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We all experience stress, and most of us struggle with it at times.  Yet, many of us never learn new ways to manage it.

And for those of us with chronic stress?  Learning new skills to help your body relax is even more important.

First- what is stress?  Stress is considered a biological response that is caused by internal and/or external factors.  Some stress is good- it’s the kind that legitimately helps to keep us safe.  The kind that helps motivate us to meet a deadline.  The kind that reminds us of our values to help us stay on track.  The kind that alerts us to a dangerous situation that requires immediate attention.

But a lot of stress isn’t helpful.  And chronic stress can be dangerous to our health.

Our bodies are wired for a flight, fight, or freeze stress response.  This is wonderful if we are in an emergency situation.  But how many times do we feel stressed and have a flight, fight, or freeze response, when it’s not an emergency?

And how many of us are in a constant state of stress, and a constant state of flight, fight, or freeze?

Each time we have a stress response, our body goes through a series of rapid changes, caused by the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline.

Adrenaline increases your heart rate, gives you a boost in energy, and increases your blood pressure.

Cortisol slows your body’s systems that aren’t considered “essential” in a life or death emergency- it’s basically preparing you for a physical battle.  It changes your immune function, slows your digestion, alters your reproductive system, and slows your body’s growth.  It also increases your blood sugar levels and talks to your brain to influence your mood.

Most times we have these stress responses, there isn’t actually a life threatening emergency.  It’s overkill.  Yet our bodies don’t understand this, so we keep having intense physical reactions to stress, when we aren’t in danger.

And if we’re in a constant state of stress?  Our body’s hormone levels don’t have time to return to normal and they get used to being elevated.

It is so very important that we return to our normal state.  If we don’t, our health begins to deteriorate.  Chronic stress is known to cause anxiety and depression, headaches, immune issues, sleep problems, heart disease, digestive issues, memory problems, a lack of concentration, muscle tension, and weight gain.

And for those of us who have experienced trauma, whether as a child, adult, or both?  It is even more important that we get a handle on our body’s stress response.  Abuse, neglect, and trauma can cause a person to be especially vulnerable to stress, even when it’s not directly related to the abuse, neglect, or trauma.

Here’s the good news…

You can totally learn how to manage your stress better.

How?  Here are some things you can begin to explore today-

Better nutrition helps build our body’s resilience to stress.  Eat more real whole food, and less processed food. Sugar causes inflammation in our body and weight gain, among other issues- step away from the sugar as much as possible.  Sweeten your coffee with monk fruit instead.  (Yes, monk fruit is a thing, and it’s a very tasty sweetener that you’d probably like.)

More rest and sleep helps us recharge and recover from stress.  Exercise helps in numerous ways, one of which is it helps burn off excessive stress hormones in our body.  And you don’t have to go to a gym to exercise- just find something physical that you like to do. And then do it.

Reconnect with hobbies you’ve enjoyed.  Or try a new hobby.

Try to connect more with people you enjoy spending time with.  (And not people who suck the life out of you.)

Find ways to laugh.  A life coach I worked with recommended I create a “funny file” that I could count on when I needed a laugh.  Here’s my YouTube channel’s funny file.

Read a book you enjoy, try yoga, journal when things come up or when overwhelm sets in, or explore organizations with a mission that resonates, and volunteer a little time with them.

Look into mindfulness and meditation.  Spend time outdoors.  (And keep your eyes peeled as I’ll be posting more about these topics soon…)

And of course, if you feel stress has negatively impacted your health, if you frequently feel overwhelmed, or if you have trauma and wounds that you feel may still be impacting you- ask for help.  There are lots of great counselors and therapists who can help you move through trauma and wounds, so you can move from survival mode and into thriving mode.

And you absolutely deserve to thrive.

Another option?  Use your breath to relax your body and counter a stress response.  Here’s a video I made which explains my favorite breathing exercise, which takes only 1-2 minutes once you learn it.

 

Friends, try to be aware of when your body feels stressed- look for faster breathing, sweaty hands, muscle tension, indigestion, anxiety, rapid thoughts, etc.  When you notice this happening, take a few deep breaths, or try the 4-7-8 breath I explain in the video above.  Journal, exercise, go outdoors, or meditate.

Do something to help calm your body down.

The more often you help your body relax, the less likely your stress will negatively impact your health, and the better you will manage it.

Good health is contagious…pass it on!™

 

Sources:

Chronic Stress Puts Your Health at Risk

The impact of stress on body function: A review

Photo Credit: www.pexels.com

 

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I happened to watch a TEDMED talk by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, and was fascinated by what I learned about the impact of  childhood trauma and the ways we can prevent and treat the health outcomes caused by it.

Here’s my summary of Dr. Harris’ TEDMED talk:

In the mid-1990’s, researchers from the CDC and Kaiser Permanente discovered that certain exposures in childhood lead to a dramatic increase in risk for 7 out of the 10 leading causes of death in the USA.

High doses of this exposure impacts children’s:

  • brain development
  • immune system
  • hormonal systems
  • and how DNA is read and transcribed

This exposure triples the child’s lifetime risk of heart disease and cancer, and causes a 20 year difference in life expectancy.

Unfortunately, doctors are not trained to provide routine screenings and treatments for this exposure.

What exposure are we talking about?  CHILDHOOD TRAUMA

Childhood trauma includes abuse, neglect, parents with mental illness, and parents with substance abuse problems.

Dr. Harris finished her residency and began working as a pediatrician in San Francisco’s Bayville Hunters Point community, where she met all of her clinic’s goals and achieved “success.” Unfortunately, though, she also discovered that many kids that were sent to her for ADHD, didn’t really have ADHD.  But many had something else in common- childhood trauma.

DR. HARRIS BEGAN RESEARCHING HOW EXPOSURE TO ADVERSITY IMPACTS THE DEVELOPING BRAINS AND BODIES OF CHILDREN.

She reviewed the CDC and Kaiser Permanante’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, also known as ACES, where they interviewed 17,500 adults to identify how many participants experienced the following:

  • physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse
  • physical and/or emotional neglect
  • parental mental illness
  • incarceration
  • substance abuse
  • parental separation and/or divorce
  • domestic violence

For every yes, the participant received one point as their ACE score.

Researchers determined that their ACE scores reliably correlated to health outcomes.

Please know, though, that ACES are incredibly common.

  • 67% of participants had at least 1 point
  • 12.68% of participants had at least 4 points
  • The higher the ACE score, the worst the participant’s health outcome

If participants had 4+ points, their risks of COPD and hepatitis was 2.5 times that of someone with 0 points.  Their risk of depression was 4.5 times.

If participants had 7+ points, their lifetime risk for lung cancer was tripled, and 3.5 times for heart disease.   

Per Dr. Harris, people assumed these increased risks were due to bad behaviors of the program participants.  This is not true.

Science proves that exposure to early adversity affects the development of children’s brains and bodies.

Researchers found that the brain’s nucleus accumbens – the part of the brain involved in pleasure and rewards that is implicated in substance dependence – is impacted by childhood trauma.

They also found that the brain’s prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain involved in impulse control, executive functioning, and learning – is impacted by childhood trauma.

And they found through MRIs that the brain’s amygdala – our fear response center – is also impacted by childhood trauma.

There are neurological reasons why people who are exposed to high doses of adversity at a young age are more likely to engage in high risk behaviors.

BUT, even if they don’t engage in high risk behaviors, they are still more likely to develop heart disease and cancer. 

Why?

Because the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal access – the brain and body’s stress response system that governs our flight or fight response – releases hormones when we are stressed.

And when children experience trauma, they are highly sensitive to a constant stress activation.  It can impact children’s:

  • brain structure and function
  • developing immune system
  • developing hormonal system
  • and how DNA is read and transcribed

Dr. Harris stated that the medical community needs to use science to screen, prevent, and treat those impacted by childhood trauma.

At the Center for Youth Wellness, Dr. Harris and her colleagues began screening for ACES, and used a multidimensional treatment team to reduce the dose of adversity, and to treat the symptoms with best practices, including:

  • home visits
  • care coordination
  • mental health care
  • nutrition
  • holistic interventions
  • medication
  • parental education on ACES and toxic stress
  • tailoring care for diabetics and asthmatics experiencing toxic stress

Dr. Harris attempted to share this model with the medical community, but there was resistance.

Dr. Robert Block, the former President of the American Academy of Pediatrics said “Adverse childhood experiences are the single greatest unaddressed public health threat facing our nation today.”

The scope and the scale of adverse childhood experiences is quite large, and people mistakenly believe it is “other people” who experience it.

The original ACES study was done in a 70% caucasian community with a 70% rate of college education.

Dr. Harris believes we marginalize the issue because it does apply to us, and we don’t want to look at it.

“We need to interrupt the progression from early adversity to disease and early death…This is treatable. This is beatable…We need the courage to look at the problem in the face. This is real. This is all of us.” -Dr. Nadine Burke Harris

 

 

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Black Friday Workout & Stress Relief Tool

November 25, 2017

Hi Friends! My friend & colleague, Personal Trainer Erin Hundley, and I decided to offer a couple of free Black Friday goodies yesterday via FaceBook Live. Erin led a live 30-minute workout (no equipment needed), and I shared my favorite stress relief tool that I think you’ll find helpful this holiday season- particularly if you […]

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30 Days of Wellness

July 13, 2017

Hi folks, I’m excited to share that my friend, Personal Trainer Erin Hundley, and I are launching 30 DAYS OF WELLNESS this winter! 30 DAYS OF WELLNESS is a great way to kick things into high gear and get healthier this summer.  This is not a “cleanse,” nor are we aiming for perfection.  We’ll teach […]

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CGH Radio 055: Monica Davis on her Son’s Journey with PANDAS

July 10, 2017

On this episode** of Catch Good Health® Radio, Health Educator & Wellness Coach, Erica Haray-Butcher, talks with Monica Davis about her son’s journey with PANDAS- Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections. One evening eight years ago, Monica’s vibrant, healthy, and happy 3 1/2 year old son went to sleep, and after screaming and […]

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CGH Radio 054: Tips for Improving your Financial “Wealth-Being,” with Jennifer Faherty

January 17, 2017

On this episode of Catch Good Health Radio®, Health Educator & Wellness Coach, Erica Haray-Butcher, talks with Certified Financial Planner & Coach, Jennifer Faherty.  Jennifer shares tips for how you can improve your financial “wealth-being,” and offers her philosophy of holistic financial wellness. After nearly a decade working for traditional wealth management firms, Jennifer launched […]

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CGH Radio 052: Tips for Conflict Avoiders & Listening to Your Physical Symptoms, with CrisMarie Campbell & Susan Clarke

September 6, 2016

On this episode of Catch Good Health® Radio, Health Educator & Wellness Coach, Erica Haray-Butcher, talks with Life Coaches & Business Consultants, CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke, about…conflict. CrisMarie and Susan share tips for those of us who are conflict avoiders, and they discuss using the natural energy of your emotions to help you.  CrisMarie, […]

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CGH Radio 051: Learning About the LGBTQ Community, with Advocate Chelsea Moroski

August 30, 2016

On this episode of Catch Good Health® Radio, Health Educator & Wellness Coach, Erica Haray-Butcher, talks with Chelsea Moroski, Project Coordinator with the Cortland County LGBT Resource Center, and LGBTQ Advocate. This is a great episode for anyone who wants to learn more about the LGBTQ community, and better understand issues the community experiences.  Chelsea […]

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CGH Radio 050: Exercise Tips for New Moms, with Personal Trainer Kelsey Searles

August 24, 2016

On this episode of Catch Good Health® Radio, Health Educator & Wellness Coach, Erica Haray-Butcher, chats with Kelsey Searles.  Kelsey is a Personal Trainer and fitness studio owner, who also happens to be a new mom to her beautiful little girl, Quinn. Erica & Kelsey discuss tips and strategies for moms who want to become more active, […]

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CGH Radio 049: Dr. Pam Popper on the Right Diet, Being a Smart Medical Consumer, & Nutrition with Autoimmune Disease

June 27, 2016

On this episode of Catch Good Health Radio, Erica speaks with Dr. Pam Popper, about what the actual “right” diet is for human beings, how to be a smart medical consumer, and how to help your body heal autoimmune disease with nutrition.  Erica and Pam also talk about the health of the U.S., and what […]

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