When Things Change, Hold on to Your Health
Transitions are a great opportunity to rethink your health. It's time.
Posted Feb 15, 2015
Until now, we’ve been talking mostly about life transitions like birth and other new beginnings, or endings, like the death of a loved one, divorce, or a child leaving for college. We’ve also talked about career transitions. Today I want to look at transition from a different angle—your health.
Periods of transition can change your state of being — which can directly translate into better or worse health. It’s all too easy to hide behind busy-ness, or allow a transition or impending transition to overwhelm you, in order to avoid making different choices about your health. Fear of change may even have you stuck so that you are making excuses without realizing it.
So what can bring about a change in awareness regarding your health? It could be a transition in your life that forces you to look straight at it (like a frightening diagnosis or a milestone birthday or even a breakup that forces you to reassess whether you have been taking good enough care of you.) Major or minor change might open your eyes to the facts: you are allowing too much stress in your life or you are ignoring common symptoms that recur. (And maybe you’ve just been complaining about them and not really doing much about it.) Any number of transitions can and probably should cause us to pause, look inside, and see what needs to change.
Your health — or lack of it — can alter the way you experience life. When you are exhausted, continuously forgetful, or flooded with stress hormones that cause inflammation and put your body on constant high alert , you will experience brain fog, digestive problems, or chronic headaches, for example. And when you feel constantly “off", it’s pretty hard to stay happy and balanced, make good choices, or tap into peak performance mode when you need to.
Let’s talk about lifestyle or dietary choices that could be making you feel lousy, causing you mountains of stress, and changing your moods and even your personality . It’s time to take an honest assessment of what is working—and what isn’t.
First, let’s start with some questions:
- Are you are feeling physically lousy and telling yourself you just have to “live with it?” (Sometimes you forget how bad you feel because you’ve gotten so used to it.)
- Are you avoiding a transition in your health because you are afraid of what will happen afterward? (Like, if I lose weight, I might be tempted to stray outside of my relationship or, my partner and I bond over food. If I change the way I eat, my partner won’t like it and maybe we’ll grow farther apart.)
- Are you facing a life transition and using it as an excuse not to take care of yourself? (That might look like this: I’m so busy I don’t have time to exercise, eat right, get enough sleep.)
- What boundaries of yours are being breached? (Are friends threatened by your changing and growing? Will they tempt you with comments like, “Oh, one bite won’t hurt” or “Just one more drink?” Or, you stay up late watching TV when you know you need to get up early in the morning — and you cave on your commitments.)
It’s essential to recognize that the choices we are making about our health via our diet and lifestyle are immensely important because they not only impact your health, but your sense of well-being. Stress, poor diet (I’ll touch on that later), lack of sleep, over-indulgence, and ignoring chronic symptoms all can lead to inflammation and disease.
I want to give you a little statistic. This statistic is alarming, but don’t avert your eyes. It is so important.. One in five Americans will be diagnosed with autoimmune disease— a group of over 80 diseases in which your body’s immune system mistakes its own tissue as foreign and attacks it. Women account for 70% of these cases. Most people take between 7 and 10 years to become diagnosed, at which point there is usually tissue damage. Often, the only reason they are diagnosed is because the damage has reached a point where it shows up on a lab test.
Why am I telling you about autoimmune disease in an article about health and transitions? Firstly, because these diseases, and their symptoms, tend to fly under the radar for most people. Most doctors miss them, which is why it takes so long to get diagnosed. Secondly, because stress and transitions often cause you to make poor dietary and lifestyle choices which have an immense impact on your immune system. Being mindful of how you take care of your body during stressful situations is mandatory.
Some signs of autoimmune disease:
- intractable weight gain or rapid weight loss
- joint pain
- muscle pain or tremors
- rapid heart beat
- heat intolerance
- difficulty focusing or concentrating “foggy brain”
- fatigue or exhaustion (unrelated to sleep)
- hair loss
- dry eyes or mouth
- abdominal pain, diarrhea
- numbness or tingling of the extremities
- recurrent rashes/hives
- butterfly rash on your cheeks and nose
Obviously, not all stress will lead to autoimmune disease. It is important that when you are going through any kind of transition or period of stress that you take extra good care of yourself to avoid getting into a stress-inflammation-illness loop. So if you are facing a transition of any kind, be it job loss, divorce, or even something as exciting as getting married, having a baby, or landing your dream job, stress will come along with it.
Knowing that, take precautions to:
- Get plenty of sleep (often more than the 7-8 hours we are told to get)
- Eat a balanced diet of predominantly vegetables (organic, non-GMO when possible), small amounts of grass fed beef and organic chicken, fish that is not farm raised, and some grains (if you are not sensitive to them). I highly recommend everyone take gluten out of their diet, or at least reduce it as our systems have become so sensitized to it that it is implicated in enormous numbers of disease and inflammation.
- Lose the sugar, and as much of the highly inflammatory/allergenic foods as possible: dairy, soy, corn, night shades (eggplant, tomato, potato, peppers).
- Avoid binge eating to comfort yourself. This will only lead to wildly vacillating blood sugar, which contributes to disease and to lower lows, potential episodes of depression, and more eating.
- Get some exercise, but don’t overdo it. If you feel sleepy after exercising, you’re overdoing it. On the other hand, moderate exercise increases endorphins and makes you feel more positive.
- Find some form of stress reduction and incorporate it daily: acupuncture, meditation, walking, breathing exercises, yoga, massage, guided visualizations, etc.
- Talk to your loved ones or a professional. Don’t hold it in. That will only lead to more poor dietary and lifestyle choices to either block out what you don’t want to look at.
Take special care of your body. Remember, it’s the temple that houses your heart, mind, and soul. You need it to take you through this life in the best shape it can be so that you can be as happy and healthy as possible.