I’m writing this blog on my long flight from Minneapolis to Hawaii and thinking wow, the irony of all this!
Two days ago my husband and I received some pretty bad news, not a life or death situation (although it feels that way), but financially bad news – like, oh shit, we really have to sell the house now, type of bad news! Yes, it’s that bad – and I decided to write this blog to let my readers know that every one of us will go through not just one, but many stressful life events that could leave us totally devasted.
When we received the news, I started to think back to other times in my life when I got really bad news and how these stressful moments affected my health, and more specifically my hormonal health – which was felt many years later.
You see back in 2009 I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue and chronically elevated cortisol levels. Cortisol, when elevated for long periods of time will steal from other hormones to maintain it’s ‘status’ – your sex hormones and thyroid hormone for example. Your sympathetic nervous system is basically constantly ‘turned on’ weakening your immune system and aging you much quicker than you’d like.
Every year since 2009, I check my cortisol levels to see if they would normalize, but they remain elevated —-> but my immune system remains strong. This is because I have done (and continue to do) a lot of work on myself (yoga, daily breath work, meditation, coaching, group support, green centric diet, So even though I suffer from chronically high cortisol levels, my immune system is strong and my energy levels are high.
It’s taken a long time for me to allow myself to remember the reasons why I have chronic high stress, but this is why: My experience with stress started very young. It started when I was 3 and my parents divorced. I had to grow up fast, my mother was a single parent, we moved to 3 different countries, I had to learn 3 different languages, and adapt to 3 different cultures! All this and being made fun of at school for “not having a dad”……I will admit, this just brought tears again to my eyes.
The pain of not having a father anymore, the struggles my mother went through to raise me as a single parent in Greece (which was even more ass backwards in how they treated women than some middle eastern countries are today), and the feeling of never quite belonging because I was not 100% Greek and I was not 100% Spanish….. I was mixed (half American, half Greek) caused a lot of stress that eventually turned into chronic stress.
This year, I turn 50. I have done a lot of work on myself over the years, and despite my chronically elevated cortisol levels and life events causing high stress, I have learned to rebound quickly. I have learned to take certain actions steps so that my body can recover quickly and maintain a level of homeostasis which keeps my immune system strong.
It’s a good thing I have learned how to deal with stress because once again, life threw another punch at us. A few days ago, my husband and I received some bad news that really left us wondering if we’re living in the twilight zone!
For someone like me, who suffers from chronically high cortisol levels, bad news like we just got could really weaken my immunity, energy, and overall health.
But now I’m older, wiser, and like I said, have done a lot of work on myself so I react differently.
Here’s what I did….
I packed my little suitcase and booked myself on the next flight to Hawaii! Yup – that’s exactly what my husband and I decided to do. We said, f*ck it! Time for some sun and fun in paradise.
I always advocate, live healthy 80% of the time, and that allows you to be bad 20% of the time. Right now, I need to be bad, really bad.
So, on this flight to Hawaii, I paid for gogo wireless, purchased a bottle of Meiomi pinot noir, and started to write this blog.
So here’s the deal – some of us have to deal with an enormous amount of stress either due to life circumstances, illness, work, family, etc.
The key, and please pay attention to this – this is SUPER important – the key is how quickly you recover from the stressful situation – this is called resilience. “Resilience is essentially a set of skills to, as opposed to a disposition or personality type, that make it possible for people to not only get through hard times but to thrive during and after them. Just as a rubber rebounds after being squeezed, so do resilient people.”
Resilience is not something you are born with, you have to work at it, but it’s something you can increase – and this will not necessarily lower your cortisol levels, but will help you deal with chronic disease, stress, and ultimately improve your quality of life and sense of joy.
So how do you build the resilience muscle? Mindfulness.
Most of us spend 47% of our waking hours thinking about things other that what we’re actually doing.
The more experienced the meditator, the more quickly the brain recovers from stress. Meditation can even help decrease the expression of pro-inflammatory genes.
Here’s a list of some other things you can do to increase resilience:
- reach out for support
- Eat greens – they provide your body with necessary anti-oxidants and minerals such as magnesium to help your body experience calmness and reduce anxiety
- learn new things as often as you can
- take cues from someone who is especially resillient
- find an exercise regimen you’ll stick to – mine is yoga
- don’t beat yourself up or dwell on the past
My years of yoga and meditation are paying off. I am more resilient, and despite the chronic stress my immune system is strong, and my outlook on life is joyful.
Oh, and do something crazy every now and again – like a last minute trip to Hawaii jus because you f*cking want to!
It’s all going to be ok, God, the Universe, has a plan for you (I say that to myself everyday)!