Social media can be bittersweet. On one hand you’re able to follow and engage with like-minded people, but on the other it can be hard to consume the seemingly perfect content without comparing your life to those on your feed. Still, my favorite thing about this platform is the genuine connections I’ve made. I’ve had the opportunity to befriend, meet, travel with, and talk to some of the most inspirational, kind, and badass women on the internet (in my opinion).
About two years ago I discovered Shylah of the Shylah May blog, and we immediately hit it off. She is the sweetest human, but she’s also the realest— which we love. Shylah is a San Diego native, and doesn’t shy away from taboo topics like mental health, relationships, and women’s wellness. I had the chance to catch up with her and ask her about all things health, wellness, love, and balancing it all. Check out the interview below.
15 questions with Shylah May
Tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you founded the Shylah May blog.
I‘m born and raised in San Diego, California! I grew up near the beach between two beautiful cities, called Carlsbad and Encinitas. My parents were never married, so I bounced between two households (my mother’s and father’s) until I was around 15 years old and decided to live full time with my mom and step dad. After high school, I went to San Diego State University to get a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Media Studies with a minor in Business Administration. During my four years there, I learned a lot about myself. It was then when I found my passion for healthy living, my boyfriend (of now 6 years), and my love for helping others to live their best life.
Once I graduated college, I was going through a lot of mental health issues. I was fired from my job as a social media manager, that I had worked at full-time my entire senior year of college, because of how bad my mental health had gotten. Lost and confused, I ended up moving home. It felt like I was starting over. After three months of focusing on myself, healing and improving my mental health, I landed a job at the largest audio agency in the world and simultaneously started my blog. I had always wanted to start a blog, but experiencing anxiety and really bad depression post-college, fueled my fire to want to help others even more. That’s how Shylah May was founded.
You’ve had a pretty remarkable health journey, are you willing to talk about that a little bit?
Yes, of course! My journey to health started my senior year of high school when I stopped competitive cheerleading. I was scared to gain weight, so I started to work out in the gym and eat “healthy”… not knowing how. Then going to college and joining a sorority made matters worse. My drive to be skinny (which is what I thought was being healthy) made me lose the “freshman 20” instead of gaining it. I went from 120lbs to 100lbs in the matter of my first three months of college. I had no idea how much harm I was putting my body through.
The first month of my spring semester, I had a seizure at the register in Starbucks. I had never had a seizure before. Scared to hear the reason why I had received a seizure, I avoided going to the doctors. Thinking I was invisible, I ended up going to Coachella three months later. I tried ecstasy (or molly— not sure which one it was) for the first time and had a horrible experience. I threw up everywhere, felt like I was dying and had an out of body experience. (Don’t do drugs!)
I was a wreck after Coachella. Every day for the next two to three years, after trying that drug, I had experienced blurry vision, constant fear that I was going to have a seizure and weird tingly sensations that ran up and down my arms. I was scared and quickly realized the harm I was doing to my body… but it was too late. I made an appointment with a neurologist immediately and out of fear, I started to open up to my parents about what I was doing to myself. (BTW they were very concerned the entire time). The neurologist said my symptoms were due to exhaustion—aka depriving myself from nutrients, lack of sleep and partying too much. I was finally on board with my mom’s plan of getting myself a nutritionist and personal trainer.
Two years later, even with my new healthy lifestyle, the symptoms were still there.. I decided to try the doctor thing again as this could not be due to “exhaustion.” I went to a new Family doctor, told her what I was feeling 24/7, and she quickly diagnosed me with generalized anxiety. She gave me some Lexapro like it was nothing and I was on my way out. The Lexapro was not working. It made everything worse! Crying, begging for my life back, I felt like I had no control. I was hopeless, depressed, and stuck in bed. I went in for a couple of more appointments— had an EKG done to check my heart, EEG to check the electrical activity in my brain and an MRI done on my brain. I got a call the next week and was diagnosed with Mesial Temporal Sclerosis (a form of epilepsy) on the right side of my brain. They told me to come in 6 months later to test for a brain tumor.
My mom is my angel because she was constantly praying and searching for the best Doctor to give me a second opinion…as I had given up. Six months later, we got an appointment with the head of the UCSD Radiology Center and I was tested by the TESLA ||| MRI—the best of the best. Shortly after the test, the doctor received the results and told us I was misdiagnosed… he didn’t see anything that the first doctor reported— no scar, no tumor and no brain cancer.
I reflect back on all of those years, and see it clearly now that it was a mental health disorder after all. Those symptoms I had experienced (eating disorder, tingly sensations and panic attacks) were simply from my anxiety. After treating my anxiety and depression (post college), I can proudly say I don’t experience any of those symptoms anymore.
You are the queen of listening to your body— mentally and physically— how did you get to that point and learn to how to listen? Any tips?
After many years of ignoring my body, and seeing the impact it did to my health, mentally and physically, I knew it was time to take a look inward and get to know myself again. I learned that I needed to love myself in order to be truly happy and confident with myself.
By the way, I’m still learning how to listen! Everyday it’s a practice. I don’t think I will ever be perfect at it, but it’s important to me that I make myself a priority everyday.
Here are four tips to checking in with your body:
1) When you wake up, ask yourself what does your body need right now? This is before you touch the phone! Does it need water? Does it need silence? Do you need a slow morning? Etc.
2) Throughout the day, I like to scan my body. This helps me regulate my cortisol levels— so if I’m feeling anxious or stressed, I check in. I stop what I’m doing and close my eyes. Do I need to breathe, go on a walk and get some blood flow, meditate? Etc.
3) Another way I check in is with fitness. What does my body need today? Rest? Does it need movement? A walk? Do I feel stiff and need to stretch or do I need to get some fresh air and go on a jog? I definitely don’t make myself do anything my body is screaming for me not to do. Checking in with myself, has made me a lot more gentle on my body!
4) My gut: I have a lot of gut health issues so scanning how my gut feels is super important before and after a meal. Will eating this high-sugar ice-cream bring pain to my gut? Am I craving something warm and soothing or cold and refreshing?
Do you find that your physical health affects your mental health? Or vice-versa?
Both! I find that when I work out, my mental health is sooo much better. And when my mental health is doing amazing, my body reflects it. I hold on to a lot of water weight and inflammation when my mental health isn’t doing well.
How do you find balance between a full-time job, a blog, friends and family, a live-in boyfriend, mental health, and fitness?
This is something I work on every day! I have to practice what I preach… balance! Luckily working from home (due to covid-19) and moving in with my boyfriend has made this sooo much easier for me. I work 8-5 on my full-time job. During my lunch, I always squeeze in a Melissa Wood workout in my living room (about 20-30 minute low resistance workout). After work, Trevor (my boyfriend) and I love to do a beach walk. It’s our way to get some fresh air, ground our feet in the sand (mental health) and catch up with each other on the day. After dinner, he works on his side hustles and I’ll work on my blog until it’s time to go to sleep. During weekends, we love to hang out with family and friends and maybe shoot some content here and there… he’s a photographer and loves to take photos… and I happen to need photos for the blog so it’s a win/win. We always make it fun and it usually turns into a date night.
For me, a planner and a routine (during the week) are very helpful when trying to create balance in my life. I let the weekends be a little more spontaneous!
How do you ground yourself when you feel like your anxiety is spiraling?
Great question! When my anxiety feels like it is spiraling, I stop what I’m doing and close my eyes and take a deep breath. In that moment, I ask myself what I need to heal and come back down to earth. Usually it’s a cold shower and a face mask or a glass of water and a walk outside or some meditation. I’ve learned to make myself a priority over anything else when I feel this way. So I do all of the self-care during these times. Through yoga and meditation, I’ve learned how to channel my breath as a tool to calm me down and ground me. It is sooo useful!
What would you recommend for people who are feeling like they’re in a funk?
Whenever I’m in a funk, I need to get outside of myself. This means I need to do something to prevent me from focusing on the funk. Focus on the good— write a gratitude list, focus on the beautiful scenery around you (walks are perfect for this), call a friend or family member and talk about it. It is sooo important to talk about how you are feeling— when you’re feeling good or feeling in a funk.
What’s your diet like? Do you restrict yourself in what you can eat?
My diet consists of mainly whole foods, organic veggies, organic meats and grass-fed beef + cheese. I like to follow the 80/20 rule when it comes to my lifestyle. 80% of the time I eat healthy foods to give me the fuel I need to feel my best. However 20% of the time, I’m going to grab that cookie (but 8/10 times that cookie will most likely be flour-free and refined-sugar free). I absolutely love desserts so that is a staple in my diet (on the daily). I truly don’t restrict myself, but I prefer to fill my refrigerator and pantry with healthy options because I feel so much better. If I want a pizza, I will eat a cauliflower pizza. If I want a burger, I will have a lettuce wrap burger with sweet potato fries. It’s just second nature to me at this point!
Has your boyfriend adopted your health and wellness lifestyle? If so, what’s that like for him?
Haha yes! Trevor definitely has! When we first started dating, he lost 20 pounds. He absolutely loves it. He’s learned that eating healthy doesn’t mean you’re starving 24/7 and you eat a salad every night. You can still have a hearty and delicious meal and it still be healthy.
I think he really committed to the healthy lifestyle when he learned how much it affected his mental health. Eating healthy has helped his energy, mood, and attention to detail. It’s really fun for me to see how much my lifestyle has helped transform theirs.
What’s your favorite cheat meal (if you have one)?
I hate to be one, but I don’t do cheat meals! I used to and I ended up only thinking about that one cheat meal every day until that day came when I would allow myself to eat it. It became super unhealthy. Now, I just listen to my body and feed it what it’s craving. My body has become more balanced from this method!
How has COVID affected your mental and/or physical health? Any quick tips for surviving quarantine?
COVID has been wild to say the least. Looking at the positives that have come from it, is all due to working from home. Working from home has helped my mental health so much. I’m no longer doing a 2 hour commute everyday and it’s a lot less stress being in the comfort of my own home working in sweatpants. It’s allowed me to workout in the convenience of my living room during any time of the day (which has kept me more accountable). A quick tip to surviving quarantine is let yourself have those lazy days. Be gentle to yourself and give yourself more grace than ever before.
What’s your one guilty pleasure that helps you unwind?
I’m a sucker for reality TV. My boyfriend doesn’t understand it as it gives him anxiety (LOL!). But, it totally winds me down and allows me to escape for a moment.
Can you share a ride-or-die healthy meal that you eat often?
Yes! I absolutely love making macro bowls! Trevor and I eat these a lot because the variations are endless— you can make it differently each time. You start with greens of your choice (kale, arugula, or spring), a source of protein (organic chicken, grass-fed beef, turkey), a healthy carb (quinoa, sweet potato, brown rice), and then you can add the toppings… this can look like goat cheese or feta, avocado, tomato etc. Lastly, add the sauce of your choice— we love pesto and hot sauce!
What’s the one thing you want my readers to know about mental/physical health & wellness?
Everyone’s path to mental health looks different, but it all starts with loving yourself.
Bonus question: I love love, can you tell us how you and Trevor met and how long you’ve been together?
Awww—I love this Q! Trevor and I started dating my sophomore year of college (his junior year) in his frat house (SAE— lol). I knew of Trevor my freshman year, but didn’t really actually know him, if ya know what I mean. I just remember seeing him and thinking he was so hot. I told all of my girlfriends that I was for sure going to marry that guy because he was so cute. I was totally kidding because he had a girlfriend of four years at that time and I had never ever talked to him before. But, he was my little crush. Fast forward a year, he and his then-girlfriend broke up. I had heard from his fraternity little brother that he was single and didn’t think anything of it. Three months later, my roommates were throwing a party and I found myself alone in my kitchen with the guy I imagined marrying in my dreams. I was freaking out!!! Trying to play it cool, we ended up running into each other a lot at future parties. Six years later, here I am—living with my dream boyfriend in our dream apartment by the beach. We have been together for six years 🙂