I have been reading a lot about how lifestyle affects our health lately. One chapter written by Dr. Jim Nicolai in a booked called Mindful Living estimates ” that a whopping 70-90% of the diseases he sees in his practice have a lifestyle component and that in the majority of those cases, stress- usually taking from the form of anxiety, depression, or insomnia is the major culprit.” And better than any pill he prescribes, the way you live has the biggest cure rate. “Lifestyle is the new pill.” By no means does that correlate to the ONLY reason people get sick nor that medicine is not a necessity in certain circumstances (I know this more than anybody between being a daughter of a pharmacist and working in the healthcare profession my entire life thus far), but lifestyle has a huge impact on our life expectancy. And the quality of our time here on earth.
Beyond the obvious things like smoking, diet, excessive drinking, and harmful substances, more and more, it is proven that your emotional state has a dramatic affect on inflammation, your ability to rest, recover, and live a healthy overall life. Modern medicine is addressing the big diseases but stress is what is still killing us– leading to heart disease, addiction (at times), digestion issues, physical aliments, etc.
I know this all seems obvious. Yet, most of us do not work on stress levels. Instead, we pile on to them by taking on more and more financially, personally, or with our time. We let our thoughts, things, and people in our life overwhelm us.
I switched jobs 18 months ago and almost became completely cured of my acid reflux/digestion issues which were horrible quite awhile. Now I still have to watch my diet but with my stress level going down (ironically with a bigger, higher paying job), I felt 10x better than I had in years. I started to realize it wasn’t just work that had changed (although that certainly helped) it was how I had changed. I started mediating; I found space in my day, every day for some quiet ALONE time to listen to my breathing or nature without a TV on or cell phone or people chatting around me; I started watching the combination of food going into my body a bit more; and I started focusing on more “me” time. I’ve always been fit. That I have down. I have always found ways to get sleep and workout. And those two priorities will always be at the top of my list. But I also started to find time for me beyond this. Quiet, peaceful time. And I can physically and mentally feel a difference when this time is not made. I immediately start getting acid reflux or indigestion & neck/upper shoulder pain, I notice I have anxiety and a quicker escalation to feeling overwhelmed, and I become impatient. I notice I have more inflammation in my joints which leads me to more hip and leg aches. And I also become exhausted.
How in tune are you with your body and stress? How does your lifestyle affect stress? Do you know your triggers? And can you tell a difference in your body when you are stressed? How do you interactions with others change?
I think so many of us over program our lives between social events, kids events, DVR TV time, work events, and squeezing in time for a workout or to do the chores….there is nothing left. You have given your all to everything else and you are exhausted. And in return, your anxiety and stress escalates as you think about the next day or week to come where you will keep doing it all over again. And then your workouts slip or your diet slips or sleep patterns change, and things snowball. So easy to do.
Yet, instead of taking the pill to calm down, sleep, digest better, etc…..invest in some small changes to you life. And see how your body reacts. I bet the list of side effects don’t look like the side effects on the side of the pill bottle. And we may be lucky enough to add on years to our life to enjoy.
I am still figuring out my balance and ways to manage stress. And as my life changes, I have to re-calibrate how to do this, but I do know that I need to keep working at it and focusing on it. And this work will allow me to be a healthier, happier version of myself. It won’t make me immune to every disease or need for medication, but it will sure help. And hopefully help me heal faster when I am sick.