Who here has ever experienced STRESS? (does seeing the CAPS on the word STRESS make you feel stress??)
If you are a human living in February of 2019, then I’m sure at some point in your time here on Earth, you have experienced that little (big) word that feels like about 100 different things. Some signs of stress are pretty obvious – feelings of anxiousness, increased heart rate, decreased or increased appetite, skin breakouts, weight gain, inability to focus, feelings of overwhelm…
And then there are some of the less obvious symptoms of stress – missing your period or irregular menstrual cycles, depression, insomnia, frequent cold sore breakouts, frequent headaches, frequent colds/bouts of illness … All of these symptoms could be anything, and the dots are not always connected to stress when you are putting together the puzzle pieces of your symptoms.
Why is this a big deal?
I BELIEVE THAT STRESS IS ONE OF THE MOST UNDERRATED ISSUES AFFECTING ALMOST EVERYBODY IN TODAY’S DAY AND AGE.
Many of us are walking through life dealing with the complications of stress, but are not fully aware that it is stress we are suffering from!
Lets talk about what happens in our body when we experience stress.
Our bodies are insanely smart. When we are in danger, or being chased by a giant gorilla, or dealing with a code blue situation in the hospital, our adrenal glands shoot out cortisol and adrenaline, two V important hormones for increasing blood sugar (in case you are in said danger for a long period of time), increasing blood flow to the big muscles in your legs (so you can run away from said gorilla), and providing an energy boost so you can handle the stress (like those chest compressions in said code blue situation, and you know, actually THINK and use your brain to save the person) and then return to balance after. This is better known as the “fight or flight” response. It is a gift, and we are so lucky we have evolved this way.
Our stressors today are a bit more complicated.
Even though we aren’t getting chased by wooly mammoths and saber-toothed tigers and gorillas (unless you work at the zoo, which btw if you do I’m jealous!) anymore, our adrenal glands behave the exact same way they did 10,000 years ago when these were our real problems. Now we have stressors like project deadlines, a breakup with your boyfriend, fear and worry when a family member is sick, a caffeine consumption on an empty stomach, an accident on the 405 when you’re late for work, a cancer diagnosis, credit card bills, getting mad at your roommate for eating the last of the Mary’s Gone Crackers crackers and putting the empty box back in the cupboard… you get it.
The point is that the body does not differentiate between stress in the form of being chased by a wooly mammoth and stress in the form of not having enough cash for bills this month.
So does this mean you can feel stress without even knowing it?
YES!! In fact, some people (myself included) experience stress in the most annoying of all possible ways… NO SYMPTOMS WHAT SO EVER. We don’t even know we are having a problem with stress until we have a problem with stress. Let me explain.
I went through a tremendously stressful summer with my dad’s AML diagnosis. The fear, the worry, the anxiety, the not knowing, the loss of control, the “letting go and letting God” and all the other things. Then we lost my husband’s beloved grandfather (RIP Poppy :( ) and a couple other pretty big stressful things occurred, all in the span of about 3 months. Obviously I was aware that these were stressful situations, and I allowed myself to feel the feels. I cried when I was sad. I screamed when I was angry. I slept in when I could. I fired myself from googling AML survival rates and PubMed articles on the success/failure rates of allogenic stem cell transplants in men over the age of 60. I processed the stress in such a way that I thought I was sittin pretty.
Then it happened.
My period went missing. For over 2 months. For no reason! I was not pregnant, I was doing all of my normal things that I do to manage my hormones, keep my PCOS in check, and keep my cycle on track (another post for another day), and I literally could not figure it out what was going on.
Finally I went to my OB-GYN and she ran some tests and found that everything was normal.
…and that the reason for my missing period was (wait for it ……………..) STRESS.
Hmmm what? The reason for my wonky period turned out to be stress?! Are you serious?? But I wasn’t feeling stress! I was feeling totally normal! I wasn’t anxious, I wasn’t gaining weight, I wasn’t breaking out, I was sleeping at night, my hair wasn’t falling out … what??!
Turns out I carry stress way deep deep down inside my body where it wreaks havoc on my endocrine system and my hormones, and directs all the energy necessary for creating a healthy menstrual cycle to survival mode. Because remember gals, a healthy period is NOT essential to your survival. But eeeeevvverything else that happens in your body to keep your heart beating and your mind thinking and your legs moving, IS.
So yeah! After hearing that from my doctor, I realized that I had a lot to learn about stress and managing it.
THIS IS WHEN BEING IN TUNE WITH OUR BODIES AND BEING ABLE TO RECOGNIZE WHEN WE ARE STRESSED BECOMES NOT ONLY IMPORTANT, BUT ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL FOR OPTIMAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS.
And if you are like me and carry stress in a way that it is so not obvious, it’s even more important for you to practice de-stressing techniques so you can process stress in a productive way.
My Favorite Ways To De-Stress
reading (sometimes self help, sometime trashy beach reads, whatever feels good in a stressful moment)
positive affirmations (check out Louise Hay — she is the queen of positive affirmations)
a good long soak in the tub
calling someone I love
listening to a podcast
bouncing on my trampoline (yay for the lymphatic system!)
diffusing mood modulating essential oils (citrus, florals, spices)
applying essential oils topically to my neck, chest, and temples (especially the oils in my emotional aromatherapy kit!)
journaling and reflection
recruiting some extra nurturing from my boo
a walk in nature
hugging a friend or loved one
(did you know that even a simple hug can increase your circulating oxytocin — that neurotransmitter that bonds you to your loved ones, thereby decreasing your blood pressure, heart rate, and STRESS, and increasing your overall feelings of happiness and peace!)
getting my hot water bottle out, filling it up, and resting it on my adrenal glands (mid way up your back). This is great to do when you’re Netflixing or reading.
drinking herbal tea like chamomile, peppermint, or roasted dandelion
enjoying 4-6oz magnesium bicarbonate before bed because magnesium is one of the most important minerals in our body and is wonderful for helping us manage our stress better
enjoying an infrared sauna sweat sesh
quiet time with myself
Now I don’t do all of these things every single day (um but how amazing would it be to get a massage and or a facial every day?!), but I am much more disciplined about doing at least one of these daily. Usual defaults of mine are slow, mindful deep breathing before bed, morning and evening gratitude, and diffusing my essential oils. And if I did have a bathtub at my house, you better believe I would be in there multiple times a week. I have found that actively participating in these de-stressing techniques, not only did my period regulate and get back on track, but the quality of my life improved significantly.
Stress. Don’t ignore it. Don’t pretend it’s not there. Listen to your body, honor it’s desires and messages, and trust it’s guidance. The body does not make mistakes. It’s up to you to process the inevitable stressors that will always be there as long as we exist.
How does stress show up for you? And how do you manage it? Leave me a comment below!
Love and Abundance!