HEALTH WITH JESSICA

The Sweet Spot

When I was younger…in my 20’s (I swear that was just yesterday), I was so obsessive about my fitness that I would be a bear if I didn’t get my minimum number of workouts in per week and it had to be for a minimum amount of time as well. It’s as though I thought my body would puff up in one day if I missed a workout. I struggled hard with body image and weight in childhood & adolescence. It’s amazing how wide that pendulum swing can be. It took several years to settle. Thank you, God, that it did.The journey has been interesting and eye opening, however.

A few years ago I went to see a holistic doctor after struggling with my energy level and being confused by it. After all, health and fitness is my thing…I thought I was doing everything right. My diet was spot on, my exercise was spot on…what the heck? To my surprise, the doctor sat down in the office and started asking me about my life starting back in childhood. I was very impressed by this, given that I was in the midst of earning my masters degree in Health Psychology and really learning how tangled the web is that connects our physical, mental/emotional and spiritual selves. What a concept that a doctor would ask me about my mental/emotional health from childhood on. I had never had a doctor spend time fully listening to me about surface level issues let alone asking me all this stuff. This is when I first learned about Adrenal Fatigue.

Truly the man scared me. He talked about what chronic stress can do to a body and there I was thinking I was not part of that population. I have never smoked, drinking has amounted to one or two glasses of wine a few times a week (hello antioxidants). I never eat fast food. I exercise 5+ days a week. I have awesome friends and a solid network and my faith is integral to me. What’s the problem? What stress? If there’s any there I know how to deal with it…or did I? I was a single mom, working and earning my masters degree at the same time. Sleep was something I did not do much of.

So really, what does all of this mean? Since that appointment I have done a lot of research on Adrenal Fatigue and it has made a lot of sense looking back. I realize this has been something I’ve struggled with for years. Now, I know when I am dipping back into it. In fact, this past year has been the worst ever (you’d think a girl would learn, right?). I had so much transition in my life, a lot of it actually good, but change nonetheless, that my body just decided it had had enough. My energy levels plummeted, my immune system took a nose dive, my sleep suffered horribly…

What do you do when you hit bottom?

You breathe. You pray. You rest. You take care of your body by not overworking it.

This stuff is NOT easy for me! Thankfully I found PiYo a few years back and started teaching. It has been such a Godsend for my body. The strength and balance I get without the hard impact has been amazing. However, I stopped teaching classes at night for now. That was a huge step for me toward simplifying my life. I didn’t like leaving a dinner time and coming back when it was pretty much bedtime 3 times a week. Plus it made it hard for my body to settle down at night. I gave up running for several months to let my body heal as well. Running is such a love of mine, but it can also be so hard on the body. I’m back at it and thankfully it feels good again!

I have been practicing the art of saying “no” as well. Seriously not easy for me! And I say “practicing” because I have a ways to go yet. But, it’s amazing how freeing it feels to protect your little world by saying that. When I say no to something that doesn’t fit my own schedule or goals or that of my family, I am saying yes to the direction I am really trying to go in and I am saying yes to my family. That part feels amazing.

So now, I am enjoying exercise on my own terms rather than having it dictate me and how I feel about myself. I am being more purposeful in decisions I make and making sure they line up with what I want life to look like for my family and myself. I am embracing “no” as something that can can be such a gift. It’s always an adventure, life is. I love that I am operating less on caffeine and autopilot and more from intention. It’s kind of nice.

If you are caught up in the constant going, always busy, saying yes to everything cycle….I encourage you to sit back and breathe. Then pick something today to say no too and say yes to something better.

Lots of love…
Jess

Stress and Adrenal Fatigue — part 2: What next??

stressed

I particularly run across women who deal with adrenal fatigue to the point that it has really messed with their hormones (however this is not just a female issue).  What does this look like?  It’s different for each person depending upon the severity of the adrenal issues, the health and balance in their body and life in general, their diet, age, etc. It is, obviously, a multidimensional issue.

DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone….say that three times fast!) is one main androgen produced by the adrenal glands.  DHEA is our support when cortisol is out of control.  It helps to balance out of balance cortisol issues.  DHEA works to protect our bone density and cardiovascular health.  It fights bad cholesterol and gives us energy both physically and mentally as well as helps us maintain normal sleep patterns.  DHEA is our friend especially when fighting stress of any kind (this can be physical stress just as much as emotional or mental, etc.).  DHEA is key in the manufacturing of testosterone as well, therefore libido is at the mercy of DHEA levels.  Anyone experience a good amount of stress for a prolonged period and find that you’re just not “in the mood”?  Bingo.

Something important to understand is that when stress becomes chronic, it will damage adrenal functioning in such a way that symptoms just don’t go away once the stress is relieved.  When you’re body has been out of balance long enough and depending upon the severity, it takes a good amount of work to get things back to a healthy point.  Sometimes damage is permanent.  Here is a perfect example: my mom was engaged to a man when she was in her early 20’s.  From the stories I hear they had quite a close relationship.  He became terminally ill.  My mom spent months taking care of him.  Think of what occurs mentally, emotionally and physically when we encounter such circumstances in our lives.  Physical demands of taking care of someone who is terminally ill can be extreme, sleep deprivation, lifting, cleaning up, around the clock work, etc.  The mental strain of figuring out how to manage finances, understand medical issues… Then the biggest piece is emotional.  I really cannot even imagine. In that position you are likely tying to remain strong while caring for your loved one and yet your world is falling apart and chaotic.  When my mom’s fiance passed away, her thyroid quit.  Period.  It was done.

This example shows us what can happen on an extreme level.  My mom’s doctor said that this is something that may not happen to everyone in such a situation, but it definitely happens.  Essentially, her body was in a high state of stress for such a period of time that things went to the next level.  If you can imagine a little factory inside each of us with the workers trying to do their job… Her adrenal glands were working triple time trying to manage levels such as cortisol that become out of control in response to stress. They got tired.  They just couldn’t keep up with it for that long and to that level.  When your adrenal glands get tired and take a time out, then everything else is affected.  Your thyroid is next to give.

Please understand that this is not a situation in which there is a quick switch.  There is a gradual eroding that occurs.  We can deal with quite a good amount of stress and bounce back.  However, if the stress continues or if you aren’t eating right, sleeping enough, if you smoke, etc., or if the stress is beyond what a human being is designed to handle (unthinkable situations unfortunately), then this downward spiral will start.

If you are in the beginning stages of adrenal fatigue, simple steps can be taken to help remedy the situation.  I know when I am dipping into the “danger zone” because I am tired no matter how much sleep I get, I might become more emotional, I don’t have energy to do things I love, my immune system isn’t strong, I get depressed,  etc.  My stress comes from a busy lifestyle and raising a kiddo on my own.  So, for people like me it’s fairly straight forward.  I know this is when I need to take some things off my plate, say “no” to some stuff.  This is when I need a night out with friends (seriously) to take my mom hat off and not worry about my five jobs!  Ha!  Funny, but true.  However, I also know its when I need to ask for help, because when I am home from my girls night out, I still have a ton of stuff to do that is too much for one person.  So, I have learned to say “help”.  I eat well and exercise and rely on my faith…these are POWERFUL tools, my friends!!  So, for me I know my problem is that I have become overloaded.

For others it is not such an easy fix.  My mom’s example is one such situation.  When the stress is more involved with emotion, it gets tricky.  There are plenty of people walking around this earth who deal with PTSD that is from crazy childhoods or abusive relationships in some form or fashion or severe self-esteem issues.  This is very real and will absolutely have a detrimental impact on your physical body as much as any other kind of stress, in fact, quite possibly more than other forms of stress!  I am a huge advocate of therapy for really anyone.  We all go through things that require a third party, a professional, to guide us through more healthy ways of dealing.  For those who have experienced chronic abuse of any form or deal with more deep emotional and mental issues ongoing professional help is essential.  This is not to be taken lightly.  Our society is so backwards with mental health issues. There is nothing wrong with seeing a counselor.  If my body is sick somehow, I take myself to the doctor.  If you’re sick more on the inside…your having heart and head issues…take yourself to the doctor!  There are some very wonderful therapists that can help you really change the course of your life.  You don’t need to suffer.  And, I promise, you’re not the only one.  Us Americans like to make sure everything looks good on the outside and we like to focus on our cool “stuff” and having our kids involved in every sport available and just being “so busy”…but often times there are a lot of things we are unnecessarily masking with all of that.  It’s not worth it.  If you ignore it for too long, you will most definitely pay for it physically.  Take care of yourself!  If not for yourself…for your loved ones.

If you have crossed the line into extreme levels and it’s not just a matter of taking better care of yourself via better diet, exercise, decreasing stress…you will need to work with a doctor.  Here’s where things get tricky.  I mentioned in my previous post on adrenal fatigue that main stream medicine doesn’t necessarily recognize adrenal fatigue.  They’ll help you when you reach the point that your thyroid is broken.  I would highly recommend a doctor who practices naturopathic medicine if you feel your doc isn’t on the same page.  I am not discounting main stream doctors!  I go to one…I work for one!  I really believe we need both.  I pray and rely on my faith a lot, but I take ibuprofin if I have cramps.  That’s a very simplified example of what I am trying to say.  Naturopathic doctors will look at things main stream docs won’t and vice versa.  With stuff like this you want to make sure you have someone who is looking at the full spectrum, because this is about seeking good health before it gets to a critical point in which you will most assuredly need some medication.  Bioidential hormone therapy, DHEA, etc…these are things you might be looking at in terms of help if you are at this point and seek out a naturopathic doc.  You will go through extensive testing as well.  It is worth it to be your own advocate friends!

Remember…YOU ARE ENTIRELY UP TO YOU!!

Love  & Blessings

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