Is Stress Good For You?

   Since we're always talking about the negatives, I'm going to take a moment to stick up for stress.

    We need stress to be able to react to dangerous situations. It's what keeps us alive as a species, just in case we're threatened or attacked. Positive stress (eustress):

  1. Releases hormones into your bloodstream to get your heart pumping and give you energy.

  2. Burns off your sugar stores to give you fast acting sugars for an energy turbo boost.

  3. Creates a cushion around your cells and tissues in case you get tousled up in a fight or fall.

  4. Pauses digestion so you don’t have to waste time.

  5. Clears your mind by creating  so you can be totally present and focused.

Stress triggers the sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight response) to get through difficult and life threatening situations. It’s the basic goal of the body to survive and it uses stress as a warning bell to keep us alert and alive when attacked.

I mean honestly, how amazing is your body?! Take a moment.

The reason why stress gets so much flak is because the nervous system doesn’t realize that we’ve evolved and made a society that creates a lot of mental stress without a physical threat. In today’s world, when we experience stress through the day, it’s usually not because we’re in physical danger.

Still, it’s triggering those benefits I listed above EVERY TIME we stress. Think about that… Let's say, hypothetically, that lava is pouring out onto the floor you're standing on. If you needed to climb a flight of stairs once or twice to escape, you could handle that and survive no problem. But what if you had to climb 10 flights? What about 50? Or 100? You’d be on constant alert, stressed, and absolutely exhausted. But that’s what we’re putting our mind and body through every day. Lots of us are living in a constant state of stress (77% of Americans reported physical symptoms as a response to stress!) and that lava is burning out the positive benefits! That’s negative stress, distress, and chronic distress is what people are talking about when they hate on stress.

Chronic distress:

  1. Gets your heart pumping over and over again through the day, creating fatigue and high blood pressure.

  2. Completely depletes our sugar stores making us crave sweets and carbs for a quick refuel.

  3. Creates a cushion, inflammation, around our cells and tissues that stimulates the immune system (affecting those with autoimmune and inflammatory diseases).

  4. Leads to digestive disorders and imbalances.

  5. Creates inflammation around the frontal lobe so our conscious decision making becomes hazy and strained.

    Distress is what everyone is talking about when they connect stress to chronic health issues. If you feel like you manage burnout more often than stress, understand that the first step in overcoming it is becoming aware of it. Don’t let it upset you, but simply notice how often you feel stressed through the day. Notice how fast your thoughts race through all the worries of the day. Become aware of how you feel energetically at the end of the day and whether or not you have cravings. Take time to pay attention to how your body feels physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Stress is a natural part of life, but distress - especially chronic distress, can negatively impact your entire experience every single day. Being aware allows you to recognize and begin to stop situations where stress takes over.  

So don’t hate on stress, it can do a lot of good. Just be mindful and remember... Everything in moderation.

Sharing My Birthday (Tomorrow!) with World MS Day

World MS Day falls on my birthday this year. May 25th, 2016.

May 25th has always been a strange day for me. It felt like this "no rules, no consequences" day where I could allow myself to eat whatever I wanted, guilt free. A get out of jail free card, if you will.

I would "save up" cravings and plan my birthday around the food I wanted to eat. I needed to get in my favorites, the foods I always had to give up when starting a diet: Ice cream, pad thai, cafe con leche with toast (born and raised in Miami, dale!)... The pressure was on to get it all in. I made it a point to gorge myself because I didn't know when I'd eat them again, May 26th has always been my restart day.

I've shared 6 birthdays with my diagnosis and this year, it falls on World MS Day. When I think back to each birthday, I can see my illness progressing. The first year, my 21st birthday, I had muscle spasms and stiffness. This was also when I was at my biggest weight and still ate whatever I wanted that day.

Me on my 21st birthday, crown and all!

Me on my 21st birthday, crown and all!

Each year, the symptoms were worse. On May 25th, 2012, my 22nd birthday, I suffered the worst flare I've ever had to date. It began at 3am and lasted for 19 hours. My party was cancelled and I spent the day in severe pain and drugged by the pharmacy in my nightstand. That was the first birthday where I simply didn't eat at all.

I'll gloss over the next few years, highlighting mobility loss, chronic pain, optic neuritis, muscle spasms, muscle weakness, fatigue, numbness, sensory dysfunction and more.

I've spent every single birthday fighting a smile through symptoms because, well, I had MS and this was all "normal", according to my neurologist.

It seems fitting that this birthday, my 27th, shares its celebration with World MS Day because after 6 miserable birthdays, I fought back and took control of my life.

I made myself my first priority and implemented the Overcoming MS (OMS) diet plan. I diligently took up meditating, exercise, positive thinking exercises, supplements, healthy relationships, and stress relief techniques.

Now, with my 7th birthday with this diagnosis I am happy to report that I have lost over 155 lbs and have lessened or eliminated most of my symptoms. I felt well enough this year that I even quit my job to travel, hiking mountains in Peru and meditating on Lake Titicaca.

I am proud to share my birthday this year with World MS Day because they are both well worth celebrating. This year, I'll definitely be eating whatever I want on my birthday, but these days my favorites look a little different... and I now I get 365 days of guilt free eating as opposed to one.

My birthday cake in 2015 - Made entirely of fruit. 

My birthday cake in 2015 - Made entirely of fruit. 

Happy birthday to me and happy World MS day to us all. I'll be celebrating big for both this year because I can, and that means more to me than I could ever explain.