Permission Granted

“Help me decide,” I said.

I don’t often ask for help. Very, VERY rarely do I outsource decision-making. I can’t actually remember the last time I asked someone to help me decide anything. These are not things I’m particularly proud of but are actually things I’m working on, so for me to ask for help deciding something is pretty monumental.

I’ve spent the past 3 months in complete overdrive. My decision to make a change in one area of my life has had a domino-like effect on the rest and not positively. You know the saying that goes sometimes things get worse before they get better? That’s the pickle I put myself in. And sure enough, pretty immediately my body started pumping out cortisol at the perceived threat.

Stress is the catalyst for my PCOS. The second my cortisol levels start to rise, I start to have symptoms again. The simplified explanation for this is:

Cortisol and Insulin are the two BIG hormones in the body. The production of both must be balanced and when one goes off kilter, so does the other. And these two master hormones have a cascading effect on all the other hormones in the body. This is so regardless of gender.

This is why people say stress kills. Ultimately, it does.

So when a very positive experience occurred last week, one that I believe will ultimately put me where I want to be, I started wondering if maybe I could slow down. Except that I could come up with a million and one reasons why I shouldn’t, even though my body was begging me to. I knew I was going to over-think this and make myself feel even worse. So I asked for help.

“I think you need a break,” he said. That was followed by a gentle plea to not make myself sick (interesting that this is something I hear often from people who love me: don’t make yourself sick, which is code for I love you, please slow down).

The decision made, I suddenly felt 50 lbs lighter. I might just be taking a break. I might have to start all over again in a month or so. But for now, I can breathe and allow my body to go back into homeostasis.

For now, I have time.

What Does It Feel Like When Stress Takes Over?

Have you ever noticed what stress feels like?

Yesterday I sat in a recliner at my acupuncture provider’s (it’s community acupuncture so we’re all in one big room of healing) and responded to her usual “how are you” with “extremely stressed”. She assured me she could help and set to work placing needles.

As I closed my eyes, several things occurred to me: I was reminded that the brain and body cannot tell the difference between real (being chased by a lion) and imagined (ruminating on an altercation at work); I suddenly became aware of how stress FELT in my body; and I became acutely aware of exactly how it is that stress kills.

I sat there with my eyes closed and did a full body scan. I began to realize that I have several physical tells when it comes to stress: I grit my teeth to the point of making my jaw sore; I cave in on myself, rounding my shoulders and spine; I stop breathing fully, instead taking very shallow and short breaths; and the hardest to ignore is the stress migraines.

Can you imagine living with these symptoms long term? Many of us do, without even noticing.

I could get into the science but instead, I’m going to invite you to do some self-investigation. Do you know what your tells are, how your body tells you you have too much stress? If you don’t, here’s your opportunity to consider it. I want you to do this for one reason: if you KNOW, you can do something about it and sooner.

Information is power. You cannot address something when you don’t know it’s going on. Stress is unavoidable, but it IS within our power to mitigate its effects. Mitigating those effects can be the difference between a long and healthy life and one of chronic illness.

Ultimately, it is up to you to know your body and do something about it.

Have a lovely weekend!

Barbara