It might seem obvious but stress makes us really really sick. Especially when we are already teetering on the edge of balance, with our immune systems ready to fire up and attack one body system or another.
So why does stress make us sick?
And why is it so important we pull ourselves out of the downward spiral and do the things that are good for us?
Because stress makes a hormone called Cortisol and Cortisol hijacks all our other hormones in its attempt to regulate our body.
Too much Cortisol leaves us vulnerable to:
- decreased metabolism (weight issues)
- high blood pressure
- chronic fatigue
- hostility (low mood and anger
- inflammation issues
- low immune system (leaves us vulnerable to infection
- memory issues (our hippocampus actually shrinks
- decreased thyroid function (and decreased responsiveness to thyroid hormones)
- abdominal fat (cardiovascular risks)
Eventually the constant overproduction of Cortisol can cause the system to “flatline” whether or not you start off with autoimmunity.
If the cycle of stress continues unchecked, then Cortisol production becomes critically low. In turn this can also create many of the above symptoms. This is known as Stage 3 Adrenal Fatigue.
With autoimmunity, there is already dysfunction in the system. It is not always clear which is the chicken and which is the egg. Or to be clear, did the Thyroid dysfunction, the inflammation or the adrenal dysfunction come first?
People who are challenged already with autoimmunity are already one way or another, failing to down regulate the Glucocorticoid (stress) response. In other words, the continued exposure to cortisol has the Cortisol feedback system not working properly. This is where feelings of constant anxiety, worry, stress and inability to sleep well comes in.
You are stressed so you feel crappy and your feel crappy so you are stressed!
Studies have shown that many autoimmune patients report severe emotional stress right before their disease presents. This is often in the form of work pressures, relationship breakdown, death of a loved one or financial issues.
Frustratingly, the stress of having the disease is known to cause disease exacerbation (worry about why I have Hashimotos, what did I do wrong, how can i fix it, will my kids struggle with this, how can I get on being a good parent whilst I feel like this, how can I keep doing well at work as I am exhausted and in pain?) All of these thoughts create emotional stress and the burden of pain, stiffness, tiredness, weight gain etc create physical stress.
Stress = Cortisol!
Time to stop the vicious stress cycle.
What can we do to help ourselves reduce the Stress of Hashimotos?
I’m not talking about stopping your life, lying in bed, having the nanny pick up the kids, the maid do your housework and handing over your responsibilities at work. I can’t advocate that, because it’s not real life for most of us and it’s definitely not my experience.
That said, YOU HAVE TO STOP. Or in some cases START. Find a way to make it happen. (without worrying about it)
This is where it can be good to seek out a practitioner to hold your hand and have someone to be accountable to.
Often, even if we have all the knowledge at our fingertips (either on google or because you are a practitioner yourself) we feel we should be able to manage our own health. In actual fact the relief of “handing over” to someone who can guide and support you is what is actually needed. Especially because the likelihood is, you already have brain fog and exhaustion at least some of the time. It can feel like getting well is just another job to do!
At first it may seem like an extra pressure to find 15 minutes for you, but trust me it’s worth it.
So what can you do to feel better?
Wake Up Earlier and Get outside.
Get up 30 minutes earlier (yes I know how damn hard that can be at first, with Hashimotos, but do it anyway) and go for that walk round the block. Getting your nature on may sound twee, but its calming and refreshing and tells your body todays going to be ok. Getting your body moving is also hugely beneficial in loosening up those stiff muscles and relieving some of the morning pain.
Take a break during the day.
Even if you work for yourself, or have tiny little people relying on you. Do anything that helps you turn your brain cells off. Read a book for 10 minutes, go for a stroll, do some deep breathing for 10 minutes. I went through a phase of watching 15 minutes (i set a timer ) of daytime TV most days to force myself to chill out and stop working and more importantly for me to stop thinking! It’s hilarious and allowed me to stop planning my next blog, or my last client, or worrying about the kids. I must admit this got dull pretty quickly, but I absolutely make myself take at least 15 minutes to eat mindfully and relax. On days where I don’t I feel it.
Yes I get it! It’s the hip thing that everyone is going on about. How can 10 minutes help anyway? Meditation is calming. It supplies oxygen to your brain and body. It tells your adrenal glands to take a break and releases happy and relaxed chemicals. It is like pressing the re set button. Just 10 minutes every day could quite literally change your biochemistry for the better.
It doesn’t have to be flashy and you don’t have to “do it yourself” There are thousands of guided mini meditations on you tube. Find one you like and sit and breath for 10 minutes! Do it at bedtime, whilst breast feeding, sitting in a quiet corner in the lunchroom at work. Just set yourself a little goal and meditate 10 minutes a day for the next 7 days. I would love to hear how you feel below.
Eat Real Food Regularly
This doesn’t have to be complicated. Organic or well washed Vegetables and fruit. I order an Organic box of Vegetables for $65 every week. This way I always have something in to make a veggie soup from or snack on some raw vegetables and homemade hummus. I keep organic meat, nuts and seeds and pulses in and I am all set. Check out my recipes or contact me for further support or ideas.
Eating rubbish foods puts further stress on your body physiologically. It also generally leaves the body with its sugar levels out of whack, which in turn effects cortisol levels. Sugar and preservatives and additives also create inflammation which will negatively impact both the Thyroid and the Adrenals. It’s ok to eat “badly” occasionally but not as a way of surviving the day.
Kinesiology is highly relaxing and fantastic at calming the adrenal and in fact all the systems of the body.
It can help harness your own innate healing ability and balance energies that are currently out of alignment. A Kinesiology practitioner will work with you step by step on your self care, your self talk, your diet and nutrition and help you create a lifestyle that works for you and your body. The discovery of Kinesiology literally changed my disease progress for good and led me to qualify as both a Kinesiologist and a Nutritionist. Find out more about Kinesiology and what I do here.
Stress Management Works!
You can feel better and Hashimotos is not a life sentence.
TRUST ME. When I allow my stress levels to get the better of me I forget to STOP. When I remember again, I feel so much better. I get the support. I reach out to my Kinesiologist and other providers and remember that I can’t be anything to anyone if I am not all of those things to me.
If we do all or some of this, then we can’t help but stop and relax. All the dietary changes and supplements in the world will make a difference, but you will not truly heal until you learn to relax and VALUE YOU.
The good news is that stress levels rest largely on our own behaviour and thought processes and that we can optimise our bodies’ responses to stress based on how we live our daily lives. YOU ARE NOT YOUR HASHIMOTOS.
In the words of Eckhart Tolle
“Realise deeply that the present moment is all you ever have”.
About the Author
|Kerry Vernon is a Holistic Nutritionist and Kinesiologist based in Melbourne. She offers Kinesiology sessions and Nutrition Consultations both in-person and online. |
Kerry loves helping her clients to heal from emotional and physical challenges and uses a holistic, individually tailored approach. It's recognised that the mind and the body are equally important in achieving great health and happiness.
Kerry is passionate about encouraging clients to realise their true potential, and empower them to heal naturally from autoimmunity and gut health issues.
Kerry facilitates Holistically Hashimotos - a Facebook group for those on the autoimmune pathway who wish to resolve it in a positive, and natural way.