Gardeners Touch

Getting to the ROOT of Change

NOURISHMENT FOR THE SOUL | Stress & It’s Effect On The Body

Upon a healthy mind lies a healthy body image. 

An unhealthy body will not release weight long-term. (and it doesn’t always have to do with what you eat)!

AN UPDATE ON MY HEALTH JOURNEY….

So what does it look like when the health coach is finding herself struggling in an area that she hasn’t conquered?  SHE OWNS IT!  She SHARES it!  …….because this isn’t about perfection, it’s about practice.  I will always be a lifelong learner, especially when it comes to my health.  

This journey is about knowing MYself. Knowing MY body. Knowing what is true for ME!

My current reality is that the effects of not managing chronic stress have left its toxic footprint on me and I realize that I just don’t have this part of my health under control.  

I can only imagine where I’d be if I just said “screw it, nothing works so I give up!”.  The fact is, I’ve seen how stress and it’s toxic effects on the body create a mess of all the hard work you’ve done.  So, what’s the answer?  

It didn’t hit me all at once, it crept in over time.  I saw some red flags along the way but used the excuse of “I’ve no time” and “I’ve got this” to mismanage them.  Little by little, one problem built upon another and suddenly the buried problems on the inside caught up with the problems on the outside.  Why is it we don’t pay attention to the inside as easily as we pay attention to what we see on the outside?  Yes, a healthy body lies upon a healthy mind.  There’s more that happens in the work between the ears than does anywhere else when we’re talking change.

There it was, the effects of “chronic stress”.  The result of burying and pushing things down until they built up so much that they erupted.  

Chronic stress is bad news for both your physical and your mental health. There’s lots of science around how it messes with both your hormones and your organs and ignoring it, as I did, isn’t an easy fix…..especially when you already have auto-immune issues.  

I learned that with my hormones out of whack my body needed to pull its energy from somewhere – so it pulled from my muscles which were already weak from lack of my regular walking regimen. 

It was time to stop ignoring, stop burying, and start asking questions. 

What am I noticing? Where am I seeing a change?

What is causing this?

Is this something I can change?  Do I have control over anything here?

Do I need help?

What am I noticing?  Where am I seeing change?

MY RED FLAGS

  • My blood work showed an increase in all the wrong places (blood glucose levels increased, thyroid antibody levels increased)
  • Heart palpitations were present 
  • My sleep was easily interrupted (inflammation) 
  • I pushed through, but could easily have napped midday (auto-immunity flare)
  • Pain, tingling, numbness and weakness in the legs and feet (breakdown in muscle)
  • The scale was an obvious first check. A pound here, a half-pound there.  Over a year and a half, those pounds begin to add up.
  • My clothes fit, but not the same way.  I was thicker in my mid-section – specifically my back, an area we often don’t see first.
  • My cheeks and chin area were looking different in the mirror.
  • My Hashimoto’s symptoms were through the roof – severe leg pain due to inflammation, chronic fatigue, and yes, depression.

What is causing this?  

This took AWARENESS . It took a lot of honesty and transparency!

My recipe for ill-health?

  • Too much coffee
  • Too much stress
  • Lower water intake
  • Walking wasn’t a priority

Yep, it had nothing to do with the foods I was eating, because that part of my lifestyle change was under control.  Confirmation that balance in ALL areas of our life cannot be over emphasized here. 

Is this something I can change?  Do I have control over anything here?

Yes and no.

  • Last year, when my mom was hospitalized, I began drinking coffee and fueling my body with protein bars.  Due to hospital cafeterias being closed and inability to come and go into the hospital freely, I was limited as to what and how I would eat.  Although I was doing what I thought was best at the time, I became addicted to coffee once again and that has a huge impact on my health.  So, yes, I can change this and it is within my control, but when we let something reach an “addictive” level, it makes it that much harder (not impossible) to work through.
  • Skipping over stress for the moment, let’s look at both my water intake as well as my exercise routine.  Both are a simple fix and easily within my control.  I began filling my water jug daily and not going to sleep without finishing it.  Walking is my exercise of choice with Hashimoto’s and works beautifully – mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually – into my lifestyle.  It’s an absolutel must in the morning.  When it doesn’t get done in the morning, more and more things become a priority.  My health has to be top priority in the morning (after prayer of course ;-))
  • Stress – so, this is where the yes and no of “Can I control this” comes into play.  Yes, there are steps I can take to manage my stress, but understanding where it’s coming from, how I’ve learned to protect myself over the years, coping mechanisms, etc. are all new to me.  So, not only is this an area of deep digging, it’s also an area to learn and understand as well as an area I need help with.  I simply have learned that I cannot handle this on my own. 

What have I learned?

Although I’m in the thick of it, here is what I’ve learned about my rising cortisol levels.  Our bodies are well equipped to handle stress in small doses, but when that stress becomes long-term or chronic, it can have serious effects on your body.

  • You can be eating all the right things, but if you don’t manage chronic stress, you are setting your body up for a huge cortisol imbalance that could take months and months to repair.

“Being chronically stressed can fast track you to a swollen belly, even if you eat like an athlete. When there are chronically high levels of cortisol whirling around your system, your body releases less white blood platelet cells, which are essential for your immune system. This makes our recovery less efficient and ultimately lowers our immunity, making us even more susceptible to getting ill,” warns McCarthy. “         ~Men’s Health

Burying your emotions WILL find a way to rise from the depths and rear its ugly head.  

The past year and a half found me in a position that was very new for both myself as well as my family.  There have been an unprecedented number of stressful events that I thought I knew how to manage.  Always wanting to be the expert and a perfect one at that, I found myself scared and doubting myself a lot.  More on this perhaps in a future post, but let’s just say, there’s been a LOT of revelation over these months of what I am and am not capable of doing. 

Chronic stress causes the muscles in the body to tense up. When muscles are taut and tense for long periods of time, this may trigger other reactions of the body and even promote stress-related disorders and muscle atrophy (weakening of the muscles). Symptoms include a decrease in muscle mass, one limb being smaller than the other, and numbness, weakness and tingling in your limbs.

“Repeated acute stress and persistent chronic stress may also contribute to inflammation in the circulatory system, particularly in the coronary arteries, and this is one pathway that is thought to tie stress to heart attack. It also appears that how a person responds to stress can affect cholesterol levels.” ~American Psychological Association

(The above article was enormously enlightening on the effect stress plays on all parts of the body.  Honestly, it is what pushed me towards action). 

  • Isolating yourself because you’re embarrassed by your emotion, is probably a good indicator that you need to learn some better coping mechanisms than bottling everything up. Here’s a good tip to start – 

“Get good sleep, nutrition, relaxation, social conversations and fun,” says Ingleby. “Walk, adventure, switch off digital, and find a positive purpose and passion.”

If this topic around stress was of interest to you and you want to explore on your own a little more, here’s one more article to check out. https://www.livestrong.com/article/460992-does-stress-increase-metabolism/

Do your homework to help you understand your body and how it works, but always consult your physician (and if needed, multiple physicians as well as second opinions) with your concerns.  Follow your gut instinct if something just doesn’t seem right. 

Getting to the Root of Change and helping you LOVE the season of life you’re in.
I hope you enjoyed your visit here today.  If you did, please share your thoughts in the comments below. If you know someone who might enjoy it, would you consider sharing with them or on your social media accounts using the hashtag #gardenerstouch. 

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