#33: How To Build Resilience Against Stress

2020 has been…a lot. And we’ve been resilient! But there’s a price our bodies pay for having to adapt to stress and challenges. In this episode you’ll learn how to build strength and be ready for whatever comes next. 

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Imagine you’re holding a piece of elastic.

You stretch it and release. It bounces back to its original shape.

But over time it starts getting stretched out – like the pair of socks I threw away last week.


Or how about hair elastics – once they get stretched out?


In the final stretch of 2020, let’s consider this…

We’ve been through a lot. We’ve been pulled and stretched. Repeatedly. And we’ve been resilient! We keep bouncing back somehow.

Yet, it’s important to recognize the toll that it’s taken on us.

There’s actually a term for it…

Your allostatic load

Allostatic load is the price the body pays over time for adapting to stress and challenges.

Because we do adapt. We do bounce back. It’s amazing. 

But every time that happens, it comes at a price to our health. That’s what we need to be very, very aware of. 

Now what “counts” towards allostatic load? 

Certainly a pandemic. Or obvious stressful life events, like a car accident. Or how about a train wreck of a presidential election? 

Even if once it’s over, everything works out…just the fact of going through those stressful times, well, it stretches the heck out of your elastic.

Your allostatic load is also triggered, or STRETCHED, by things like:

  • Food allergies
  • Air pollution
  • Water pollution
  • Mold exposure
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Processed sugar/junk food
  • Lack of exercise
  • Toxins in your home environment
  • Emotional stressors like loneliness, anger, frustration

Basically, anything that causes the body ongoing inflammation or internal stress. 

It’s like a bunch of pieces of straw on the camel’s back. One day? It becomes too much.

Which reminds me of Rita

Rita was a lovable tough cookie from New York who came to me with some of the usual symptoms I see: weight gain and digestive issues.

Most people think about weight and digestion and assume that a diet is going to be the solution.

That can be part of it, for sure. (But there’s so much more.)

See, Rita had been through more than her fair share of “stuff.” Family drama, traumatic birth experiences with her babies – a series of one stressful event after another throughout her entire adult life. 

And she just kept on bouncing back. Rita was always full of energy and the life of the party.

But her body was telling a different story. 

Rita’s digestive problems were severe. Debilitating, actually. The pain was often unbearable. She couldn’t sleep and she was afraid to eat just about everything.

Now, according to her doctors, everything was fine.

Yet here she was with an extremely sensitive, highly reactive digestive system. Plus, several autoimmune diseases and stubborn weight around her middle. These are all signs of inflammation. And signs that, well…

Rita was one heck of a strong woman but this strong woman had been stretched and pulled too long, too far, too many times.

Her resilience of spirit was still intact, admirably. 

But her body’s resilience was shot.

Some people will spill a single drop of coffee and lose their minds

Sometimes we’re stressed out and we know it. It shows!

But often our stress sits outside our awareness. 

Maybe we’ve been carrying a burden so long that we forget what it was like to not have it. Or we ignore and write off challenges that are considered “normal.”

Rita would share stories that left me near tears. But she’d always end by saying:

“But it’s fine. It’s fine. I’m fine. It’s all fine now.”

We have an amazing capacity to underestimate our stress levels

Here’s a resource to help:

The Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory

This stress inventory helps quantify the amount of stress you’re under, and the likelihood of it impacting your health.

Some things from the stress inventory are to be expected:

  • Loss of a loved one
  • A change in residence
  • Taking on a mortgage

But others are surprising because we usually consider them a positive:

  • A great personal achievement
  • Getting married

How to build resilience

(In other words, how to make your elastic stronger.)

Too often, we wait until the big crash or health crisis to do anything to help ourselves. For example:

Julie found herself on the floor at Target, surrounded by medics

Michelle stared at the ceiling, unable to move

Lisa had to be rushed to the ER

Instead, start building resilience NOW so you can avoid the crash and burn.

Now, it’s not about changing or avoiding the big problems in life. That would be impossible.

It’s about taking away as many triggers as possible to your allostatic load. Here are some first steps:

  • Buy and try a vegetable this week that you’ve never had before.
  • Replace one item in your makeup bag with a natural or organic product. (I like Vapour Organic Beauty.)
  • Get a little more sleep. Or a lot.
  • Get a little more /movement exercise than usual. Or a lot.

Here’s what happened to Rita…

She lost the weight and her digestive symptoms improved once we removed enough triggers to her allostatic load.

You can do the same…and please don’t wait.

We need you strong.

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