HAS STRESS GOT YOU IN THE SHITTER?
Digestion and Stress (Part 1)
We all experience stress. By divine design, we all embody a level of stress resilience before the human body fails to adapt under the heavyweight of lingering stressors. Stress resilience is not avoidance, resistance, or even inoculation to stress. Rather, it is the ability to recognize and acknowledge that a situation has been traumatic, become difficult, painful, dysfunctional, and respond in such a way that leads to growth rather than an increasing degree of distress, dysfunction, and even death.
Stress itself is neither all good nor all bad. In truth, the positive and negative aspects of stress (and stress-resilience) have shaped my whole life for the better.
ADAPTING & ADULTING
“Open up, share more about yourself” – that’s the feedback I keep getting when I write and speak. Damn it, I am so much more comfortable hiding behind the science, sharing that kind of work, the data, facts, and figures. I get to point to the tangible results of the work. In essence, I get to hang out behind the veil of my varied roles (CEO, consultant, wife, mom, marathon runner, fundraiser…you get where I’m going with this). Our roles, after all, are seen as desirable, healthy distractions. And, on the one hand, that’s true because we are getting shit done. AND, who doesn’t like a woman who can get shit done? What woman doesn’t want to be liked? That’s kind of a loaded question but not really the topic for today. Moving on, I am more comfortable diverting the attention away from me, myself, and I, the introverted soul that has found throughout her life experiences that trusting two-legged mammals with too much of myself, with what I hold sacred, my body, my family, their security, and our financial future is not only vulnerable but also ill-advised at $630 an hour. That’s how much you will pay for one hell of a human and high-powered attorney.
My story is stress-filled. Making it through a maze of hidden stressors, reversing my own stress-related autoimmune illness, hanging onto the riches that my husband and I have worked our assess off for, followed by a five-year legal feud with a wealthy white man’s estate, is what qualifies me to talk to anyone about stress – a highly misunderstood topic. A topic that is central to how well (or not) the body-brain functions, the onset and progression of chronic health conditions, healing, and the autoimmunity that so many women face with little help from those conventionally trained in western medicine.
My interpretation of the feedback I’ve gotten from the two-legged mammals is that they just want to know, beyond the letters behind my name and the book smart parts, what truly qualifies me to write (or speak) about stress, healing from it, and building stress resilience. To that, I say, “Fair enough. I’d like to know too.”
ADAPTING & ADULTING IS SYNONYMOUS WITH TWO TYPES OF STRESS
Nobody tells you this stuff, but the truth is full-grown two-legged mammals need some stress to keep us motivated, moving forward, growing, and humble. It even has a name.
Eustress is defined as moderate or average psychological stress and interpreted or perceived as beneficial for the experiencer. Simply put, it’s the kind of stress that motivates us to rise to the occasion and respond to the challenges in such a way that leads to growth.
Here’s my eustress stress story.
I wasn’t born into “the right family.” Heck, I wasn’t even born into a semi-happy family. I was born into an Italian American family of overeaters, over-drinkers, and over-workers. People were valued for one thing, earning their own way. The more you work, the more you earn, the more “of value” you are. I didn’t go to ivy league schools, and I barely made it through the college classes I took at night while working to create a secure life for my son and me.
Twenty years old, I was a new mom. Heck, I wasn’t even old enough to drink, but you can bet that by then I had, a drink that is. I never understood the whole thing about alcohol being an acquired taste. When my Nana drank, which was daily and nightly, the vodka made her mean. I remember thinking to myself, “Who wants to acquire that?” I’d grown up to be tough Type A’er driven to earn my own way out of the mayhem of my own family. I found comfort in concrete ideas, problem-solving, and handling the immediate needs of others. So it is that I began my climb up the proverbial ladder in a pencil skirt, heels, and a baby on my hip. I was determined to achieve a place for myself in the business world and a track record of working well with others and getting results.
Stop. If you read “twenty-years-old, single, climbing the proverbial ladder in a pencil skirt and heels…” and your mind wanders down a dark alley of judgment, know that I’ve achieved most of my “success” without getting into bed with the wrong man. That was supposed to make you laugh – if you didn’t, I’d go so far as to ask if you suffer from constipation? (More on that later)
Back to the story. Even my son’s sperm donor and I did “the thing,” that one thing incredibly well – our son is living proof. The way I came to see it is that the odds are about one in a million that the sperm ejaculated into a vagina will actually ever reach the site of fertilization (aka the egg). His sperm and my egg had to do some pretty cool tricks to give themselves a fighting chance, especially since I was on birth control. I may have missed a day or two, but who’s counting. Clearly, I wasn’t, and it just so happens that’s all his father had in him. He was no more ready to rise to the occasion (pun intended) and be a father than he is today, 31 years later. Young, single, and pregnant with the man-boy’s baby that I’d gotten into bed with, this is my eustress story.
Distress implies a state of being in trouble, an external, usually temporary, cause of mental, emotional, physical strain, and/or pain.
By twenty-two, adapting and adulting looked like Mr. Norman (my employer), a wealthy landowner and real-estate developer from New York, the same age as my father. I was his administrative assistant, and this was my first professional position. My desk sat at the top of the landing as you came off a kind of spiral staircase. It led straight to his office. It was just the two of us up there. One day he called me into his office for a meeting. Nothing odd about that. He asked me to close the door and have a seat. It’s what came next that I didn’t see coming. He pushed a Frederick’s of Hollywood lingerie catalog in front of me, asked me to flip through the pages, and said, “Pick what you would like to wear for me.” Sexual harassment? Hell yes! Did I know a thing about that then? No!
I vomited a little in my mouth at the thought of me, him, and lingerie… and in my nervousness responded with a “stop joking around, Mr. Norman.” I deflected by announcing my nausea and upset stomach. This experience taught me that nobody stops you from leaving the room if they think you are about to poop your pants in their presence. I barely made it to the bathroom before releasing the contents of my bowels into the toilet. Apparently, though, it gave me just enough time to gather my guts. I marched back into his office and said, “Mr. Norman, I quit.” My fight, flight, flee response kicked in; adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol (aka the stress response system) have carried me through the worst of it ever since.
Indeed, stressful situations affect our physiology, i.e., how our bodily parts function and express themselves. In hindsight, my gut has continually been the part of me that lets me know exactly when I am stressed or better said, distressed. Too loosie goosie and diarrhea seems to afflict the body that hasn’t yet set healthy boundaries. Constipation is code for you’re being too rigid – uptight bodies don’t poop.
#TRUTH: Digestion and Stress
Once you know what to look for, you will find there is a distinct difference between the two types of stress. This series on digestion, Has Stress Got You in the Shitter, aims to address more than food and the science of your digestive system. Its purpose is to shine a light on the truth that one’s inability to digest their food, thoughts, and emotions, causes distress within the body. If you need the science to validate stress as a root cause of increasing dysfunction, deterioration, and diseases of the body-brain, functional lab testing is available to you too. In fact, I’d highly recommend it. For more on that, I’d invite you to schedule a Clarity Call with me so we can discuss your stress situation, how it’s manifesting in your body and what you can do to heal.
TAKE it or TOSS it – it is always your choice. BUT it’s your own shit that may be sending you the message to take a closer look at stress.
Want to talk shit? Join us at our next Tea & Talk where we will be discussing all about the contributing factors to digestion troubles and how to heal. Click here to register.