The other day I was listening to a doctor talk about health issues. Shockingly, I heard him say this:
Women represent nearly 80% of all autoimmunity cases.
Did you read that? 80%. That statistic right there needs to be a wakeup call to each and every one of us. And if it doesn’t inspire us to start asking questions for ourselves, it needs to inspire us to ask questions for our daughters.
Exposures to Stress
There are a number of factors that can turn on autoimmune diseases. In functional medicine , we talk about the three pronged stool of health: genetics, environment, and the stressor, or trigger. Genetics are the raw material you’re given at conception. Environment sets the stage. And stress pulls the trigger.
It’s the stressor, or trigger of which we have to be mindful. Stress can be from a number of things such as: stealth infections, parasites, environmental toxins, toxic relationships, or even negative self talk, but it can also be just from the rush and harried pace of our modern life.
Short bouts of stress aren’t bad. Amazingly, our bodies are equipped to handle short term stress and adjust accordingly. The problem is, in our modern, fast-paced society, we’re rushing from one thing to the next, not allowing real rest into our lives. This lack of rest creates a condition of chronic stress. While our minds might be telling us we’re fine, our bodies are telling us a much different story.
One of the ways we can teach our body that it’s ok to rest is to strengthen our parasympathic state. You’ve probably heard of the “fight or flight” state. Fight or flight is the sympathetic state your body goes into when it’s trying to decide whether to run for your life or stay and fight. Your adrenal glands pump out cortisol in expectation of the coming energy that the body is going to need.
What we want to live in most of the time is the parasympathetic state. This state is our “rest and digest” state. The body and mind are calm, the adrenals aren’t pumping out cortisol, the body relaxes and refreshes, and can spend energy to heal.
Many of us have been under chronic stress for longer than we wish to remember. In our modern world, we all face some level of stress, both good and bad. Based on the statistic mentioned above, as women, it looks like we’re taking on more than we are handling well. The problem is, I don’t know many women who want to give up what they’re trying to juggle. We love our jobs, we love our families, we love our friends. How do we make it all work without sacrificing one for another?
Before we get into some mindfulness techniques, let’s decide if we need help. What can be delegated to lighten the load? Whether it’s a household chore or something else, is there something that is bothering you that someone else can handle with a certain level of expertise? If it can’t be handled by them precisely to your standards, can we determine that the help is worth lowering the expectation slightly?
Where to start
- Find moments to breathe mindfully. Did you know that just spending 30 seconds checking in with your breath, placing your hand on your belly and feeling it move in and out, just 30 seconds, can change your physiology? That’s seriously powerful stuff.
- Pause for gratitude. Take a few minutes throughout each portion of your day–morning, mid-day, evening–to think of things you are grateful for. This could be anything; the bird you hear out the window, the sun shining, the rain to water the garden, the washing machine you have that saves your hands, or the little feet that you hear pattering about your house. The mess made by the beautiful, amazing, miraculous hands that live in your house can be a joy to be embraced.
- Reflect. Spend just a few seconds thinking about what you’ve done and what you need to do next. Get a pen and paper if you need to and write down your mental load. Speak appreciation over yourself for what you’ve done today.
- Notice what is happening around you: the way the breeze blows, the flowers on the walk, the squirrel in the yard.
Just being present to the moment you’re in can help strengthen your parasympathetic state and lead to a more refreshed you.
Be well, mama, and let me know how I can help you.
To your wellness,