potential. I will continue to keep working on it once I learn more skills.

For the other course, I had to work alone and create my own database, I made up all the data but still, it’s pretty good considering how annoying it was to work on it at times.

I am also starting the third week of the nanodegree today, so far it was all about SQL.

For me, it was mostly a review and these instructors do explain things better.

I’ve just started with Python, turns out I was wrong because after seeing the curriculum, I did not miss anything when I had to give up on the other course, they will cover everything and considerably more now.

I don’t really like surprises, so I have started to learn the basics myself before, so that it’s easier to make sure I don’t get confused during classes, plus I do study other things outside classes too.

This is the closest I will ever get to feeling like a regular student I guess, I like it and I like what I am studying now. I really can’t believe it took me so damn long to try this!!!

This is just the beginning of my journey and I will get wherever I want, no more self-doubt!

Nothing can stop me!

I do need to improve my time management, but I also need to learn to take breaks.

I can study even 2-3 hours at once with barely ten minutes break. It tends to strain my eyes, so I don’t recommend it. Less can be more, and moving your body and taking breaks can increase productivity and make sure you stay sane.

My attention span has improved so much, it feels so easy to learn new things.

It’s been almost three months without Xanax, and two months without coffee as well, and I am sleeping so much better, and I feel energised through the day too.

Cheers to small improvements!!! They mean so much to me.

I seriously thought I won’t be able to give up coffee. I used to drink even 2-3 cups of coffee a day, then gradually got it down to one cup, but it was still very strong.

Now I drink matcha, considerably less caffeine, and at this point, I think I can even skip some days and just get no caffeine.

I will definitely try it soon. I do miss the smell and taste of coffee, however, we are better apart.

Now, let’s focus on today’s article.

I will try my best to talk about gut health. Please bear in mind, that this is something that I am still struggling with, and I have not found a solution for the daily pain. I have only noticed that when I am calmer, the bloating can give me a break or be less uncomfortable.

This is also a complex subject with an overwhelming amount of information, so I will try my best to summarise as much as possible, making sure I include all the important parts.

We have all heard of the gut, but what is it, and why is it so important?

In simple words, it describes the function and balance of bacteria in the many parts of the gastrointestinal tract. The gut’s responsibility is to put our body into working order.

All food is ultimately broken down into the gut to a simple form that can enter the bloodstream and be delivered as nutrients to support our body’s functions.

The enteric nervous system (ENS) is one of the main divisions of the autonomic nervous system, and it consists of a mesh-like system of neurons embedded in the wall of the gastrointestinal system, that control local blood flow, motor functions, mucosal transport and secretions, and modules immune and endocrine functions.

The gut is also called the ‘second brain’ because ENS relies on the same type of neurons that communicate through neurotransmitters similar to the central nervous system, including dopamine and serotonin.

It is capable of acting independently of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, and also capable of operating independently of the brain and spinal cord.

However, it relies on innervation from the autonomic nervous system via the vagus nerve and prevertebral ganglia. The neurons of the ENS not only control the secretion of the gastrointestinal enzymes, but also the motor functions of the system.

There is a connection between the brain and the gut, known as the gut-brain axis.

It consists of bidirectional communication between the central and the enteric nervous system.

It links emotional and cognitive centres of the brain with peripheral intestinal functions and mechanisms such as immune activation, enteric reflex, and more.

The vagus nerve represents the main component of the parasympathetic nervous system, it targets many crucial body functions, including mood control, and heart rate.

There is preliminary evidence that stimulating the vagus nerve can be a promising add-on treatment for treatment-refractory depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even inflammatory bowel disease.

The vagal tone is correlated with the capacity to regulate stress responses, it can be influenced by breathing.

How to stimulate the vagus nerve: since it is connected to your vocal cords, try humming and listening to soothing music, deep breathing while trying to keep your exhales longer than your inhales, meditate, try yoga and try to include even some light form of exercising in your life.

Have a look to find some simple massages that you can try at home to stimulate the vagus nerve, as I am not great when it comes to describing certain things.

There is too much that I could cover about the vagus nerve but I will stop here today.

What is the microbiome?

The human microbiome has an estimated 100 trillion microbes (also known as the microbiota), the bulk of which live in our gut. It is composed of communities of bacteria (and viruses and fungi) that have greater complexity than the human genome itself.

We could not function properly without it because it is an essential part of the body, with extensive functions such as synthesis of vitamins and fat storage, defence against pathogens, development of immunity, as well as influence on human behaviour.

Each person has an entirely unique network of microbiota that is originally determined by one’s DNA. A healthy human gut can house at least 1000 different species of bacteria that are both helpful and potentially harmful. Most are symbiotic (the human body and microbiota benefit) and some, in smaller numbers, are pathogenic (they can promote disease). In a healthy body, they can coexist without problems. However, any disturbance in balance can cause dysbiosis (a condition when the gut bacteria become imbalanced), and as a result, the body may become more susceptible to disease.

In addition to the environment, family genes, and medication use, diet plays an important part in determining the type of microbiota that live in the gut.

Have you ever heard of leaky gut? I know it sounds strange, but let me explain.

It is a condition in which the lining of the small intestine becomes inflamed, damaged, or irritated, allowing microbial toxins and undigested food particles to flood into the bloodstream.

The damaged cells in your intestines don’t produce the enzymes needed for digestion, and as a result, the body cannot absorb essential nutrients. This can lead to hormone imbalances, affecting estrogen levels, thyroid and insulin resistance, and a weakened immune system.

A leaky gut has been associated with many health problems such as allergies, food sensitivities, skin disorders, chronic fatigue, bloating, sudden weight gain and weight loss resistance, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel syndrome, trouble sleeping, extreme food cravings, especially sugar, but also anxiety and depression. Actually way more things…

I will not suggest anything that you can try to heal this. I am not a doctor, I am just someone trying to learn by reading as much as possible. My only suggestion will be to include certain types of foods that can promote healthy bacteria such as kefir, yoghurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, sourdough, almonds, kombucha, ginger, bananas, and berries.

I guess try to make sure you eat diverse food. There can be a lot of trial and error until you might find what works best for you. Do your own research as well.

Try to find a good doctor that won't try to gaslight you, I know there are some specific tests for this.

Just like everything else, stress can truly make everything worse.

I know lowering your stress level is not easy. Most of the time, we don’t even know how to do this. The truth is that sometimes it isn’t just what is happening to us, but the way we react.

We should aim for regulation, not repression. Your emotions want to be acknowledged, not shoved in a drawer and forgotten about.

Do you know how I end up feeling when I try to dismiss my emotions and act like I am okay? Eventually, after keeping them bottled up for so long, I end up having a meltdown.

The anger and frustration resurface, considerably stronger than before. I don’t like this because I don’t want to take it on others. We all know that sometimes the things we say when we are angry are extremely painful. I don’t like to hurt people, I don’t like to be heartless and selfish, that’s not who I am.

When you give in to explosive emotions, the truth is that you will probably end up saying things you don’t actually mean, but the worst part is that you cannot take them back!

You should be more mindful of the words you use, those words can cause deep wounds that will not easily heal. Pause for a moment and think properly before saying things.

People can forget words, but they will never forget how you made them feel!

I didn’t know how to cope with anger before. I am still learning but I am so glad it’s not like it used to be.

I am incredibly proud of all the progress that I have been making.

I don’t get easily overwhelmed anymore. Lots of things still irritate me, but my annoyance won’t last the entire day like it used to.

Sometimes I feel the need to cry, to let it all out. I avoid writing both here and in my diary because sometimes I feel that if I verbalise my thoughts, fears, and frustration, they come to life. As you can notice, this idea might sound rather excessive. It’s avoidance, it’s not so great because I would rather distract myself than ask myself what I need, it’s easier than being vulnerable with myself.

I did manage to write a few things down when I was angry, then I ripped the paper into small pieces. It was just a list of things I want to let go of.

You can give this exercise a go if you want.

All this constant difficult work to regulate my emotions is actually starting to pay off.

Things don’t stress me out like it's the end of the world, anxiety doesn’t take over anymore, and it doesn’t keep me up at night.

I need to manage my stress more mindfully because if I don’t, I don’t just get migraines or painful bloating but my stomach starts burning out of the blue too, and then I feel nauseous as well and it triggers my knee pain. This all happens very fast, however, the effects can be seen the next day as well. I can wake up with skin rashes, they tend to look like allergy reactions. I had worse too, big purple patches everywhere that took forever to disappear.

I used to be stressed a lot, paired with many difficult months, which lead to awful gut inflammation.

I do believe that the way we react to stress is a key factor in starting to feel better.

Recently I was talking to my mother about this and how uncomfortable I feel in my own body when no matter what I do, I don't know how to alleviate the symptoms.

She looked at me and probably for the first time, she just listened.

After a bit, she said 'You are going through so much, I can't even imagine what this must be like. Your knees are hurting every day and getting worse, now this too and it's been going on for a long time. You really need to find a doctor, all this inflammation is what probably caused the sudden weight gain too because you barely eat sometimes. Promise me you will get it checked out, you can't keep going on like this...'.

It meant so much to just hear her saying this instead of blaming me for 'letting myself go' like she did last year.

Being empathetic towards someone makes a huge difference.

Always remember to be kind.

I really hope I did not make everything too confusing. I spent hours reading and writing this article, I hope you find it useful.

Remember things can get better and you are not alone.

We can get better together!

Virtual hugs!

Today's song:

Credit: Mirrors reflect you on IG.

#mentalhealth #kindness #youarenotalone

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