Overcoming Anxiety, ADHD, and Digestive Issues to Create an Authentic Life: Introducing Hanna Hanula
We are so excited to be joined by Hanna Hanula (@souliciouslyhanna), a Switzerland-based Gut and Mindset Coach specializing in the Gut-Brain Axis. Read on for your weekly dose of inspiration from Hanna, who overcame physical and mental trials to start her own business and craft an authentic and purposeful life.
This interview is part of Wellnite’s series of eye-opening interviews offering varied perspectives on health and wellness. There is no singular path to wellbeing, and we are so thankful to be joined by our amazing guests. The views expressed in the following interview are the participant’s own, and are not indicative of Wellnite’s stance on mental health and wellness. This interview has been edited only for length and clarity.
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Hanna. I’m a former sufferer of high functioning anxiety, ADHD, social anxiety, and digestive issues turned certified nutritionist, naturopath, and mindset coach. I specialize in the gut and mental health. I help stressed high achievers tame their anxiety and self-doubt through nutrition, energy medicine and mindset work. These ambitious people usually appear very confident, super successful, very driven, detail-oriented, and super organized. But, inside, they are experiencing fear of judgment, rejection, lack of boundaries, they keep busy because they don’t want to be in touch with their feelings, need constant reassurance, and feel that they just aren’t good enough.
Most of those people suffer from IBS or other sorts of digestive issues. Even if these symptoms don’t seem to be visible, they’re there when we take a closer look.
Food and how nutrients interact with our brain are my passions. Our microbiome is fascinating - imagine trillions of bacteria being unique only to you. It’s like an organ on its own that responds to our emotions, thoughts, surrounding environment and, of course, the food we consume. I love all of that.
What is your go-to self-care activity?
My go-to self-care activity is my Miracle Morning. This is when I’ve slept 7-8 hours, and after I wake up, the first thing I think about is an affirmation for the day combined with a feeling. It can be things like “I feel amazing that I’m going to be truly myself today.” Something simple, based on what you’re currently working on. Trying to have my first thought in the morning be an affirmation already rewires my brain to feel joy.
Then I drink some water or one of my herbal recipes and begin my breathing exercises. This is such a game changer for me. When you are a highly sensitive person, there’s a tendency to be very easily overstimulated and to get very tense. I found that [starting the day with breath] is like looking at a blank page. Breath exercises help me feel the tension leave my body, and I feel so much lighter, calmer, and truly inside myself.
I always follow breathing exercises with mantras. This is my Kundalini ritual, which I absolutely love. It really puts me on a higher vibration.
Then, I do another set of affirmations as well as gratitude. It is so crucial to be grateful for everything that I have - even if I just say “I have two legs that can carry me and take me anywhere I want.” Gratitude is key for my mental health.
And then, if I still have time, I have a set of my 5 favorite songs that I put on and dance to. It’s fantastic because, after spending half an hour sitting and meditating, it’s great to boost my energy and move my body in the morning. It gives me such a great vibe - like “yeah, bring it on!”
I do gentle exercises as well - pilates, yoga, a little jogging - but I gave up extensive exercises a long time ago. Before, I didn’t know - I was a high achiever and a highly anxious person - I was a gym freak. I would be going to the gym every day and pushing myself to such high extremes that I couldn’t sleep. And I thought it was “healthy.” But my body was never shaped as cortisol (a stress hormone) would convert my muscles to fat.
What is the Gut-Brain Axis?
The Gut-Brain Axis is a communication channel between our gut and our brain. Within this, there are three communication pathways: the Nervous System, the Immune System, and the Hormonal Endocrine System.
First we have the Nervous System. The Nervous System’s chemical language is neurotransmitters - serotonin, GABA, dopamine. Most of them, especially serotonin, are produced in the gut. The gut communicates with our brain through the Vagus Nerve. We have a microbiome full of psychobiotic bacteria who signal to our brain that we are happy, sad, etc.
Next, we have the Immune System. 70% of the Immune System sits in our gut. Our gut has a lining full of different lymphocytes. When we eat something that the body recognizes as a foreigner, this starts an immune response that asks the brain to send help.
Then, we have the Endocrine System, which are our hormones. This system is very slow to take action but has very long lasting results.
How did you find out about the Gut-Brain Axis?
My journey started ten years ago, when I arrived in Switzerland and had my first job. I was very stressed and really didn’t feel good enough. I didn’t speak French, and there were only French speakers around me. My new job was in finance, and it wasn’t my thing at all. After a while, I started having very unpleasant gut issues - bloating, gas, lots of different things. It was so painful that I started looking for help and stumbled across a book: Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Natasha Campbell. I loved it and found out so much about our microbiome and how it works, how we really need to nourish and rebalance the gut flora, and it started making sense to me.
I was exactly the kid who had the potential to struggle with mental disease [according to the book]. Straight from childhood, I would eat only carbs, and I didn’t get the building blocks for neurotransmitters.
I had to follow a very strict diet because I had so many food intolerances and digestive issues, and the more I got into it, I realized how much our Gut and Brain are actually connected. I suffered from ADHD social anxiety and high functioning anxiety and the more my gut was healing, the better I started to feel mentally.
I started psychotherapy to help me manage my emotions and to heal my inner child. I also tried energy medicine, and I immediately saw results. I realized how a holistic approach is so important - not only eating a healthy diet, but also addressing our emotions and our bodies. Everything is energy - food is energy, our thoughts are energy, and our bodies and all the chemicals inside of it are energy. By having a holistic approach, we are able to address them all in different ways - mind, body, and on a spiritual level as well.
I then signed up to do naturopathic studies and to become a nutritionist, but I was still missing something. I wanted to work on people’s emotions and to have a layered practice, so I became a mindset coach. I’ve created an all-encompassing solution: helping people to heal their gut from inflammation and to balance the gut flora, nourishing them with nutrients to be able to produce neurotransmitters and to rebalance their brain chemicals, working with mental tools like hypnosis and timeline therapy, and energy medicine to help them release anxiety and subconscious blocks that are holding them back.
We can’t just give somebody a diet thinking that this will give them all the solutions. There is no one solution that fits all. It’s always very individual because we’re all so different.
What does total wellness mean to you?
I don’t think there is such a thing as total wellness - life isn’t perfect. We are here to learn, and life is a lesson. Our bodies tell us the truth, and when we have some bodily or mental issues, it’s about learning from that.
I was in so much pain that I couldn’t fall asleep at night and was experiencing anxiety and severe panic attacks. But these lessons were important because they brought me where I am today. Today, I am a nutritionist and naturopath, and I am helping other people. I’ve done so much healing and have freed myself, and now I truly enjoy my life.
So, if I had to define total wellness, it would be lack of symptoms, eating healthily, spending time in nature, talking about our emotions, feeling comfortable in our bodies, and feeling good enough. When we feel that we are worthy and that we deserve what is best for us, we can give up toxic relationships and horrible jobs that just keep us stressed. Choosing ourselves and following our hearts, going after our dreams, and being happy in each moment. I wake up in the morning and feel happy just because I am.
I think a lot of people struggle with not feeling good enough - I struggled with it for thirty years, and while the self-love journey has not always been easy, it’s been so worth it. Once you are on the other side, and you see life and yourself through a lens of love, everything gets better. You attract better relationships, opportunities - all of your energy changes for the better.
How much mental health awareness is there within your community?
Within my community, I think that people know to be healthy they have to eat healthy and exercise and to take some time off. I live in Switzerland, and it’s really easy to go into nature. But I think there are lots of people who suffer from anxiety and stress. It’s a very competitive job market and I think people work long hours and are very stressed. They try to cope with it by going away for a weekend and eating a nice dinner on Sunday. But I guess apart from that it could be much better. I feel a little different - I do all of my things and people call me a “hippie.” But why am I a hippie? It’s just that I take care of myself. I consciously take time for my mental wellbeing. I don’t think lots of people see value in practices like meditation, gratitude, or affirmations. Unfortunately it’s very overlooked.
Who is a person who was important on your mental health journey?
I was trapped in a few long-term, toxic relationships that caused a lot of issues. It was when I left my last relationship that I experienced true healing. This was the last “thing” that was keeping me struck, and when I chose myself and started my business…I am truly happy now. I am single, but I am truly happy. And I’ve never had digestive issues after I’ve left my relationship - I think my body was just screaming for help all this time.
Also, my psychotherapist. It was the first time that I openly talked about my childhood and so many deep, repressed emotions started coming up to the surface. I was able to verbalize everything that was sitting deep inside of me. This was very helpful.
Another person who really helped me was my first energy healer. It was kind of like peeling me like an onion - every session I felt so much lighter. She told me that my body was so paralyzed, there were so many layers to take off. After our last session, I started feeling energy, and it was so beautiful because I could feel the energies of things around me.
I also had lots of amazing teachers at my naturopathic school who were so intuitive and shared so many beautiful life experiences.
How did you get connected to your therapist, and what are some doubts that you might have had before starting therapy?
One of my best friends is a psychotherapist, and she recommended me to someone who she thought could be a good fit for me. It was, and I spent four years learning and healing so much.
I think that everybody at the beginning has some doubts - will it really help me, talking to a stranger can be very weird, regular meetings, it takes years, etc. There can be lots of hesitations, and I totally get it. But the transformation, observation, and learnings about yourself are invaluable and priceless. It is always worth it to invest in yourself and get help - whether it’s a coach, a therapist, a course. Go to someone who you vibe with. If someone attracts you with their energy, it might mean that they’ve been through similar things, and they can help you heal.
Some final words from Hanna.
Reaching out for help is invaluable. How much we get when we actually ask for help - it’s amazing. I’ve invested a lot of money in myself throughout my life, but if I didn’t do that, I can’t imagine who I would be. I would probably be stuck in my relationship, having babies, stuck in a job that I hate, experiencing panic attacks, anxiety and digestive discomfort, thinking how miserable my life is. Instead I’m having the most fulfilling job out there - my own business helping other people transform their lives for the better. Lots of people have societal conditioning where they have a view of what they’re "supposed" to be and what they "should" do. I’m thirty-five, I’m single, and I’m f*cking loving my life. There is the possibility to live life on your terms if you choose to.