I am no stranger to anxiety.
After going through some prolonged periods of stress and several traumatic events, it reared its ugly head in my life, and at points really limited the things I was able to do. My world seemed to get smaller and smaller. At its worst, I would find myself filled with panic in completely benign situations and for no apparent reason, like standing in line at the grocery store or having a conversation with someone. My heart would begin to race, my breath would get shallow, and suddenly I felt completely out of control and would need to escape in a hurry. I carried a lot of shame and embarrassment for the way my body was reacting to normal life. I would constantly beat myself up for not being able to get it together and wondered what the heck was wrong with me, was I crazy? A lost cause?
What I failed to realize then, was that the stress and trauma I had experienced did not only change me mentally and emotionally, it changed me physically as well, and in profound ways. I was now experiencing the world through a different nervous system, one that had become chronically activated and was stuck in fight or flight.Even though the traumatic events had long since passed, by body was still reacting as though I was right in the middle of a crisis, always on alert, constantly revved up, and pumping out large amounts of stress hormones. This left me feeling anxious, unable to sleep, and always-on edge. Over producing stress hormones also creates inflammation, gut dysfunction, hormone dysregulation, and a host of other issues that wreak havoc on your physical and emotional health.
“I was now experiencing the world through a different nervous system, one that had become chronically activated and was stuck in fight or flight."
While this may not sound like good news to you, getting to know the autonomic nervous system and understanding that the anxiety and panic I felt wasn’t all In my head, but that there was a very real physical component that needed to be addressed brought me an immense amount of freedom. If it’s not all in my head, that means I can stop beating myself up for not being able to will my way out of it.
I knew that in order for my healing to come full circle, I would need to start giving some attention to the body that had carried the physical load of all I had been through. As a Holistic Nutritionist I knew where to start, but my curiosity and desperation led me to devote myself to studying this topic and I learned life changing insights into how to use food, breath, herbs, nutrients, and lifestyle modifications to balance and heal the nervous system and stop the chaotic pattern of over producing stress hormones so I could start living in balance once again.
Since then I have worked with clients from all different backgrounds on balancing their own stress response. Some had gone though a single or series of traumatic events of their own: childhood trauma, a nasty divorce, a health diagnosis, the loss of a loved one, sexual abuse. Others found themselves completely overwhelmed with the responsibilities of daily life; caring for their children or long and exhausting work hours void of any self-care, leaving them feeling wired, tired, on edge, and unable to cope.
Am I talking to you?
If so, know there is hope! With commitment to the process and the right tools, you can stop living off of stress hormones and start living in balance. The first step is acknowledging your experience and your story. Your anxiety, panic, and anger outbursts are your body’s way of trying to save you from a perceived threat, and if you were in actual danger, are meant to save your life!
Think about what happens in these uncomfortable scenarios- if your body believes there is an imminent threat, your fight or flight branch of your nervous system signals your adrenal glands to start pumping out adrenaline and cortisol, increasing your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate giving your body the oxygen and energy it needs to either run for your life, or fight for your life. Not very useful when you are trying to discipline your kids or go to a social event packed with people. But the point is, your body isfor you, its goal is always to protect and preserve, and if you can look at those hard moments for what they are, a chemical and hormonal response designed to help you, you can become an observer of the scary sensations inside of your body instead of a participator. You can begin reminding your body that it’s safe, you can give it the grace, nourishment, and space to heal, you can stop surviving and start thriving once again.