Stress, we all hate it but we all must endure it at some point or another. As someone that lives with chronic illnesses, stress is like the boggie man. Stress has the capability to worsen my symptoms.
Hashimotos had been in my system since early on in my life but it was dormant. It wasn’t until I faced difficult moment in life with incredible amounts of stress that I developed the symptoms along with other health issues like hypothyroidism, and fibromyalgia. Now, living without stress now a days seems so impossible. With kids, trying to build a career, trying to figure out life, it is stressful! Which made me believe I then was destined to live with horrible symptoms or live in a bubble, which is not living at all.
Before I had made the connection between stress and my symptoms I had tried it all. The latest thyroid refresh diets, the paleo, the vegan, the vegetarian. I tried working out. Even though they all helped it was as if I was just feeling 33% better. Something was missing. Something kept putting me in bed sick, time and time again. You guessed it. It was stress.
You see, when we stress our brain sends signals to the body that are meant to protect us. It is our fight or flight responds. Part of the signals the brain sends go to the adrenal gland which is responsible for releasing stress hormones like adrenaline, cortisol, glucagon, norepinephrine. All these stress hormones are what make your heart beat faster, you begin to breath faster, you sweat, and your muscles begin to contract.
Now, even though this stress response is suppose to keep us alive it can also be damaging. When the adrenal gland releases the stress hormones it simultaneously suppresses the release of thyroid stimulating hormones. Not to mention a lasting circulating glucagon causes a inflammatory response and it effects the thyroid. It can also effect the perception of pain which can make fibromyalgia symptoms worse.
Double gammy for me
But what if I we could embrace stress, would that change anything? What about embracing it with positivity and love?
Before you begin to call me a hippie and maybe a bit dilutional let me explain. There was a study done that tried to see if our view of stress affected our actual stress. Researchers asked 30,000 people what their level of stress was. The researchers also asked if the participants believed that stress was harmful. They then kept tabs for 8 years and saw who passed away. People that experienced high amounts of stress had 43% increase risk of dying. That was only true though for the participants that believed that stress was harmful. People that had high stress but believed it wasn’t harmful had the lowest risk of dying.
So it is safe to say that the way we view things can really effect how we get affected by them. So I think it is time to embrace stress. What if we can do it not only with our views of it but with love and positivity. What if we could do it with the anti-stress hormone, oxytocin. You know oxytocin as the “cuddle hormone” but it is more then a bonding hormone. Oxytocin has the capability to protect your cardiovascular system, it helps your blood vessels stay relaxed during stress. It helps your heart cells regenerate and heal from damaged caused by stress, and it is a natural anti- inflammatory.
So how do we create oxytocin? By creating things and environments that make us feel good. Touch, bonding, exercise, music, helping others. I realized this was true when I began to do just that. I began to help others. When I went out to interview people for my study I felt so happy. When I began to make connections I began to remember how much I loved touch. Then I began to analyze my life when my symptoms were at their worst. I was in bed, overthinking my symptoms, stressing over my condition but most importantly, I was isolated. No real contact with others. I didn’t have a blog, I had stopped dancing, I wasn’t leaving home, and I spoke to no one.
So I can now say 33% of it is exercise, 33% is how I eat, 33% is my view on stress and how I embrace it. 1% is just taking deep breaths. I encourage you to take another look at stress and the way you deal with it. It might just save your life. Remember, you can do it!
Written by: Lupita G.