MGU 299 | Holiday Depression

 

Do you ever start to feel lonely or depressed once the holidays start to seep in—while the sun goes down earlier and you are home with your family with all the holiday food? That is a recipe for a major depressive disorder called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. Join your hosts Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen as they talk about holiday depression and how to cure it. Find out how the lack of sunlight can affect your mental state and how vitamin D can help. Discover how a good diet can help fight back some depressive symptoms. Don’t be lonely this holiday season, and come join in today’s conversation.

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Are The Holidays Bringing You Down?

In the immortal words of Bob Dylan and then more recently, Axl Rose, “Knock, knock, knockin’ on 300th door.” We are one episode away from the 300th episode of the show. It feels momentous because this is number 299. We have done episodes about markers and milestones in our careers but it does feel pretty cool to be coming right up on the 300th episode of this show. Before we jump into the subject matter, which is something that hit me in a flash, being that we are right in the midst of the holiday season in 2021, this episode has been brought to you and is being sponsored by SimplyCodes. It’s a browser extension and a new iOS app that helps you save money with coupons at over 70,000 websites. If you’re looking to save money and do it in a very easy way, we’re going to share more about this brand-new iOS app later on in the episode, which you can download at SimplyCodes.com/Wellevatr.

I’m excited about this because it coincides with us celebrating not only our 300th episode but also we’re coming up on our two-year anniversary, which is a big milestone for a show. Not to pat ourselves on the back too much but the reason that this coincides with SimplyCodes is we’re very particular about brands that we partner with and you’ll find out why we partnered with them. What we’re going to do with some of the sponsorship money is to invest in brand-new microphones. Stay tuned because sometime soon, we will be purchasing brand-new mics that Jason and I had wanted for quite some time. They’re fancier than the current mics.

As much as I like the mics we have now, which have our logo on them, these are not quite beginner microphones. This is our second set of microphones that we have used since we started the show. This third set we’re getting is the higher end. They were a little bit more expensive. Jason and I agreed that around our two-year mark and the next time we had a sponsor, we’re going to take some of that money and invest it into ourselves and the show for better quality audio and a better look.

If you’re watching us on YouTube, they look a little bit cooler than the mics we have now. It’s not a cool factor. It’s like, “We’re going to the next level with this show.” That’s part of the reason that we work with sponsors like SimplyCodes because they allow us to invest back into ourselves, plus pay ourselves a little bit of money for all the hard work that goes into this. Thank you, SimplyCodes, for making that happen. I can’t wait to talk more about them later.

Whitney, I had an interesting conversation with a new business colleague. We were discussing an NFT project, which is a whole new world for me. More on that, maybe in a future episode. We were discussing how it seems pretty much every year, right around the holidays, things do not feel necessarily as joyful or relaxing as we think they should. That was the verbiage that I used.

Every year, it feels like I’m aware the holidays are coming up. There’s Thanksgiving, Kwanzaa, Christmas, Hanukkah and Festivus. There are a lot of different things or maybe nothing at all. Maybe you, dear reader, don’t celebrate any of those things. If I reflect back on certainly my adult life and also the years that we’ve been doing this show, our brand Wellevatr and all the entrepreneurial years prior to that, it has seemed like the holidays have been this manic, crazy stressful time. I can’t remember the last year where I didn’t feel a level of stress and overwhelm during the holidays.

I’m bringing this up because you and I have a lot of similarities in our life in the sense that not only have we been entrepreneurs for many years but we have been working together in many different capacities for years and have done many holiday promotions together. We have done giveaways, bundles, podcast launches and a lot of stuff in the holiday season but we also share the fact that you and I came from parts of the country that have pretty intense and brutal winters. Massachusetts and Michigan are known for being pretty heavy in terms of snowfall.

MGU 299 | Holiday Depression

Holiday Depression: SAD has been linked with a biochemical imbalance in the brain. It’s prompted by shorter daylight hours and less sunlight in the winter. People’s circadian rhythms shift, and this triggers depression.

 

I went down a little research rabbit hole, looking at the statistics around Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, which is another funny acronym that is maybe inappropriate to share here on the show. You can maybe intuit what that might mean. Seasonal Affective Disorder, depression, mental health issues and suicide around the holidays, the statistics are alarming. Before I get into that, I want to ping it back to you and ask you two questions.

  1. A) Are you feeling me on looking back on your professional career or adult life and going, “The holidays have been consistently stressful?” B) Do you feel like when you were living in Massachusetts or the East Coast, you had any Seasonal Affective Disorder with the gray days, lack of sunshine and heavy winter? Has living on the West Coast improved that at all? Have you noticed a change in your mood with the winters you have spent since living in California?

I’m very grateful that as you talk about the stress, I can say I’m not experiencing that. It could be a number of things. One is that 2021 is one of the first years in a while that we haven’t participated in a big Black Friday campaign. For those that haven’t been part of our online world for a while, you may not know this. In years past, we used to do these bundle sales and we have made podcast episodes earlier in 2021 about why we stopped. I encourage you to read back that bundle sale episode in particular because we found out that we were accidentally put into a Black Friday bundle sale.

I was triggered because I didn’t want that stress that it was almost like PTSD. What is the other form of PTSD? Is it CPTSD? There is another term. I use those terms lightly. A traumatic stress response would be a more accurate way of saying this of me, thinking like, “I do not want to experience that stress again. This doesn’t feel good to me.”

I panicked because even though it was an accident, I didn’t know if they would be able to take our product out of this bundle sale. I wanted to be integrity with what we have talked about in the past, saying we’re not going to do bundle sales, even though we’re not saying we’ll never do them again. It’s not 100% never going back to it but now because of what you’re describing, it’s not a fit. There’s that level where I’m so relieved not to be experiencing that stress.

There are other forms of stress during the holidays that I’ve felt. You were talking about the weather and the change in season. There is also the pressure of plans. Thanksgiving is coming up. I don’t have any solid plans and I found myself panicking about like, “Do I need to go to the store, go grocery shopping and come up with a list of recipes? What am I going to do? Am I okay?” I have all this FOMO like, “Do I not celebrate Thanksgiving in a fun way?” I haven’t spent Christmas with my family as I used to for so long. I’m okay with that. I came back from seeing them but it is a little sad for me not to spend the holidays with family.

All of these things can contribute to the stress that you’re describing, Jason. The weather is a factor, which we’re blessed not to have that issue as much in Southern California. I certainly enjoy some of the snow and the cold weather. It’s nice if I’m not living there all the time. I don’t remember if I had Seasonal Affective Disorder. I knew of it but I’ve also learned so many different strategies for balancing my mood and handling anxiety and depression.

Speaking of which, I have realized that I haven’t experienced depression as much as I do anxiety. I became acutely aware of it once I started tracking my mood. I have talked about this on This Hits The Spot. There is an app that I use called Bearable. It’s free. There is a premium version if you want to pay a little extra for some features but the free version is great. You can use it to track all different elements of your mental, physical and emotional well-being and see where the trends are and help you identify what’s helping you.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern. Click To Tweet

One thing that can feel depressing for me this time of year is the light. It gets dark earlier. I usually like to stay up late and I don’t like waking up early unless I’m traveling. That’s tough for me but I adjust to it. Going back around to anxiety versus depression, I struggle much more with feeling anxious about Thanksgiving, work-related things and all sorts of things. That comes up for me much more than depression. My brain generally doesn’t feel depressed but I used to think that was depression.

Those lower moods, I believe now in hindsight and also based on therapy and talking to professionals around this, they think that I’m much more on the anxious level of things than the depressive level. That doesn’t mean that I don’t feel depressed sometimes and have challenges around that but all of this is to say that I don’t know if I have been deeply affected by the seasons aside from the light.

That’s a huge part of Seasonal Affective Disorder. That’s why people buy those special lamps and all of that. I haven’t felt the need for them because if I can manage my anxiety through therapy, medication and whatever wellness practices then I tend to be in a good place. I battle anxiety throughout the year and it doesn’t seem to be super related to the seasons.

I appreciate you sharing all that. It’s something I’ve also been reflecting on. I’m on the side of depression more so than anxiety. You and I are on two different sides of the coin in that sense. It got me thinking about growing up in Detroit, Michigan, living in Chicago for about three years, living in New York and my state of mental health being in those Midwestern and East Coast cities versus the nearly fifteen years I’ve been here in California. It’s hard to say because it has been a decade and a half since I’ve lived on the East Coast.

From my recollection, I do remember feeling depressed and sad in the winter but I don’t know necessarily if it was that much more acute than my baseline depression. I do know that lack of sunlight leads to a lack of vitamin D3 in particular. I have been supplementing with Vitamin D3 supplement, especially in the wintertime when it’s darker and there’s less sunlight. We’ve had a lot more overcast days here in California. One of my go-to’s for depression has been D3 due to less sunlight during the day.

It’s interesting to look at the factors that are playing into not only Seasonal Affective Disorder but depression around the holidays in general. I want to read off a few statistics for anyone who might be resonating with what we’re talking about. This is according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. It’s ADAA.org. They say that SAD affects 15 million adults in the United States or 6.8% of the population. It’s equally common among both men and women and typically begins around age thirteen. According to an ADA 2007 survey, 36% of people with social anxiety disorder report experiencing symptoms for ten or more years before seeking help.

If you put in SAD statistics or SAD in a web search, there’s a lot of information that comes up around it. They talked about how SAD is much more than the winter blues. Back in Detroit, Michigan, that’s what people referred to it. They are like, “You’re sad because it’s the wintertime.” According to the American Psychiatric Association, it’s a clinically recognized form of depression and that Seasonal Affective Disorder is identified as a major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern. For people with SAD experience, the mood changes and the symptom is similar to depression. The symptoms typically occur during the fall and winter months, where there’s less sunlight and usually improve with the arrival of spring.

SAD is more than just the winter blues. The symptoms can be distressing, overwhelming and can interfere with daily functioning. However, it can be treated. About 5% of the US adults experience SAD and it typically lasts about 40% of the year. It has been linked with a biochemical imbalance in the brain prompted by shorter daylight hours and less sunlight in the winter. As the seasons change, people can experience a shift in their internal biological clock or circadian rhythms that cause them to be out of step with their daily schedule.

The symptoms of this sound a lot like major clinical depression or major depressive symptoms, like feeling sad, loss of interest in pleasure or activities, changes in appetite, less sleep, loss of energy and feelings of purposelessness, worthlessness or guilt. What they recommend for Seasonal Affective Disorder is supplementation. They talked about SSRIs, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. That’s a class of pharmaceuticals. They talked about Vitamin D3 and broad UV spectrum light. You talked about that, Whitney, people putting different light bulbs in their house and then also seeking the help of a trained medical professional.

There’s a lot more to this than just the change of seasons. There’s an article on HealthPartners.com that talks about how the holidays can bring up a lot of feelings of alienation from our loved ones. Even if we are with our loved ones, if there is a history of stress or trauma, that can retrigger a lot of traumatic feelings within us even if we do get to spend time with our family. It talks about how it’s easy to look at someone’s holiday card collection or their social media and think that their life is perfect during the holidays. That’s an easy thing to do.

MGU 299 | Holiday Depression

Holiday Depression: As you get older, there starts to be a deeper longing for family connection and being home for the holidays. You start questioning how much time you have left.

 

For me, it’s difficult to be away from my family, my mom in particular. With our friends and the people that are close to us, we choose them. You, as one of the closest people in my life, I choose you in my life. You’re not blood but I choose you. You’re like family to me. My mentor Michael and my girlfriend Laura are like family to me. My good friends, I treat them as if they were family. There’s something that I deeply miss and feel sad about not spending the holidays with my mom and specifically back in Detroit.

I have realized too that this is an extension of the conversation we had with a guest, Beth Cavenaugh, who is an end-of-life hospice nurse. I don’t know how many years I have left to spend holidays with my mother or my family. My aunt is getting up in age, my uncles and my mom in particular. The reality is there are only so many years, seasons and holidays left. I’m feeling an increased sense of urgency to make it a priority to spend those holidays with my family.

It’s not going to happen in 2021. There’s a litany of reasons but my mom looks like she is going to come to visit LA in January 2022. As I go on and get older, there’s a deeper longing for that family connection and being home specifically for the holidays. I haven’t felt that urgency in years past. For some reason, in 2020 and 2021, maybe it’s additionally colored by the backdrop of whatever this ongoing pandemic is anymore.

It makes me want to be more with her and my family because I don’t know how many years I’m going to be able to do that. Do you feel the same way? I knew you were home for an extended period of time. Do you also feel like there’s a part of you that would want to go back for Christmas if you could or are you feeling like being home satisfied that for you?

There’s the feeling around Christmas that I personally have experienced. My mom is into it. It has always felt good to be home for that holiday. It all depends on your relationship with your family and many factors. For me, it has that warm, comfy feeling that I haven’t been able to replicate in Los Angeles. I don’t know if it’s because the weather is different or the family is the big factor there. It’s not that I can’t go back. It’s that I’ve chosen not to. It’s complicated.

One thing is because I’ve been doing cross-country travel. I’m not used to flying with a dog and all the price and chaos of the airports. That was one of the big reasons why I found so much joy driving cross-country. My anxiety is heightened during stuff like that and I don’t miss that at all. It would be the anxiety of buying the plane tickets, “Did I get the right price? Which airline do I fly? What times do I leave? How do I get to the airport? What time do I get to the airport?”

All that stuff triggers me. I’m capable of it. I’ve done it but it’s intense. Even thinking about it, I can feel in my chest, feeling tight from it. I don’t enjoy it. Funny enough, spending all that time driving cross country to some people would cause them anxiety but it brought me nothing but joy. There were a couple of anxious, hard moments but very minimal. Long story short, if I wanted to, I could go back for Christmas. There’s nothing stopping me.

You brought up vitamin D, Jason. My blood test results came back showing that I’m low in vitamin D. My doctor recommended that I get a vitamin D supplement. My insurance covers some basic vitamin D but I was concerned that it wasn’t going to be vegan and that it was going to be low quality. The first person I asked about a vitamin D recommendation was you, Jason. You referred me to Cymbiotika, which you have talked about on this show and I believe our other show, This Hits The Spot.

I went into their website and it was quite expensive. I haven’t bought it yet because I’m like, “I don’t feel like I’m in a rush.” When you’re bringing this up, I’m like, “Maybe I would feel different taking it.” I’m not sure. Have you noticed a big difference in taking vitamin D? Have you experimented with a number of vitamin D products?

36% of the people with social anxiety disorder experience symptoms for ten or more years before seeking help. Click To Tweet

I have been taking it for so long now that I can’t recall necessarily a major shift in my mood per se. I take it simply because I know that low Vitamin D3, in particular, levels have been linked to depression and neurological disorders. I take it more as a proactive, protective measure so that I don’t get even more depressed. It hasn’t cured my depression. I’m not going to put that much power on a product.

Likewise to you, years ago, when I first went and got them back in 2014, I had my first-panel test. When I was diagnosed with clinical depression, D3 was one of the vitamins I was low in. I have been taking different forms of it. Cymbiotika was recommended to me by one of our first guests, our friend, Paige Snyder, who is a clinical nutritionist. I was asking her years ago. I said, “What brand? Point me in the right direction.” She is on top of like, “What are the best formulations? What is the highest quality?” She is like, “Get the Cymbiotika and call it a day.”

I see that but when I saw it, it was $77 for a month supply. It’s one of those things that I suppose if it made a huge difference, which I don’t know yet if it will work for me then maybe I could justify it. I feel like this is a great time to talk about our sponsor because, when I went on their website, I used the SimplyCodes browser extension. They have two things now. They have a browser extension and a mobile app. If you have ever used a coupon code program before, it works like some others. After I met the SimplyCodes team, I felt drawn to them as human beings. They are great people that make this product. The experience with SimplyCodes makes me feel happy.

I went into the Cymbiotika website. I had the extension installed and I clicked on it. You can do the same thing on your phone if you download the app. If you go to SimplyCodes.com/Wellevatr, download that. Either way, you can use it on your phone or computer. I found coupons for Cymbiotika and I was like, “They have 15% off coupons. We might even have our own coupon, which we can enter into SimplyCodes.” Another thing I like about their program is you can submit your own code to SimplyCodes if it’s not already listed and they will give you money in exchange for recommending a product. We may add our own Wellevatr coupon code to the Cymbiotika-SimplyCodes stack.

You go on there. It shows you all of the best available codes. What I like is you can see when they were last used and how many people have used them. If you have ever looked for a coupon code online, it can feel annoying to search for it. If you have ever done a web search like Cymbiotika coupon codes and you’re sorting through, copying and pasting, SimplyCodes makes this easy so you can copy and paste in there.

Usually, the first one I have used will work. Sometimes there are new codes on there. If we add ours into SimplyCodes, you might see ours as something new. Jason, are you downloading the app? I knew that was something that you were going to try. We’re both going to real-time download their brand-new app. Tell me about your experience.

It’s cool because it’s super easy when you download the SimplyCodes app. First of all, if you’re on your smartphone and you put in SimplyCodes.com/Wellevatr, it automatically redirects to the App Store. You hit get and download it. What you need to do is go to your browser on your phone and tap the little AA button on the bottom of the URL. You slide and toggle on SimplyCodes and it adds the extension to your browser. It’s simple to do on your smartphone.

I love that you go to a supplement company like Cymbiotika. I know that many of our readers and longtime supporters all use supplements. You’re on that train of being optimally healthy and making sure that you’re getting your vitamin C, D, E or whatever you’re taking. You also know that if you want high-quality supplements, they cost a pretty penny sometimes.

I love that they have made this easy because, to your point, there have been times where I will spend 30 to 40 minutes scouring the internet for like, “I need to find a 30% or 40% off coupon.” It wastes so much time going to all of those sites, looking for the coupon code. I love that they have integrated this not only for the desktop but for the smartphone too.

We wanted to try out the app for the first time. I have been using the SimplyCodes browser extension on my computer but I thought it would be fun to get our first impression. On our YouTube version of the show, I’m going to superimpose on the video the experience of downloading the app and it truly is easy. It’s a few steps. Anyone can do it. It makes it clear and I’m on the Cymbiotika website on my phone. You can choose a product and it should tell you if there’s a sale on it which is neat.

This is the reason that we wanted to share this product and partner with them. Not only do I like SimplyCodes as a company but we know that people like to save money, especially when it comes to something like this. In this exact case, which is my personal experience of wanting to buy something, seeing the price point and being like, “That’s more than I thought it was going to be. I’m not sure if I want to buy this.” Sometimes when you can get a discount code, it takes away that resistance and you’re more likely to try something. I want to share that I have been there too.

Everybody is at different financial stages. For me, part of my anxiety is making decisions. When I come across something that I feel unsure about, I have a hard time deciding whether or not to do it. A coupon code usually will push me past that phase and help me feel less anxious because I’m not feeling anxious about the money anymore. It’s still a lot of money. Unfortunately, Cymbiotika has taxes and shipping. It still comes out to $77 even with 15% off but if I take off the code, what does it come to with all of that? It’s $90.

That’s a significant chunk of money. Come on now. $13 is nothing to sneeze at.

For a month of vitamin D, this better be good. I’m taking your recommendation. If you want to try out SimplyCodes, the link is SimplyCodes.com/Wellevatr. You could search for it in the App Store but if you use that link, that tells the company that you found their product through us. Maybe they can continue to sponsor and we can continue doing cool collaborations and also invest in new equipment.

Jason, I will pull the trigger by myself some of this Vitamin D and get back to you in the audience once I have had a chance to see if it makes any difference. Even if I can’t feel it, hopefully, I can go back to my doctor and get my levels tested and see because I imagine there are so many important reasons to have Vitamin D. Aside from the potential mental health benefits, what else is D3 for? How does it help your body?

It’s also bone health.

That’s what I was going to say because I always associated it with fortified milk. That’s part of the reason I was surprised that I was low in it because my regular milk purchase is Ripple. I know Ripple is fortified with vitamin D but the question is, is it enough for my body? It’s clearly not. I’m not taking it as a supplement. It just happens to be in some fortified foods.

I’m looking at random things on my desk. I’m like, “Does this have Vitamin D? No.” I picked up something and it’s 0%. You do have to be mindful of this. Going back to the Seasonal Affective Disorder, were there any other things that were interesting that you found or personal anecdotes that we can share for others that might feel like they are struggling and maybe supplements aren’t working for them?

Inflammation in the body is inflammation in the brain. Click To Tweet

A big thing that I have noticed for myself and also observing other people are holiday foods tend to be celebratory. It’s a time to celebrate and get together but I also think it’s a time where overindulgence is easy. I speak from personal experience of observing myself overeating a lot during the holidays, like stuffing myself, which I rarely do. I do not like the feeling of being stuffed, that uncomfortable feeling of like, “I had a good meal but now I feel like I have to simultaneously take a nap and shit my brains out, which I can’t do it. I have to choose one or the other.”

That feeling of lethargy and sloth, it’s easy to do, though because there’s this communal aspect of, “I’m with friends and people I love. Let’s indulge. Let’s drink a lot of wine, liquor and sugary foods.” We know that a lot of dense, fatty, sugary foods, processed foods and alcohol have an intensely inflammatory effect on the body. There’s also been some interesting research. There’s a book called The Inflamed Mind that has made some interesting links between inflammation in the body and the brain.

There’s a level of mindfulness around our indulgences this time of year. That’s important to observe and be present to because, as someone who suffers from clinical depression, I have taken a lot of steps and continue to do a lot of experiments in managing it. I know that if I way overdo it on the sugar and wine, I feel worse. It exacerbates how sad and depressed I feel. It doesn’t mean I’m going to go on a juice cleanse per se. Although my mom is doing a juice and soup cleanse for Thanksgiving. She was like, “I’m not doing all this BS. I’m doing a juice and soup cleanse.” It’s her Thanksgiving tradition which is cool.

That’s an important thing to take away also. It’s not just getting the vitamin D mindfully supplementing if you live in a place where there’s a lack of sunlight, looking into full spectrum UVA lighting. There has been some interesting research about far infrared saunas helping with seasonal depression, getting that warmth in your body and penetrating down to the deeper layers of your epidermis. The food portion is a big one. The holidays are not known for healthy food. Let’s call it what it is. It’s a lot of carbs, sugar and alcohol. Those three things together can pummel you a little bit mentally.

I have been thinking about like, “What am I going to eat?” A part of me is like, “I don’t care.” When I think of Thanksgiving and I would love to know your answer to this too, Jason, the things that I get most excited about are gravy and stuffing plus mashed potatoes. Those three items are exciting. I do enjoy some plant-based turkey. Surprisingly, I have to say this out loud because I’m shocked at how few people know about this product.

Trader Joe’s has, in my opinion, one of the best vegan turkey products. They have the full-on turkey roast in the refrigerated section around this time of year but all throughout the year, they have vegan turkey burgers. They are in the refrigerated section of Trader Joe’s. They are in a green package and my mouth is watering thinking about them. One year whether it was in 2020 or the year before, I bought those as my turkey. Even though they are technically burgers, they have such a great texture and flavor.

You brought up the carb thing, Jason. In 2019, I remember doing a very low-carb Thanksgiving, featuring recipes by an upcoming guest of ours, Liz MacDowell, who is a great friend of mine now. I’m blessed to know her. She is such an amazing person from Massachusetts. We met because we both have vegan keto cookbooks and her vegan keto recipes are so good. She has a bunch that is for Thanksgiving. That’s not going to help you out in 2021 because this episode comes out after Thanksgiving but you can make all sorts of great dishes.

I remember I made the apple pie. I made a bunch of dishes that were low carb so they were easier for me with my body to digest. I tend to thrive on a low-carb diet and feel good about it. They are also vegan and gluten-free and all that. It’s allergen-friendly too. For 2021, I’m not quite sure what I want to do. I’m going to get the Trader Joe’s burgers because they’re also, I believe soy-free and gluten-free. I found them extremely easy to digest versus a lot of vegan turkey alternatives that tend to be loaded with gluten and/or soy. I personally don’t digest that well. It messes with me.

MGU 299 | Holiday Depression

Holiday Depression: Holiday foods tend to be very celebratory, but they can also lead to overindulgence. Holidays aren’t known for healthy food. It’s a lot of carbs, sugar, and alcohol.

 

For stuffing, that’s one of my favorite items. There are two low-carb or grain-free breads that I absolutely love. One of them is called Carbonaut. They sell that at Whole Foods, Sprouts and Target. If you go on their website, you can find their locations throughout the US. I love Carbonaut and that would probably make a good stuffing. I might use that. The other one that we mentioned on an episode of our second show, This Hits The Spot is called Pacha. They make these good refrigerated grain-free loaves.

When I was eating this cheesy herb version, it was a sourdough flavor or fermented sprout. Whatever they do to it, they call it sourdough. I feel like this could be good grain-free stuffing. Gravy is super easy to make, any type of way that you want to eat. The trick is potatoes are not low carb. Are you going to say parsnips or something?

Mashed cauliflower is amazing if you do it right.

I love cauliflower but I haven’t found that that hits the spot. I feel like maybe you can do a mix if you want to cut down on the carbs. Everybody has got their preferences. Some people are anti-low-carb eating. I’m pro-low-carb eating. In an upcoming episode, we talked to Liz, who is a down-to-earth vegan keto person. She can explain the pros and how it has impacted her life. I’m excited to have her on because she has got an upcoming cookbook.

For me, I feel so good on a low-carb diet and I feel like it’s worth bringing up, Jason, to your point. If you find that every year you’re indulging in foods that don’t make you feel good, maybe you could try some more low-carb foods and enjoy them and feel much better. Our gut is tied to our mental health and that’s the thing. My big reason that I keep going back to the vegan keto diet, not in a strict way but in a moderate way, it makes me feel good all around.

It helps clear up brain fog, which can lead me to feel tired, lethargic and not productive. When I feel like that, I start to feel anxious or depressed. If you start to connect the dots to your point, Jason, your diet has a huge impact on you. When I feel tired, I also feel a low mood because no matter how much I rest, I can’t seem to overcome it. A lot of times, changing my diet is the best way for me to gain more energy.

Awareness is a huge part of this in the sense that I noticed that I was starting to feel a deeper sense of loneliness coming. I’m missing my mom and my family. I’m feeling sad that I’m not going to go home for the holidays. The airlines, for the most part, are gouging the shit out of people with flight prices. I looked at flights home over the holidays and in some cases, they are double or even triple what they normally are. I’m like, “I’m not paying you $800 to go to Detroit. No sorry.” That’s the reason I’m choosing not to go home is that I’m not willing to pay those exorbitant gouging prices that the airlines are charging for holiday travel.

In that loneliness, I noticed myself at 9:00 or 10:00, not being hungry but reaching for the crispy chocolate cereal. That’s a pattern of mine. I get lonely, feel sad and overeat. I’m glad we’re talking about this because I know that when I stuff myself, overeat and have too much sugar, it’s not good for my gut. We know that too much sugar causes inflammation and creates an imbalance in our gut microbiome. If we have a predisposition to anything like candida, which is a yeast and bacteria overgrowth, they feed on sugar and also alcohol because alcohol converts to sugar in the body.

All of this is to say it’s super important to be mindful of, “What am I eating? How is it making me feel on an emotional and physical level?” If there are any trigger points, my trigger point is loneliness. I overeat and overindulge when I’m lonely. How can I create a pattern interrupt that when I’m feeling lonely, I don’t automatically run for the sweet things which are going to make me feel worse? There is no cereal and chocolate that’s going to take that loneliness away.

Changing your diet is the best way for you to gain more energy. Click To Tweet

Sometimes I think about you, Jason, because I’ll go through those phases too. I was feeling that way. I had a low week and I have talked about this in the show. I have been experimenting with medication that has made a huge difference. When I was traveling, I wasn’t taking my medication because I felt great traveling. I talked to my doctor when I came back from my trip and I said, “Is it okay that I wasn’t consistent with the medication?” My doctor said based on me and the specific one I’m taking that I can fluctuate between it a bit. It doesn’t have any withdrawal, which is awesome.

The doctor also said, “You’re probably going to experience when you come back from this trip some more low moods because you’re back in your old routine. You don’t have all the excitement. You’re not around all the loved ones.” This would apply to the holidays too. Lo and behold, I had a few low days. I feel like the medication kicked in again because I have had the best day. Maybe it’s a coincidence. My point is that I found myself craving chocolate and all sorts of foods. No matter how much I ate, I didn’t feel better.

I remember thinking to myself, “Whitney, you’re just trying to eat to feel something to make yourself feel better.” No matter what I did, it wasn’t helping. This is part of the reason I went on medication. With my current knowledge, access, resources or whatever, nothing had been helping the low moods and the anxiety that I was feeling, which is at times paralyzing. That’s why I tried medication and it made a huge difference.

I cannot believe how many people in my life have opened up to me about going on medication for depression. A lot of my friends and family members are taking something. It’s incredibly common. It’s important to be transparent about it. I found that when I open up to people, they tend to open up back to me or they are surprised if they do happen to open up to me when I tell them, “I’m trying medication too and it’s helping me.” You can feel this relief like, “I’m not alone. The stigma is being removed.”

I want to share that openly on the show that if you are someone who has been wanting to try medication or you are on it and you are afraid to share it, you can always confide in me and Jason about these things because we’re not going to judge you. I feel like if you speak with a good practitioner and you make that decision together, that choice is specific to you. It’s not up to somebody on the outside to judge, especially if they are not a medical professional.

However, my doctor said, “This isn’t going to get to the root of it. Only therapy can do that.” I’m starting through her advice to go to regular therapy. I’m working on finding a good therapist and wanting to do some deeper work to see if I can work through whatever is at the root of my anxiety and low moods because, ideally, I wouldn’t take medication. I sometimes wonder how much of it is chemical and genetic.

When I talked to my parents about it, both of them have struggled with these things. My sister has struggled. My uncle and I were talking about this. Many people in my family have struggled with mental health. I’m not sure that therapy alone is going to change it, just like food can’t change how I feel necessarily. It impacts it but sometimes we need another level of support, especially if we’re genetically predisposed to it.

Part of my journey is to figure out how I can best support myself through those low days. I digressed off of the follow-up questions I had for you before we wrapped up. One, going back, favorite Thanksgiving foods? What are you planning on eating, most excited to eat, usually eat but maybe not eating in 2021 for whatever reason? However, you want to answer that. I have a second unrelated, deeper question for you after that.

It’s always been about the sides. There has been a new tradition here in LA due to a variety of factors. In 2020, I had a motorcycle accident and was in an incredible amount of pain. There was no way I was going to be in a kitchen whipping up anything. In 2021, I also had surgery. I had the titanium plate removed a year after. I’m now metal-free. I’m no longer Iron Man. I’m happy to say. The idea of I’m only nine days out of surgery and I simply don’t have the energy or the bandwidth to go into the kitchen and knock out a big meal.

I ordered from Kitchen Mouse. It’s easily maybe the top three restaurants in LA. I love Kitchen Mouse. If you, dear reader, are in Southern California are ever passing through, go to a neighborhood in LA called Highland Park and go to Kitchen Mouse. It’s a spectacular place. It’s 100% gluten-free and 90% vegan. They have an egg that you can get on a couple of dishes. They use primarily organic ingredients and it’s fully gluten-free. We treated ourselves to their Thanksgiving feast in 2020 and it was spectacularly good. This is what we got for 2021.

You asked what I’m most excited about. The answer is all of it, smoked tofu turkey, Caesar brussels sprout casserole, Shepherd’s pie, mashed potatoes, gluten-free mac and cheese, vegan pumpkin cheesecake, gravy cranberry sauce and gluten-free, vegan stuffing. We went bananas and here’s why. There are a couple of stops that are being made. Leftovers are to be had. If you want any, we will have leftovers and I’m happy to share the bounty with you.

The value you get for how high quality the food is was a no-brainer. Unless I am being asked personally to cook and it’s a communal family situation, as long as Kitchen Mouse is in business and I’m in LA, I’m going to order their Thanksgiving feast. Shout out to Kitchen Mouse. You guys are doing a spectacular job. Out of all that, I’m most excited about Shepherd’s pie. Something about the warm, creamy, good denseness of a vegan Shepherd’s pie sounds so perfect now.

Speaking of which, Trader Joe’s now has a vegan Shepherd’s pie in the refrigerated section. I had it with my friend, Julie. We got the turkey patties, put them in the air fryer and then topped them with Shepherd’s pie. I had a spontaneous Thanksgiving-style meal in Phoenix, Arizona, on a 90-degree day. It was a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving. The Shepherd’s pie had a little bit of it has been in a box flavor. It did not taste fresh but once you got over that, it was good for what it is and the cost and convenience.

Maybe you should cancel your Kitchen Mouse order and jump entirely at Trader Joe’s, which you probably could. Thanks to my organizational skills, I have my shopping list from last Thanksgiving, which reduced my anxiety. I’m going to go to Trader Joe’s and pick everything I got in 2020. I don’t mind whipping up some of these foods myself. Speaking of costs, Kitchen Mouse is pretty pricey and it’s an indulgence. How much does your meal cost?

We’re splitting this between multiple people. The whole thing, we got 8 or 9 items and it was $200.

I could whip up a pretty amazing meal from Trader Joe’s for probably $50 to $75. The effort that it takes to shop and cook and all that stuff is a lot and I don’t blame you. It’s fine. I wish SimplyCodes had a discount on Kitchen Mouse because I would be applying that. Don’t say I didn’t try. I went on there. When you use the computer browser extension with SimplyCodes, it lights up in this purple color whenever you go to a website that has a discount code. I’m always like, “It’s purple.” When it’s not purple, I’m sad and disappointed.

It should make that noise. They should build that into version 2.0.

What if they clipped our audio and used our voices? They are a cool group of people that make SimplyCodes. I wouldn’t put it past them. Fingers crossed. The deeper question and we are gearing up towards wrapping up. You can decide how deep you want to go into this answer. When you’re using the word we, you’re referring to you and your girlfriend, your partner, Laura. You have also mentioned that you have a house full of animals. Why do you think that you feel lonely when you’re surrounded by a loving partner and animals? I can’t remember if we have talked about this on the show or privately but I’m curious what your current answer is to that.

For me, loneliness is a circumstantial thing. When I’m around other people, that’s when I was traveling. I didn’t feel the desire to take medication because I was full of joy and excitement being around all these people I love. When I came back to Los Angeles, I was excited to be alone. I was craving alone time because I didn’t feel an ounce of loneliness for months on end. I can’t say that I have experienced much loneliness when I’m with other people and animals that I love. Why do you think that you feel lonely aside from missing your mom, which is very specific? I got the feeling that you have this ongoing sense of loneliness, even when you’re with people.

I don’t know that it’s ongoing per se. It’s not a chronic sense of loneliness. I want to clarify it. When it comes, there are two parts to it. We get used to our surroundings when we see the same things and the same people every day. It doesn’t mean that we necessarily take them for granted or appreciate them less but there’s a sense that I sometimes have of like, “I have seen you every day for 30 days straight or whatever it is.” It’s almost a sense of sameness and repetition that creeps into life. That’s one part of it.

The other part of it is that I’m wired as a person to thrive on a variety of relationships. It doesn’t mean I need hundreds of people in my life or thousands of relationships to maintain and manage. That’s one of the more confounding and challenging parts of social media is so many people all the time want to talk and interact. I don’t think that we are neurologically or biologically prepared to have that many connections. We have done episodes about this that technology has surpassed our ability to handle it in many ways in terms of social connection.

My point is that I haven’t seen my mom or my family in over a year. I miss them. I also miss a lot of my friends that have moved out of LA and have no real plans on coming. Dozens of friends over the course of this pandemic have moved out. They were like, “I don’t want to be here,” for their own reasons some political some health some other. It’s not a lack of appreciation for my partner, for you, for my other friends here and for my animals. It’s more like the lack of variety of those deeper connections that I’m craving.

There are times when I’m lonely where it’s like, “I miss my friend, Ryan. I miss my mom. I miss my aunt.” Very specific people come to mind. Rather than generalized loneliness, it’s almost like loneliness based on missing specific sets of people. It’s the best way I can verbalize it at the moment. It’s easy to get caught in a cycle of repetition.

I certainly think I would feel a lot worse if I didn’t have a partner and animals but I miss those connections of people I haven’t physically seen in long stretches of time and I crave those connections. There’s maybe a distinction here between loneliness and missing someone. Maybe there’s a Venn diagram where those things connect. I’m trying to be as eloquent as possible but that’s all I can come up with at this point. I hope some of that made sense.

When you open up to people, they tend to open up back to you. Click To Tweet

It does and thank you for sharing that because I imagine that that’s relatable. Maybe not for me, at least at this point but I finished seeing a variety of people. Travel was very stimulating. I felt levels of joy and satisfaction on that trip that I don’t normally feel. As you’re speaking, I’m like, “I wish that you could go do all that but you got a lot of animals to take care of.” Luckily, you have people like your mom who are willing to visit. I can’t wait to see you in a few days. Hopefully, COVID doesn’t continue to get in the way of the things and the people that we love.

What you’re describing is incredibly important because you can’t be alone in that loneliness. Thank you for opening up about that in the way that you did and helping me better understand, especially as your friend, having a deeper understanding of where you’re at. That gives me the perspective to better understand you as a whole. It will be nice to see you soon. We have an episode of our second show, This Hits The Spot, where Jason will be unboxing some little food-related gifts. It’s all food. There might be at least one item. I don’t even fully remember. I was going to mail it to you and I was like, “I won’t.”

I had this bag in a cardboard box. I traveled for three straight weeks from the East Coast back to the West Coast in this box. Every day, I would have to move it around. I had to take stuff out so it wouldn’t melt in the heat in Texas and Arizona. It was a schlep to get this package back to you. I hope you appreciate it. I think that you will because I know you so well. If the reader wants to see what Jason got in this mystery package, check out our second show, This Hits The Spot. It’s on our website. You can’t search for it because it’s a private show for our newsletter subscribers and Patreon supporters.

There’s a link in our newsletter, show notes for this episode, Patreon and Wellevatr.com. It’s not that hard to find or you can message us if you’re like, “I cannot find the link.” We will send it directly to you so you can see this. The show is full of products that we recommend. They are short episodes between 20 to 30 minutes long, which is relatively short for us. We talk about food, lifestyle products, supplements and all sorts of things that we love and recommend.

Speaking of which, SimplyCodes, we recommend. I went back to their website. When you go to SimplyCodes.com/Wellevatr, you’ll be directed to download the iOS version. This is for the Mac computer, iPhone or iPad. They also have an extension you can download onto your web browser. Now, they’re focused on this new app. The new app says it has been updated. They now have over two million active codes. In the past, it was 70,000 but they have incorporated even more coupons. There’s a ton of options for you.

One thing also in their description I love, it says, “Support a small brand with big ambitions. We’re a small team of passionate consumers like you who love to build products to make shopping fun and easy. No ads, no selling your data, no BS. Give us a test drive and let us know how we can make SimplyCodes even better for you.” This is why we partnered with them because all of that is true. They are awesome people. If you enjoyed it, leave a review on their app. I’m sure they would appreciate it because they are getting going with this amazing app.

Truly, if you need to reach them, you can let us know or contact them on their website and tell them what you would like to see. What other codes would you like? Do you want Kitchen Mouse to start offering discount codes? We certainly would. Maybe if we all get together, we can make it happen. That’s probably a decision that Kitchen Mouse needs to make but maybe SimplyCodes can pull a few strings. You never know. Anything is possible. We like to get discounts on high-quality things. Thank you to SimplyCodes. That’s SimplyCodes.com/Wellevatr. Go check it out.

We’ll be back with another episode soon. We have two episodes a week now, one on Mondays, one on Fridays. Mondays are me and Jason talking. Our next episode will be our 300th episode. We have an amazing guest coming up. There are so many amazing guests. It’s truly unbelievable how many incredible people we have lined up for you. We have done our best to bring you a diverse range of perspectives on emotional well-being, food, lifestyle, political issues and current events. We dive deep. If you ever have a request, let us know.

When you go to Wellevatr.com, you not only can find the podcast show notes and the links to our social but our email address. You can comment on any of that stuff. You can send us a private message. We’re listening to you. We want to make this show truly valuable. We appreciate you. We hope you’re having a wonderful holiday season, even if you’re struggling in some of the ways that we have discussed. If you ever need to talk about it, we’re here for you to help and happy to send you other resources for your mental health to make sure that you get the help that you need. Until next time, wishing you all the very best. Thanks for reading. I can’t wait for our next episode.

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