Our blog today has a funny title, and it might not make sense at first glance. Particularly because I’m in a rambling sort of mood, so I wish you the best of luck in making sense of this all! (Insert laughing emoji) My apologies.
What I want to talk about today is an analogy that I use to help women struggling through adrenal or chronic fatigue, or any chronic symptoms for that matter, to understand that the process of healing requires us to find a new relationship to our bodies and lifestyle. I like to compare adrenal fatigue and digestive issues to a yo-yo dieter who loses and gains weight every diet cycle. These people often feel confused when they regain weight upon returning to their old eating habits, but to the outsider it seems very clear. It was the previous habits that led to weight gain once, and it it those same habits that will lead to it again. Similarly, going back to our old lifestyle, habits and diet will, in most cases, plummet us right back to where we started, regardless of their effects on us before.
One of the things I hear a lot when working to figure out the root of someone’s symptoms is: “well I used to be able to do that” or “I used to be able to eat that” and never had any problems. It must not be that or maybe I can go back to that now that I feel better. And just to be clear, I get it. I SOOOO get it. I still to this day wish that I could go Crossfit 4-5 times a week like I used to because I love the mental rush and feeling of empowerment I got from the workouts. I also wish I could go eat a donut every now and again and not worry about losing 4 months of my life. But alas, a couple weeks of intense workouts or too much sugar and my body starts to get pissy. So trust me, I know how tempting it can be to get better and want to jump right back into your life like you never skipped a beat. But, I also know this: You will never, and I repeat never be able to return to your old blueprint for living without ending up right back where you started. That may sound harsh, and it’s really not meant to be but chances are if you return to your old patterns, you will end up, once again, sick and tired of being sick and tired.
This is where the analogy of the straw that broke the camels back comes in. You see, we are all given a set point in our biology that allows us to deal with a certain amount of stressors. When I say stressors, keep in mind that I’m not just talking about mental or emotional stress, but physical too. So include things like food allergies, chronic infections, overtraining, inflammation, etc. in your thoughts about this. I do believe that we can learn to reframe stressful situations and sort of up our tolerance factor, so-to-speak, but nonetheless, there’s only so much your body will handle before it reaches what is called "loss of tolerance," or, in other words, the fingers finally slipped off the cliff. Historically speaking, stressors used to be acute and short lived. Our bodies were able to send out an appropriate stress response and then recalibrate afterward and all was well. More recently, in the past couple hundred years, and particularly during this information age, we are bombarded with stressors, both physical and emotional, almost all day long. These range from our thoughts about our jobs, to cell phone notifications, to traffic, our kids, our health, our spouses and beyond, not even touching on things like death of a loved one, relationship break ups, loss of a job, terminal illnesses or accidents, addictions, etc. We are using a system in our body that was never meant for chronic abuse and we see it failing more often and more rapidly than ever before.
You may have been able to stay out late, drink too much, eat a so-so diet, work too hard, sleep too little, go to the gym every single day, take a million credits in school and hold down a full time job, and so on, in your earlier years - But chances are, your body began whispering to you a while ago and you just may not have heard it. Or, perhaps you did, but you chose to turn the volume wayyyy down, drank another cup of coffee (or 3) and handled it with a glass of wine or some over-the-counter meds. And that’s ok. It’s easy in our world, especially as Americans, to believe that hard work is the answer to everything and if you’re failing at something, your health included, it’s because your weak and lazy. So, why WOULD you take the time to tune in and listen to those subtle messages. Why would you risk being labeled weak or lazy or better yet, no-fun? Certainly none of us want to feel that sort of disconnection with our peers. This post isn’t about blaming you for you not listening, but rather about inviting you, now that your body is screaming and you don’t have another choice, to reframe and rededicate yourself to finding out which kind life actually works best for your individual needs, whatever they may be or however they may look.
Disclaimer: I don’t mean to say that every single person who has a busy life will inevitable end up in adrenal “fatigue” or chronically ill. How you perceive your life is just as much, if not more, important that what your life actually looks like. But the majority of people burning their candle at both ends will at some point begin to get messages from their bodies that they’ve reached those upper limits and need to scale back.
This is what we refer to as the straw. That camel may have had a healthy, well-functioning and sturdy back. But we began to pile more and more loads on top of it until one day we put the final straw on and KABOOM! But here’s the thing about broken backs… they take a while to repair. And sometimes, (not every time) but sometimes, that back may not be able to handle the same type of abuse ever again. - OR - That back may return to normal function and may be stronger in some ways, but piling on the same load and expecting a different result would be, by definition, crazy. You see where I’m going with this?
You’re right. Caffeine was never a problem before for you, but now it is. Staying up past midnight used to be commonplace, but now it’s not. Perhaps you’re even to the point where grocery shopping seems like a hurdle, when before you used to run marathons. Your body has changed and that can be scary and frustrating, but it can also be liberating. Healing through acceptance helps us to move out of depression about the past and into excitement about the future. Essentially, you have the chance to try new things, make new habits and find out things about yourself you might never have known otherwise. It gives you the break your body and mind have been craving and allows you to step back and be present. When we go, go, go, it’s very hard to be, be, be, but the soul needs time to just BE. After all, we are human BEINGS not human DOINGS.
So, there you have it. My ramblings of the day, but also something I think is incredibly important to realize and play with. Instead of beating our bodies and minds up for not being what we want them to be, why don’t we take the time to get to know them and really love them exactly for what they are. Much like a friend, our bodies are so much more willing to open up and flourish when they feel loved and accepted, not in spite of, but because of their uniqueness. TIl next time.