With the new year approaching, many people are looking for ways to bring harmony and peace into their life and home after another challenging year.
Holistic Health Specialist Francesca Bonta says her patients are experiencing heightened stress. She says her patients are coming to her not only to find solutions for stress but to implement new coping mechanisms that help them find joy and happiness in every area of their life.
“The constant state of uncertainty and the underlying element of fear our world has been experiencing for nearly two years without a doubt affects not only our stress levels but our ability to manage stress. I have been referring to this as a decreased threshold of tolerance,” she says.
According to Statistics Canada, during the period from April to June 2021, one-quarter of Canadians reported experiencing high levels of stress most days, while nearly half of Canadians feel their stress level is higher than before the pandemic began.
The effects were greatest among women aged 25 to 54, the LGBTQ2+ community, and people living with children.
Bonta says activities that used to be part of the daily routine are now more stressful due to restrictions and uncertainty.
“Common activities which may not have caused anxiety in the past, and maybe even brought joy, such as going to the grocery store, now consume part of our tolerance threshold. Thus, we are exhausted and feel like most of the day is an effort to get through,” she says adding fear is the heaviest, lowest vibrating emotion and is connected to and the limiting emotion of our root chakra, Muladhara, meaning it has become more challenging for us to feel truly safe and that our most primal needs are supported.
She believes people need to take time to discover stress relievers that will help improve daily life and spark the joy we experienced pre-pandemic. She says getting back to nature, even activities as simple as going for a walk, can help reduce these feelings of anxiety.
“The best way to feel balanced and grounded is to immerse yourself in nature. If you have the opportunity to step away from the business of city life, great, however no matter where you are, embrace nature,” she says.
Bonta recommends going for a 20-minute walk daily and to take the time to absorb the natural aspects around you.
“Animals are an absolute joy in my life, especially dogs. Zoya is a little healer herself and I love sharing her with all who are called to connect with us,” she says. “However, I also love watching chipmunks playing and birds in flight. Zero guilt on my end about how much time I spend watching cute pup videos on Instagram.”
Bonta says there are countless other ways to improve how we feel, the most important being through what we consume.
We literally are what we eat, so be mindful to eat high vibing foods, especially focusing on fruits and veggies,” she says.
She recommends eating four servings of fruit a day and ensuring that half your plate is filled with veggies each meal. She notes that fresh and frozen are equally great options, offering the vitamins and nutrients necessary to improve overall health. She adds root vegetables are another key ingredient in helping improve the quality of what we consume.
“Root vegetables are also super helpful to help you feel more grounded,” she says adding as a nutrition professional for over 25 years, she believes there is no reason not to consume vegetables. “Unless you are truly allergic to foods (tested in a true medical setting) there are no “bad” fruits and veggies. Variety and moderation is the key.”
In the case of processed foods, Bonta recommends avoiding them as much as possible, focusing on eating natural and chemical-free foods.
“Avoid processed foods as they are “poison”, including so-called “health foods”. Keep it to the basics of natural ingredients. Find some spice and herbs mixes that can enhance the flavour of your food. Stay away from those sugary sauces. I like to focus on what to eat, versus what not to eat. How can we expect our bodies to feel great and function optimally if we do not nourish them?” she says.
Bonta believes there are several key actions we can take to improve our health through physical exercise and incorporating slow movement exercises such as yoga and breath work into everyday self-care.
“There are so many different types of practices so it is accessible to everyone,” she says. “There are many offerings for free online and in communities or you may find a studio of practitioner you align with.”
She says her journey and practice have shifted over time. She says one of the benefits of exploring new practices is the change she has seen in her mind, body and soul.
“Many people may feel they don’t have time for ‘self-care’. How should they work it into their everyday lives? It is non-negotiable to have time for self-care,” she says. “Self-care does not mean having to escape to an expensive spa or take a week’s vacation on a warm beach down south. Self-care incorporates our everyday practices, particularly being mindful.”
Bonta recommends incorporating self-care into everyday activities such as preparing your meals with love and intention or watching entertaining programs and listening to music that lights your soul.
She adds that the people around you can also play a vital role in your overall well-being.
“Be in the company of uplifting people. Connect with the beauty in nature, watch the waves or the snow falling. There is so much beauty in nature. Notice how your daily activities make you feel. If it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it.
She recognizes that not every moment of the day can be blissful, however, she says there are many more moments of joy we can bring into our lives.
“If following someone on social media gives you angst, unfollow. If the news makes you cry don’t listen to it for hours on end daily. Empower yourself, you have control over what and who you allow into your life. It is the simple things that matter. So in my opinion, there are countless self-care opportunities. It is up to you to find what resonates with you and love yourself enough to follow through.” she says.
Bonta believes starting down a new path of self-care does not have to be difficult and should be done in stages.
“All my suggestions are being shared with an understanding of reality. A more enlightened lifestyle does not mean that life is all rainbows, butterflies, and birds singing,” she says. “My mission statement is to inspire individual empowerment to navigate life’s adversities with more ease and grace, allowing more love, light, and joy to flow through you.”
She believes that challenges and hiccups happen along the way and that allowing more opportunities for joy to flow into your life will make your challenges naturally become more manageable.
“Accepting the ebbs and flows of life as part of the journey is essential to a balanced life. However, be mindful to not get consumed by the lower vibrating energy. It is a practice and does not happen with the snap of your fingers, but the benefits of a healthy practice are immediate and the more areas of your life you support the stronger you become,” she says, adding it is okay to allow ourselves to indulge once in a while. “Eat better, surround yourself with fabulous people, be in nature, meditate, practice yoga, connect with breathing techniques in small steady steps. Play with these offerings. Find what works for you. Be patient. Enjoy the journey, instead of only focusing on the destination. I have personally supported thousands of individuals over the years and have seen this come to fruition.”
Bonta offers simple advice to those who may be finding it difficult to incorporate these ideas and practices into their life. She says she understands how difficult it can be to make a change and to be patient with ourselves as we make this journey.
“Okay, so let me be honest. My life is far from perfect, yet I am genuinely happy and have a zest for life and a vibrant aura! There are incredible health challenges with my immediate family. Loved one pass in my world too. I am getting older and natural phases of life like menopause have posed obstacles for me as well,” she says. “This pandemic has not been a picnic for me either, I have had to put a great deal of effort into adapting my work life to integrate into our current world. I have chosen to preserve, apply the techniques I have shared above. I practice what I preach. It is not always easy, but I value myself enough to not sit in a space of suffering. Pain is inevitable, suffering is a choice. I ask for help and I am open to receiving it. I allow myself to be vulnerable too.”
She says she is more careful about what she shares on social media and selective with those she chooses to share her life with.
“On social media, I choose to share with discernment. Hence you see my page and think I haven’t cried in ten years. One of the things I pride in myself the most is the ability to be real with my audience and clients,” she says. “Discernment is key. So find your tribe friends. It may be one or two supports, a huge team, it could be friends or professional support. But NO ONE CAN DO THIS ALONE. We never get “there”.”
She adds balance in life is not like climbing a ladder to get to the top, “Samadhi or True Bliss State “. Instead, she says it is about finding moments or glimmers of bliss in as many moments of each day as possible.
“Be patient, kind and nurturing of yourself, just like you would someone else that you love and care for. I genuinely hope you have found this information supportive and will integrate elements of my offerings as you can into your life,” she says. “It is my honour and pleasure to share the light with the world.”
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