Between 75-90% of all physician office visits are for stress-related illness and complaints. This was news to me up until the time I became one of 75-90 percenters.
For a time when I would hear the word “stress” my mind pictured the external sources of stress and the most pressing concerns facing me at the time. I’d consider things like family, money, economic downturns, the pressure to produce, keep people employed, and operate my company, social obligations, and health. I’d consider the stressors; I’d move into action addressing them, but I rarely got still enough, long enough to feel my way through the cascade of negative consequences compounding stressors were having on my body, mind, and spirit.
This is a potent dose of reality; its residue still shows itself to me today as I face the physical reality that I am one of the 50 million people (80% of them being women) who have received a known autoimmune diagnosis. The reality that I have reversed the chronic conditions that led to this. And the reality that to achieve my goal for being the high functioning female I desire to be I must attend to myself first, giving my body the benefit of the doubt, the generosity, and the loving-kindness, I’d only been aware of showing others.
The target I aim to hit today is set on sustaining my highest energetic potential first. Sustaining it maintains my capacity to be the high functioning female I desire to be, balanced, and resilient in my own body-brain, consistently capable of dealing well with life’s stressors as they come.
Protecting my energy, discerning who gets the benefit of my effort (and who doesn’t), and befriending my own body with the same passion and consistency I’d given to so many others in my 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s was not something I was taught to do. On the contrary, it is something that I have had to learn to do. Along the way I’ve become acutely aware that I am not alone, the same holds true for so many women who over-give, exhaust themselves in over-achievement, worried all the while that we could, should, ought to be doing more and feeling that nothing were doing is making a big enough difference.
A biological event that happens in the body. In short bursts, stress is positive, helpful, and necessary.
Our bodies are hard-wired with a self-defense, stress-response system commonly known as the fight or flight response. This response system is designed to work for you. It’s meant to kick into high gear when you encounter an immediate physical threat and turn down when that threat passes. In acute situations, it means we are built well to fight and run like crazy when we encounter a threat.
Let me illustrate. You are a zebra grazing with your herd in the grasslands of Africa. Suddenly you have a lion on your tail who wants to eat you for dinner. To help you escape, your heart rate will increase, your blood pressure will rise, your digestive system will shut down (after all, it’s not safe to stop and poop when you have a hungry predator on your rear), and all the hormones necessary for you to feel “reproductive” will be rerouted to your survival response system (safe sex and baby-making isn’t a thing when you are in danger of being eaten alive). All of this is happening inside your body so that you get the much-needed oxygenated blood to your muscles to flee, fight, and get out of harm’s way. This survival response is your hormones relaying the brain’s messages that tell your body what to do next, respond instantly, and clear the threat.
While we humans have evolved beyond the primitive environments we once inhabited, forced to fend off predators like lions, tigers, bears, or pillaging enemies; our body-brain remains wired the same. Be it the threat of physical harm or that you perceive the demands and challenges in your life to be unmanageable or too overwhelming to handle, both activate your stress response system the same – hijacking body-brain function, flooding your system with too much cortisol, creating too much reactivity in your immune system.
What happens when you are steeped in “too much stress”? The chronic increase in cortisol breaks down the protective lining in the intestinal wall, you wind up with leaky gut and chronic health conditions like memory issues, brain fog, inflammation and pain, infections, fatigue, food sensitivities, hormonal imbalances, low libido, weight gain, weight loss resistance, blood sugar instability, and autoimmune disease (just to name a few).
Cortisol, like stress, is not bad. We need stress, just enough stress, to keep us challenged and motivated. It’s our perception of the stressors in our life, and the level of stress being too overwhelming to handle, that activates our stress response system and disrupts the body’s ability to do what it is innately designed to do, balance, adapt, and function well. This is called homeostasis.
Cortisol is the hormone that helps you wake up in the morning, energized, and ready to take on the day. When in balance, it also helps control blood sugar levels, fluid balance, reduces inflammation and pain, helps with memory, aids fertility, and regulates blood sugar. Almost every cell in your body contains a receptor for cortisol. That means that cortisol will behave according to every cell in your body.
When you are continually releasing cortisol because you are chronically overwhelmed by our fast-paced, productivity-oriented culture (a way of functioning in the west that so many of us have come to endorse and covet), over-scheduled, over-care taking, and over-achieving for years (often decades), not getting enough time to rest, digest, breed, and feed you get metabolically stuck in this chronic state of fight or flight.
Steeped in stress, your body cannot properly digest and assimilate the macronutrients from food, even the best foods, that provide us with the essential building blocks for optimal body-brain function and the feeling of vitality every one of us wants to feel. All of which being necessary to fire, fuel, and maintain your highest energetic potential, sharp mental focus, physical function, fertility and reproduction, a healthy BMI, and complete excretion of the toxins and toxicants from your brain and body. Too much cortisol for too long is damaging.
Too little cortisol can be deadly. For me, even though 2017 was a year that I achieved all the goals I’d set for myself, dissolving a joint venture partnership, raising north of $45,000 to fund cancer research, facilitated a corporate leadership event for 200 of North Texas finest leaders, reached 32% organizational growth, a 7% increase in profitability, and opened the doors of our newly constructed corporate headquarters to host the truly supportive associates, friends, and family who contributed to our success; I collapsed Saturday morning, October 21st, in the floor of my own home due to insufficient levels of cortisol.
In my case, this acute adrenal crisis was one of the consequences I faced after spending 5 years in the company of a pillaging partner, playing a rigged game, achieving my way right past the mental-emotional stress that came with navigating a reality I had known nothing of for far too long. It’s the time when I had unknowingly become tethered to wealthy good-ole boys and bankers who favored dishonest behavior for-profit and I had become fixated on the foolish fallacy that fast pharmaceutical fixes (think Adderall) would free me from my mental challenges, clouded thinking, and fatigue.
Boy oh boy did I get it wrong, and it almost cost me everything. My body forced me to face failure – its failure to function forced me to face a failed joint-venture partnership.
The divinity in all this is that it was my body that pointed the way for me to uncover a myriad of hidden stressors robbing me of my precious time, resources, and youthful vitality. It was functional diagnostic lab testing, lifestyle medicine (not pharmaceuticals), and trustworthy relationships that helped me put the pieces together of my own autoimmune puzzle. From there I was equipped to traverse the trail of healing, reverse my own stress-related health condition, and create a professional practice that works for women to do the same, spending a third of the time it took me, at a fraction of cost.
Taking ownership of my own health journey has been the one true path to freedom, balance, resiliency, and the embodiment of my highest Self.
Is the program designed to put women’s highest energetic potential first, rid yourself of symptoms, and reverse chronic stress-related health conditions.
If you are ready to experience the one true path of freedom, restore optimal body-brain function, feel balanced, energized, and resilient, please join me and the ECo Tribe for the first of our free monthly educational series called Tea & Talk Tuesdays where we will engage, share, and support one another on a journey to emerge well!