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From Hypertension to Happy: A Health Coach’s Stress Story

Mom life brings stresses you’d never have imagined in the days before kids. Let’s all give ourselves a pat on the back for all we manage to get done everyday! In the pursuit of Doing All the Things, however, we may be setting ourselves up for some health problems. Here is an article about being a health coach’s stress story.

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My Stress Story

A year ago, I was a victim of chronic stress, even as a health coach. I thought I had it all under control… Until I went to the doctor for my annual checkup. At 39, looking like the face of a healthy lifestyle on the outside, I had hypertension.

Sitting in the exam room, I began to cry. I knew exactly how I got there – I thought I could DO IT ALL. And I was: I was working at a gym, starting my own business, going to school, leading a monthly nutrition workshop at a health store, volunteering for my older daughter’s school, not sleeping because my toddler was chronically ill, and my husband traveled a ton. But that day, I realized DOING IT ALL was coming at a hefty price.

stressed-mom

What does stress do, really?

Back in the caveman days, we developed two nervous systems to help us survive things like saber tooth tigers. We had, and still have today, our “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system, and our “rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous system.

When a saber tooth tiger pounced, our sympathetic nervous system helped us survive. Our blood sugar, blood pressure, and metabolism increased so we could literally run for our lives. But in exchange, for those few minutes, our body down-regulated our digestive, immune, and reproductive systems, which weren’t so important for our immediate survival.

Do you see a problem with this in our modern world? We don’t have to worry about saber tooth tigers anymore, but we have plenty (work deadlines, kid and marital issues) keeping us in “fight or flight” mode… Which pushes us into a state of chronic stress. Which leads to chronic health conditions. You see, many of our hormones trigger off each other, so an imbalance in one body system can affect another.

 

How chronic stress affects the modern woman

Stress increases blood sugar… Which increases insulin, our primary fat storage hormone. In a chronic state, this can cause insulin resistance, weight gain, and even diabetes. It decreases our digestion, which means our body can’t use the nutrients we are consuming optimally. This impacts especially our vitamin B12 and iron levels, which are used to fire many of the different systems in our body, including our thyroid, which controls our metabolism.

Also, stress decreases our reproductive system. For women, the key consideration here is the balance of estrogen and progesterone. Stress can cause progesterone levels to fall, leading to a state of “estrogen dominance.” For women trying to get pregnant, this can lead to fertility issues (yep – my second is a rainbow baby). For us more mature women, this can lead to mood disorders, insulin resistance, and increased cholesterol, among other issues.

So what can we do… What did I do?

Hypertension was definitely a huge wakeup call for me. Luckily, I knew what I needed to do to in order to fix it. Here are the steps I took to unwind what I did to myself:

#1 I took a hard look at my schedule

I knew I needed to take some things off my plate. I did reduce some of my commitments, and continue to be very careful in determining how I spend my time. I started saying “no” more. I used calendar blocking to streamline my time management. And I started making sure I had fun things to look forward to on my calendar… A girls trip every quarter, fun family vacations in nature… This has been huge to keep my stress level lower for the long term.


 

#2 In the short term, I supplemented

Before I proceed: please talk to your healthcare provider before adding any new supplements. There can be contraindications for medical conditions or interactions with medications. Abhwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that helps the liver filter cortisol (stress hormone). It also has strong antioxidant properties, which helps fight free radicals, natural cellular atoms that cause damage to our body. Magnesium is a common mineral deficiency, and can help reduce blood pressure while also helping calm anxiety, ease constipation, and reduce muscles tension and headaches. However, usually supplements should be a short term solution while working towards the bigger root cause (hence #1 above).

 

#3 I started meditating… sort of

I wish I could say I was better about meditating. When I’m able to, I love the Calm app. Unfortunately, my little one is not a good sleeper, and I find it hard to dedicate the time for this. Someday I’ll return to it. I do gratitude journal pretty consistently.   Before going to bed, I use Vertellis Chapters, which has two pages a day to fill out. This has definitely helped me reflect on the good things happening, consider how to fix what’s not so great, and prepare for a good night’s sleep with a mental “dump” of that day.   Plus, this also ensures I have a space between screen time and bed time to reduce my cortisol levels.

 

How am I now?

woman smiling

I’m happy to report that I have fixed my blood pressure, AND I’m way less cranky and more fulfilled on the other side. Today, I am so sensitive to the effect of stress on my clients – in fact, stress management is one of the first things that I tackle with them.

As I’ve hopefully shown you, stress can really combat working on being a health coach and fitness goals.   And sadly, this news article from Mother’s Day shows that us moms are stressed, and stress most about our health and fitness!  I’d love to hear about your unique challenges in the comments below.

Do you need help prioritizing your health and happiness among All the Things? I’d love you to join me for a free 5 day reboot that kicks off September 9th. You can learn more about it at https://backtoschoolbacktoyou.com/.

 

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Rachel Rotabi

Rachel Rotabi is a mom to two girls, a certified personal trainer, and functional nutrition coach in Hermosa Beach, California. She leads online group nutrition coaching programs for busy moms as well as virtually coaching women 1:1. Using a functional medicine approach, she's had the great joy of helping clients lose weight, reduce their stress level, improve their mood and energy levels, resolve digestive issues, and even get off some medications. Rachel works with her clients to make space in their busy lives for the pursuit of a healthier lifestyle in a sustainable way.

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