Health Talk: Stress, the Worst Ingredient

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This is a continuation – read part 1 here, and part 2 here.

[[disclaimer: this post gets up close and personal. read at your own discretion]]

Wow.  It’s been such a long time since I’ve written one of these posts.   It’s no secret this year was not the easiest for me, and to be perfectly honest, I just didn’t feel like posting about my personal life on the blog.  I know I lost a ton of readers when I stopped writing so many personal posts, but sometimes that’s the way things go.

Anyway, not the point. When I left off, I was talking about my visit with an integrative medicine doctor, and promised an update when I decided what steps I would take next.  Well, here’s the short version of what I did:

  • went to a new gynecologist – who suggested I go back on BC
  • went to an endocrinologist – where I did a few tests, but didn’t follow up
  • started taking some supplements
  • got more sleep, exercised less, and focused on reducing stress

Basically, I’m way too stubborn when it comes to doctors.  I’m not very quick to trust people in general, and I also avoid taking meds unless I really need them.  I did start taking some supplements, a few of which were suggested by a doctor or two:

  • high EPA omega 3s for mood – definitely noticed a bit of a change, more on this later
  • probiotics for gut – amazing.  stomach issues are SO much less now.
  • calcium/magnesium + D3 – for bone health, especially important for women who aren’t menstruating.

Like I mentioned before, I liked the idea of integrative medicine because it focuses more on lifestyle changes as opposed to some miracle drug – but the approach I was presented with was way too much for me, at the time would be more stress than it was worth.

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Stress. That was the key.  The integrative medicine doc kept mentioning stress and depletion.  The new gynecologist told me I was an unhappy person and wanted me to see a psychiatrist and get me on meds – which was a little out-of-place given that I hardly met the woman, and she was telling me my life story.  No thanks, lady, but noted.  Then the endocrinologist mentioned testing cortisol (the stress hormone).

So what did I get out of this? I had way too many stressors in my life – both physical and mental.  I’ve been this way for years,  and frankly I didn’t really know any other way.  In a sense, I felt like I had to be stressed because otherwise I wouldn’t be successful.  I know, how stupid does that sound now? But I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who has felt this way.

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[[discovering my yoga]]

I knew I didn’t want to finish my last semester of college as a bunched up ball of anxiety and stress, and so I had to let some things go.  I wrote a bit about this in December, but now I’m being a little less cryptic.  I had to cut down on stressors in any way possible.

I stopped worrying about workouts.  If I felt like one, great. If I didn’t, that’s great too – as long as I went with it and didn’t stress about skipping it.  I stuck to easy runs and other meditative cardio.  I started doing more yoga(!!!).  I stopped caring so much about “eating clean” and ate my chocolate when I damn well felt like.  Yes I still made sure to eat my greens, load up on veggies, and limit processed junk – but that wasn’t stressful, I genuinely like eating healthfully.

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[[mm veggies]]

And I started sleeping.  Wait, what? You mean you never used to sleep?  Well kind of.  For a few years there, I was under the impression that I could function perfectly well on an average of 5-6 hours of sleep per night.  And for a few years I did.  With the help of caffeine.  But I thought that was what college was supposed to be like – stay on campus all night finishing your homework only to get home at 3am, completely crash out, and still have to wake up before 9am.  Crazy.  But for a while, it worked.

Until it didn’t.  But it wasn’t until I went abroad to Stockholm that I realized that my stay-up-all-night strategy was causing me more harm than good.  When I was in Sweden, I didn’t have many classes or much homework, so I had time to sleep.  And it was glorious.  So this year, in an effort to reduce stress, I decided to sleep.  I cut the number of nights I spent working on campus until 2 or 3am in favor of turning in an assignment a day or so late, and getting some decent sleep.

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It’s funny how much you don’t realize the negative effects of not getting enough sleep until you start getting better sleep.  I was much less uptight during the day.  The hours I did spend working were much more productive.  My stress-eating and bingeing decreased.  My mood and demeanor improved, and (I think) I was just more fun to be around.

And then, in December, I got my period.  Stress. Simple as that.  I don’t know what really made the big difference, but I’m inclined to believe it was mostly the sleep.  Since I’ve kept my fitness low intensity and my mental stressors lower than I was used to, my body responded well.

Now, I’m not perfect.  I wish I could say that all my troubles and worries have melted away – but I’m human, and these things take time.  But it’s good to know that I’m taking better care of my body.  And it feels good to know that things are functioning they way they should.  And I was able to do it without overhauling my nutrition and getting in the way of my life.

The body is smarter than we think.

Girls – have you ever dealt with amenorrhea? What helped you get back on track?

Does ever feel like you have to be stressed to be successful?

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7 thoughts on “Health Talk: Stress, the Worst Ingredient

  1. Katie H.

    I really appreciate your honesty in this post. I don’t necessarily want to share specifics, but I feel like much of this can be applied to things I’m experiencing. Thank you!
    Katie H. recently posted..Goal-lessMy Profile

  2. Chelsea @ Chelsea's Healthy Kitchen

    I know personal posts are hard to publish, but I’m glad you did because this is a great post! People don’t realize how much stress can seriously affect your health – but I definitely experienced some of the negative effects of stress this past year too. I’m glad you’ve been able to reduce it and start feeling better!
    Chelsea @ Chelsea’s Healthy Kitchen recently posted..Are you getting enough iron?My Profile

    1. Rachel Post author

      Yes, Amanda! I know what you mean, a thinker – I have such a hard time turning my mind off, and I know that can unknowingly cause more stress. Good luck to you <3

  3. Eden Rivera

    Stress has really big effect when it comes to our health. I am also a person with so many issues in life that stressed me that’s why I know the feeling. :(


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