Worth Living Ambassador Vanessa Serrao

My name is Vanessa Serrao and I am a 26 year old author, freelance writer, and preschool

supply teacher. I am a strong advocate for mental health and I am passionate about writing. I

enjoy writing about health and wellness, sports, mental health, and trending news. I also love

music and enjoy playing the guitar.


Four Health Concerns That Anxiety Can Cause

When it comes to having anxiety, well it is far from pleasant. From my own experience I can

tell you that it is very hard to cope with, but on a positive note it is possible to overcome.

What makes it so hard to deal with anxiety is that it comes with health concerns. Although

they are more on the minor side,  it doesn’t mean they should be ignored. The brain has the

power to control the body and when the brain is experiencing anxiety, this affects the body in

a negative manner.

Here are four health concerns that come with having anxiety. Also, keep

in mind that everyone experiences different bodily health concerns when it comes to

anxiety, but these are the ones that with which I came into contact.

1.Acid Reflux

Acid reflux is a common stomach disorder that can be induced by stress and anxiety. For

me, each time I had bad anxiety that is when my acid reflux came on. So when my anxiety

went away, so did my acid reflux. Essentially, the only way that I cured my acid reflux was by

reducing my anxiety and stress. But there were some things I did and used in order to

relieve my symptoms of acid reflux. It was hard to treat fully until my symptoms of anxiety

were alleviated. You can take tums, gaviscon, drink aloe vera juice, celery juice, chew gum,

drink plenty of water, and drink herbal teas. None of these things is a cure but are ways to

reduce symptoms associated with acid reflux. In addition, taking probiotics is essential for a

leaky gut. For acid reflux, it is a very uncomfortable, bothersome and sometimes painful

ailment. It consists of heartburn and burning in the chest as well as throat and ears. It can

also cause stomach pain, your teeth hurting, bleeding gums and sores in your mouth. Since

acid is coming up from your stomach, this means that your diet has to be changed which

means  foods that don’t contain acid in them. This meant my eliminating alcohol, anything

with tomatoes or tomato sauce, orange juice, chocolate, not having too much red meats,

onions, mushrooms, peppers, carbonated drinks and coffee. Even though some of these

foods are healthy,  they shouldn’t be consumed  since they contain acid and it will

make acid reflux worse.


Insomnia is a sleep disorder that causes you to not sleep in the evening and where you are

left tired and drowsy during the day. In fact, you may find yourself sometimes falling asleep

during the day. I experience insomnia since my anxiety affected my sleep. I had racing

thoughts at night and since I always worried about not sleeping this kept me up at night. I

would continuously toss and turn and not be able to relax. Insomnia is a horrible thing to deal

with especially when you have anxiety. When you don’t get a good night’s rest, it affects your

whole day. Your mind isn’t sharp, therefore it is hard to function throughout the day. When

this continues to happen it leads to forgetfulness  and a tired brain. It just drains you and

takes away your confidence. In addition, lack of sleep can lead to skin breakouts and dark

circles. Some things that helped me sleep at night were meditating, a hot bath, or herbal tea

before bed, not looking at the time when sleeping, and doing yoga. All these things are

beneficial in order to help you fall asleep better.

3.Weight Loss

Weight can become an issue and concern when you struggle with anxiety, depression or

other mental health disorders. Some people gain weight but many also lose weight. For me, I

lost weight and it was unhealthy. I lost about 30-40 pounds and it wasn’t me. I didn’t feel

healthy, sharp or confident. I just didn’t have an appetite when I would get up in the morning

running on barely any sleep. I could see it in my body. My chest look more flat and my face

longer. Losing weight this way was unhealthy, but it wasn’t my intention to lose weight. Also

with my acid reflux,  I ate less, since after I ate it would trigger my heartburn to start. This was

bad as I wasn’t supposed to skip meals and I tried not to, but I definitely cut down on food.

The feeling of trying to eat and getting food down was unpleasant. Feeling like your throat is

closing and no food being able to go down unless it was yogurt or something soft.

4. Hormonal Imbalance

When you are experiencing anxiety and stress this puts your body into a whack and it

messes up your hormones. I experienced a hormonal imbalance as I was experiencing

hormonal acne as well as skipping a period or receiving my period late. When you are

experiencing anxiety,  it affects your body in different ways, but a hormonal imbalance is quite

common when experiencing anxiety and stress. Hormonal acne occurs along the jawline and

it is painful and cystic. Breaking out in the same spots over and over again was never fun. I

tried to fix my hormonal imbalance by adding more fibre and iron into my diet and this did

help. Also, once I felt less anxious my hormones were more balanced again


DJ Scratchley Q Worth Living Director of Music and Official DJ

Music is a great form of therapy. Music has the power to help express our emotions even when we might not have the exact words to do so. Music is there for us through the good, the bad, the struggles, the achievements and celebrations. Enjoy the Worth Living Top 10 Countdown! – Scratchley Q

Worth Living Top 10 Countdown

10. Mimi – Eskai

9. One Man Island- A.M.R

8. Consequence Of You – PROFF ft. Cory Friesenhan

7. Florescence – Aeron Aether

6. Be Together – Universal Solution

5. Sanctuary – Jay FM

4. Whither – Shingo Nakamura (Shawn Mitiska Remix)

3. To Mean It – Eleven.Five

2. Always Be – Elypsis & Arielle Maren

1. Adrift in the Borderless Sea – Allay & Rod V

Worth Living Ambassador Ashley Wunsch

Hello, my name is Ashley Wunsch and I am a second-year student studying International Development and Globalization at the University of Ottawa. I always had a desire to change the world. A few years ago, I realized that changing the world isn’t only digging wells and building schools, but also taking care of yourself and your mental health, so I started to get involved with organizations surrounding mental health like Worth Living.


I hate changes. I don’t like to think of myself as someone who is structured, that things need to happen on a schedule type of person. Yet when I stop to think of it, I plan out each day on paper from the second I wake up to the second I go to bed. I get into routines and I like to keep them, it makes everything easier. I mean this is a good thing, I’m organized, but it’s also stressing me out. So the real question I need to ask myself- how do I deal with these changes?

It seems so weird to think of how much of a difference these changes are making, how it feels like I’m giving up a whole side of me, a piece that makes me complete. Yet if I don’t make this change, I’ll never know where I’ll go and into what I’ll progress. I can’t keep holding on to the past and how I used to feel because circumstances have changed and it isn’t healthy anymore. Yet I can’t lie, as much as it hurts to hold on to, it hurts more to let go of, even if I know it must be done. Besides, once the initial band-aid is ripped off, I will feel better and be able to do bigger and better things. After I learn to embrace the change, I’ll be able to open up more time to do other things and find my true self. Although it seems like a mess of emotions right now, I know in the end it will all be okay.

Yet despite knowing all will be fine, in the back of my mind all I can think of is how I’ve never been good with change. I remember in the twelfth grade during carnival clan feud (family feud) being nominated for the person who changed the most throughout high school and then being called as the number one answer. I remember being so confused, thinking I didn’t change. I remember thinking it was a bad thing, automatically assuming people thought I changed for the worse. But I later realized they did not mean it in that way, they meant I was super shy in the ninth grade and by grade twelve, I was more outgoing. They meant I changed in a ‘good way’ I told myself, but mostly that I grew, that I flourished. Changes aren’t always negative things. Sometimes they help us down the road to becoming our own beautiful unique selves. Although I can’t see how these current changes could help that doesn’t mean that they will necessarily be bad. Only time will tell and until then, I will grow from the situation and try to think of the positive outcomes of these changes and not the negative ones.

Scratchley Q Worth Living Director of Music & Official DJ

Worth Living Top 10 Countdown – Female DJ’s

Music is a great form of therapy. Music has the power to help express our emotions even when we might not have the exact words to do so. Music is there for us through the good, the bad, the struggles, the achievements and celebrations. Enjoy the Worth Living Top 10 Countdown! – Scratchley Q

10. What Would You Do For Love – NERVO

9. Girl Gang – Juicy M ft. Blimes Brixon

8. I Wish I Could – TOKiMONSTA ft. Selah Sue

7. Take Control – DJ Diamond Kutz

6. Ashes – Tigerlily

5. Poison – Audry Napoleon

4. Pochuvstvui – Nina Kraviz

3. Remember – Charlotte de Witte

2. Easy – Alison wonderland

1. Bamboozle – Hannah Wants

 Scratchley Q Worth Living Director of Music and Official DJ

Worth Living Top 10 Countdown – Promises

Music is a great form of therapy. Music has the power to help express our emotions even when we might not have the exact words to do so. Music is there for us through the good, the bad, the struggles, the achievements and celebrations. Enjoy the Worth Living Top 10 Countdown! – Scratchley Q

10. Promises – Nero

9.Promises, Promises – Incubus

8. No Promises – Shayne Ward

7. Promises – Def Leopard

6. Promise – Simple Plan

5. No Promises – Cheat Codes ft Demi Lovato

4. I Promise – Radiohead

3. Promise to Love Her – Blane Howard

2. The Promise – Chris Cornell

1. Promises – Calvin Harris ft. Sam Smith

Kim LaMontagne WL New England Lead

Kim shares her personal story of being a high functioning business woman balancing a career and family while fighting (and hiding) major depression, anxiety and persistent suicidal thoughts. By sharing her story, she helps individuals find the courage, power and strength to accept and love who they are and rise above the fear, stigma and shame of mental illness and talk openly about it. Kim fought her battle alone because she was afraid of stigma. Especially in the workplace. No one should suffer alone.

Mental Health and Stigma in the Workplace

Stigma refers to the negative internal attitudes and beliefs people hold toward something. Stigma can also be an amalgamation of ignorance, prejudice and discrimination. Discrimination is the external effect of stigma that results in the denial of individual their rights and social inclusion. Stigma and discrimination can be more detrimental to the individual than the actual mental illness. This is due to withdrawal of support from loved ones and colleagues in addition to shunning and exclusion. Numerous misconceptions still exist about mental illness which leads stigma and shame.

Stigma is disrespectful and is the number one barrier to treating mental health conditions.

Stigma and shame in the workplace play a large role in the under treatment of mental illness. Stigma plays a role in the decreased speed of employee outreach and treatment. The national average of organizations that offer an EAP is 75%, yet the usage rate is of EAP’s 3.5-5%. This is due in large part to stigma.

Stigma is also responsible for developing a strong tendency toward placing a stereotype on a person with mental illness, resulting in bulling, harassment, potential loss of employment and workplace intimidation. Stigma may also contribute to severe financial consequences and can be detrimental to an organization if left unchallenged.

Often, employees suffering from mental illness stay silent and suffer alone. Lack of disclosure of the mental illness from the employee to the employer limits the employer’s ability to accommodate the worker. This is a challenge that can lead to decreased concentration, productivity, absenteeism, presenteeism, workplace accidents and mistakes.

Fear, shame and stigma are large barriers for employees to overcome to be able to take the first step to seek help.

In 2007, the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health in the United States, conducted a survey of HR Managers. In the survey, 8 in 10 respondents revealed that shame, stigma and fear of ramifications may be the cause of employees not seeking treatment for mental illness. A more recent study done by the Disability Management Employer Coalition suggests the degree of stigma associated with mental illness has not waned.

Society also plays large role in the negative perception of mental illness. The risk factors and symptoms of common illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure are widely known. On the contrary, there are gaps in lack of knowledge of the risk factors and symptoms associated with mental illness. Consequently, many myths, fears and stigma still exist around mental illness.

To combat this in the workplace, organizations can choose to engage in a mental health literacy program. A mental health literacy program provides the education to organizations that can aid in recognition and management of disorders associated with mental illness. Increased mental health literacy increases the dissemination of more accurate information and can be a catalyst to lessening the stigma around mental health in the workplace.

Commitment to employee wellness is a topic of organizational discussion that is gaining increased interest in research. Towers Watson 2013, global Staying @ Work survey found that “establishing a culture of health is a top priority for organizations” (Garrow, 2016). Research conducted by Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO), shows organizational support to be an “important mediator in presenteeism” (Garrow, 2016). Specifically support from the top leadership that cascades throughout the culture of the organization.

Business leaders have a duty to implement a mental health strategy and consider mental health as an ongoing educational process. Leaders should feel empowered to make the changes required to build and sustain a mentally healthy workforce capable of increased productivity due to positive mental health.

It’s good for the bottom line…

Kim LaMontagne


My next blog will discuss CEO’s Against Stigma (CAS).

CAS was a grant funded program implemented by NAMI MA. For my MBA capstone project, I analyzed the outcome of the grant funded anti-stigma campaign to determine the effectiveness of the program.

Garrow, V. (2016) Presenteeism A review of current thinking, Institute for Employment Studies, Feb 2016, Report 507, Available at: http://www.employment-studies.co.uk/system/files/resources/files/507_0.pdf (Accessed: 1 February 2017).

Worth Living Ambassador Angela Cassivi Dsouza

Angela grew up in Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia. She studied at St Mary’s University and at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton. She now lives in Ontario with her husband and two kids, where they operate three locations of their music school, Avalon Music Academy.

This past Thursday was one of those days that just needed to end. I spent another full day at the hospital ER, but the good news is that there finally seems to be an explanation for why I’ve been short of breath since July.

Without going into all the gory details, a CT scan showed inflammation in my lungs caused by mucus buildup (sorry – I know that’s really bordering on too much information). So now I have stronger inhalers and a hefty dose of prednisone for the next five days. It’s only day three – but it seems to be helping a bit already. I certainly don’t feel perfect by any means. I’m feeling only cautiously optimistic.

But I have something more important to discuss, so I hope you’ll stay with me until the end. I have suffered serious anxiety for most of my life. It began when I was a young child, and has continued throughout my life. I can pinpoint the causes for most my bad attacks – but it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. Anxiety has caused me to miss out on things, and it has caused me to make bad decisions.

But it has NOT caused every problem I’ve ever had.

It did NOT cause the symptoms.

I’ve been suffering for almost three months.

The issue I want to draw attention to is this: Once you admit to almost anyone that you suffer anxiety, that is the only part of you they see. If you turn down an invitation, it’s social anxiety. If you experience tough times at work, you need to take a stress leave because you can’t handle it. If you are feeling sad, your anxiety is turning into depression and you need to be medicated. And the worst thing of all: if you are genuinely sick, it will be instantly written off by everyone as anxiety.

Now before everyone attacks, I am not discounting the fact that anxiety can be debilitating. Sometimes you do need to take a break or try medication. Panic attacks are very real.

But my illness is also real. It has a physical basis and was not brought on by anxiety. And for three months, no one believed that I couldn’t catch my breath. I was on the verge of accepting that my symptoms were imagined, until Thursday night when I did not get one minute of sleep due to my shortness of breath.

We talk a lot about removing the stigma associated with mental illness. We all claim that we don’t judge, and that we believe mental illness is as real and legitimate as any other illness. And yet, as I know first -hand, once you have anxiety, that is ALL you have. You apparently cannot have anxiety and a physical illness at the same time. If a person with anxiety gets sick, it is almost impossible to be taken seriously by the healthcare system, or even by friends.

And as I also know first -hand, physical symptoms that you are experiencing increase the anxiety – NOT the other way around.

This is unacceptable and makes me sad, angry, and very afraid. Anxiety must be kept hidden if you want fair treatment from our health care system. Anxiety must be hidden from friends if you want them to believe a word you say.

I am NOT my anxiety. I am a complete, whole person who deserves to be treated with the same respect as anyone else who seeks a medical diagnosis. I deserve to be listened to by friends.

Sadly, what I feel right now is isolated and completely alone. We are nowhere near a stigma-free society.