meet meghann finley stephenson
The founder of M. Finley, who believes in sometimes moving a little slower and not asking too much of herself.
How does your thyroid diagnosis impact your mental health?
I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism when I was 3 or 4, which can largely affect your mental health. And a lot of people don’t talk about it. Only in the last few years did I learn that it was probably caused by an autoimmune disease. So hormone replacement therapy is my number one priority. I’ve been on it since I was 3 or 4. I make sure I stay on top of that and keep an eye out for symptoms.
Also, I take care and go easy on myself. I take Synthroid, but in the last few years, I’ve added another hormone, Cytomel, to help my energy levels. Basically, if your thyroid doesn’t work properly, it affects almost all of the hormones in your body.
“Because I was diagnosed with it so young, I didn’t really take an active role in what that means in my life until maybe mid to end of college.”
I don’t think I started looking up what the symptoms were until then. So I just felt unlucky when I was younger. Then, unfortunately, it swung too far in the opposite direction, where I was overly obsessing about things and focusing on the role of food in that aspect. When you’re someone who has a chronic illness or an autoimmune disease, a lot of the messaging includes, what are you doing to fix it? Then that gets internalized. What did I do to cause it and what am I doing wrong? What more can I be doing? It got to a certain point where everything that I was doing in attempts to improve my health wasn’t healthy for me. The illness stuff is definitely a very weird place to be because it doesn’t feel like there are any right answers out there, it’s all very personal with a lot of trial and error.
How do you unwind and prioritize your sleep?
I have a really hard time sleeping throughout the night. Since we moved to LA, I started taking Dosist sleep gummies and they’re amazing. I fall asleep really easily and stay asleep better than I had been. I’m still trying to get that sorted out because I know that if I don’t sleep well, I don’t feel like myself the whole next day.
How do you stay grounded?
I usually try to take my mornings pretty slowly. I don’t set an alarm. I just wake up when I wake up. It’s usually around the same time every day.
Most days, I try to foam roll and stretch because I definitely notice that if I’m not feeling physically comfortable in my body, it throws my day off a little bit. I aim for every other day, but it depends on how I’m feeling. I also try to get in 20, 30 minutes of Pilates or yoga.
How do you start your day to make sure your mental health is prioritized?
I used to do all the things everyone told me to do. Intermittent fast and have smoothies for breakfast and I was miserable. I felt like I was ignoring a lot of my hunger cues. I am the type of person who is hungry the second they wake up and I like to eat breakfast and I like to eat something sweet. Once I started having a calorie-dense, nutrient-dense breakfast, it helped my energy levels throughout the day. It helped me feel calm and full and happy. So I have overnight oats with a banana, seeds, nut butter, and a plant-based protein almost every morning.
How would you describe your mental health currently?
I had a bad morning. It was one of those days where you wake up feeling kind of bummed out. On days like these, it is easier for me to move a little slower and not ask that much of myself.
“It’s been some of the hardest couple of years of my life, but I have really learned a lot about myself and figured out a lot of things that needed figuring out.”
Coping with my dad’s death was hard, especially when you’re quarantining and can’t distract yourself. But in some ways, it was beneficial not to distract myself from a lot of those feelings. It made me look at my life, my work process, my relationship with my body, and my relationship with my fiance and family and re-examine everything. So even though it was really hard and still is hard, I feel like I’ve gotten to a place where I recognize myself more and feel content with who I am, where I am, what I believe in, and where I’m going.
How does intimacy and relationships impact your mental health?
My fiance and I just celebrated our 10-year anniversary and that’s something that I feel really proud of. It’s not easy; it’s something that we work at every day because we care so much about each other. And because we have essentially grown up together, we have such a deep connection and appreciation for each other. I feel like his problems are my problems. My problems are his problems. There is such a deep level of support. And I know that I can talk about anything and it’s immediately and fully accepted and understood. My relationship with him is really fundamental to me becoming who I am today and I don’t know who I would be without that level of constant support.
What’s your take on medication, like antidepressants, and supplements?
I’ve tried anti-anxiety and antidepressants because I started having panic attacks when I was 6. Nothing worked that well for me. I wish it had, but I had a pretty bad reaction to a couple of medications, so I kind of gave up on that front. But many people I know take something and if it works for them I think that’s great.
“When it comes to my thyroid, I never really felt any shame around taking medication for it because it was something I’d been doing my whole life.”
At one point, I was taking a lot of supplements and there is definitely this strange, moral halo surrounding a lot of wellness culture. Once you zoom out and get out of that mindset, you realize how wrapped up in diet culture it actually is. Its diet culture re-branded. It’s sad to look back on and wonder why I thought that would be the solution. But at the time, I felt pretty good about what I was doing. You hear people say they feel great. I’m doing this and doing that. But do you actually feel great? Are you actually happy? Is this sustainable? Are you feeling great for a month? Are you feeling great for 10 years?
How has your relationship with your body evolved since going through all your various experiences?
I read the intuitive eating book and it was really helpful, but jumping from not loving your body to loving your body is a really big ask. And sometimes not that easily attainable. Over the last year or so, I’ve kind of found a place of more neutrality, which feels nice. I don’t need to look that closely at myself for every single thing. I can just accept that certain things are the way they are and then grow to love them.
I personally couldn’t jump from the disordered mindset that I had around food to intuitive eating because I didn’t have the hunger and fullness cues that I needed in order to do that appropriately. So I found the thing that worked for me was having a plan in which I was eating more and learning what that felt like, learning what it meant to have enough. And from there, I was able to step into a more intuitive place. Not every day is great, but I do feel a lot more calm in that area. I didn’t believe that it was possible. It really did cause me so much anxiety.
Unfortunately, it shouldn’t be a radical idea that we don’t need to always be losing weight and we don’t need to always be optimizing. Focusing on certain messages can be really helpful, though. Even when it comes down to who you’re taking a workout classes from. I know that I don’t want to be taking a class from somebody who’s repeating, let’s get our bikini bodies ready. I would rather take more classes that are focused on functionality and movement and supporting long-term health. That’s why yoga feels really nice and Pilates feels good because it’s not really about appearances. It’s more about how you feel in your body and how your body works and moves.
What makes you stressed or anxious and therefore impacts your mood and mental health?
The things that instantly trigger anxiety are emails. I work from home, I freelance, so sometimes things get lost in the mix. You start freelancing to avoid a 9 to 5. So you end up working 24/7. But I think miscommunication is really hard for me. I try to be super clear and direct and concise.
When do you feel most at peace?
In pajamas, in bed watching TV.
When do you feel your body tense up?
Around new people.
What gives you serotonin?
What does your body language say about you?
When do you speak your mind?
When I’m angry.
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