Alexis Mixter is a mixed media artist based in California.
Although primarily a painter, I came to know Alexis through her striking landscape photographs, a collection of which can be found here.
Earlier this year Alexis suffered a health crisis, with vague but persistent symptoms leaving her constantly nauseated, tired and depressed. While many suffer in silence, Alexis was candid about her experiences in the hope that it would encourage others to seek help when they need it. Following a clinical diagnosis and a successful course of treatment, Alexis' health is now much improved.
We caught up recently to talk about the mind-body connection, the practicalities
of overhauling one's lifestyle, the importance of self-care and more...
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO CHANGE YOUR LIFESTYLE?
I moved to southern California in 2009 after eight-and-a-half years in New York. I knew sometime in 2007 that I needed to get out of the city and change my life or I would die. I was suffering from severe depression, using drugs and slowing dying. I think to say that you woke up one day and made a change is unfair to everyone looking to make similar change. It is a holistic battle. I changed everything. I changed my job, my relationships, and where I was living all before I knew things were shifting inside. The changes that led me to where I am now began about nine years ago, but at the time I was just trying to survive. I look back now and it almost seems like I had a plan!
AT WHAT POINT DID YOU REALISE YOU WERE GOING TO HAVE TO TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR HEALING?
I've always been in good physical health without really taking very good care of my body. My biggest issue was depression. It took me a long time to connect the two things. This past year was the first time in my life that I was physically ill for an extended period of time. Having always been so healthy and also spending most of my life without health insurance, I made the mistake of ignoring my body. I endured months of fatigue, nausea and depression. If you could imagine a year-long hangover, that is what it felt like.
I am extremely lucky that the first treatment I received worked for me. This is rarely the case when it comes to digestive issues. I didn't realise just how disruptive feeling this way was to my life and mental health until I began feeling better. As much as medication can absolutely help depression, there is no sustaining treatment quite like practicing dedicated self-care.
OF THE ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES YOU have TRIED, WHICH WERE THE MOST EFFECTIVE?
At first I thought I might have developed food allergies or was suffering from some kind of inflammation. I never thought I had an infection because my symptoms were not typical. I tried acupuncture and Chinese medicine, which I do believe in. I tried different exclusion diets and eating specific foods to help inflammation and digestion. My mistake was not going to my primary physician first and asking for tests. After going through this I really connected my physical health, especially my digestive health, with my mental health. More than ever, I know these go hand-in-hand with exercise. Take yourself seriously! If you're not feeling well, don't ignore it. Do something. Do everything!
WHAT IS YOUR FOOD PHILOSOPHY?
I know that as much as I might crave processed carbs (my weakness) and sometimes sugar, my happiness lies in a high protein diet with lots of vegetables. I remind myself that when I eat sugar (or carbs that convert to sugars) I tend to feel tired and depressed. I am not perfect and I don't try to be. If I eat within my goals 80% of the time it means that when I go off track it isn't the biggest deal. Also, when you are eating healthier overall, it means that you eat healthier even when you are not. My biggest allowances are wine and gluten-free cereal with almond milk. It used to be boxes of macaroni and cheese and cookies. Finding replacements for things really helped me feel like I'm not missing out.
YOUR GO-TO, FAIL-SAFE JUICE RECIPE:
I make this to drink for the day, so the quantities could be halved.
A big handful of kale and/or spinach
2 green apples
1 large beet
About 1 inch of ginger
(depending on desired spiciness)
BEST MEAL YOU EVER HAD:
A completely local meal on a farm and vineyard in Tuscany. Italy taught me that we need to eat local and seasonal.
FAVOURITE PLACE TO EAT IN LA:
HOW DO YOU INCORPORATE EXERCISE INTO YOUR DAILY ROUTINE?
I commit to 20 minutes a day. If I do more, great! Almost every day I do more. Plan something you like; if you don't like running, don't set an alarm to get up early and run because you won't.
YOUR FAVOURITE WAY(S) TO WORK-OUT:
Trail running is my new favourite thing in the world. It is challenging and never repetitive. Even on the same route, I always see something new. I might encounter a herd of cows on my trail one day and a bunch of kids on horses the next. I also love hiking because you can push yourself while exploring. It is great practice for just being 'in the moment'.
DO YOU PRACTICE MINDFULNESS? IF SO, HOW?
I learned Transcendental Meditation about a year-and-a-half ago and it changed my life. It is easy to get busy and miss sessions. Stress is the worst thing for your health. When I'm stressed, I just tell myself, 'Don't beat yourself up, just do the thing and feel better.' I've never regretted a meditation.
WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY?
Art and being in nature. The more of these things in my life, the more full I feel inside and the better everything else is.