The countdown continues: now I am faced with “16 shopping days til Christmas”(how did this happen and why do stores love to remind us of this???) and my initial reaction last week, when I thought about the list of things I still wanted to get done, was to reschedule my weekend away at the beach with my friend Melinda, her daughter Rupa and my loyal canine companion Riley(aka best dog in the world….). We had planned this time away months ago after looking at our individual commitments throughout the fall and had finally found a weekend that was just right for all of us. So when last week came I couldn’t imagine how we had done this to ourselves, booking time away right smack in the middle of that uber-busy time period between Thanksgiving and Christmas!! Another example of a “senior moment”, perhaps, but on the other hand, maybe this was the perfect time to get away and recharge. So I resisted the urge to call her and suggest a change in plans: in other words, I opted to ‘hit the pause button’ and go for it.
It’s funny but I can name on one hand, maybe, the times I have regretted hitting that button. Life gets going so quickly some times that we often forget to block out time for R and R. That is a huge mistake. Our bodies, minds and spirits need time to rejuvenate and recharge and when we neglect to allow ourselves those periods of rest, we shift into that chronic stress response with all of its negative effects. And don’t you just know when your body has hit that point? Symptoms start to emerge, including insomnia, anxiety, palpitations, sugar cravings, moodiness, increased belly fat, feeling overwhelmed, distracted, to name just a few of the things you might be feeling when you are “stressed out”. In my last blog post, I reviewed the adaptive stress response(running from the proverbialwild animal who is chasing you) vs the maladaptive response, when your body is in “chronic stress response mode”. It is the maladaptive response that leads not only to all of the symptoms(and more!) that I just listed, but in addition an increased risk to many types of illnesses.
“There is very good scientific and medical evidence to show that chronically elevated cortisol levels are associated with obesity, hypertension, diabetes, fatigue, depression, moodiness, irregular menstrual periods, decreased sex drive , and Alzheimers”(from ‘The Cortisol Connection: why stress makes you fat and ruins your health-and what you can do about it’, an excellent book by Shawn Talbot, PhD, 2002).
Once you realize that you may be suffering from some of these symptoms and a feeling that you are spinning out of control, think first about getting your hormones tested. Candace and I are huge advocates of the “test and treat approach”, in comparison to the more commonly seen “guess and treat approach”. In my practice, after I take a thorough history of my patient, I then order a group of tests designed to identify exactly what is causing the patient’s symptoms. All too often I see women prescribed antidepressants, tranquilizers or sleeping pills to treat what may in fact be a hormone imbalance. And although women often protest to their providers that they aren’t depressed or anxious(after being told that their test results are normal, or worse yet, ‘you are just going through the change: you just need to deal with it and eventually it will be over’), they often feel as though they haven’t been listened to and don’t know what the next step might be.
Know that you are not alone in feeling this way but also know that there is something that can be done to make you feel better from the inside out, which is a more sustainable way of living a balanced life. Make an appointment with a provider in your area who knows about saliva and blood spot testing and who is knowledgeable about bio-identical hormones and adrenal fatigue. This can be a life-changing experience: I hear this from my patients every day and it makes my job so gratifying. If you are in the Portland , OR vicinity, please feel free to check out www.pearlwomenscenter.com . If you live in a different area of the world, feel free to ask us the best way to find a knowledgeable provider in YOUR area. This will be a step that you will never regret taking. You deserve to live the best life you can: ‘Hormones in Harmony, Lives in Balance’. This can be true for you as well.
Oh, and getting back to my own “Hitting the pause button” last weekend: so we spent 2 wonderful days walking through the little beach town of Manzanita on Oregon’s magnificent north coast, as well as ooh-ing and ah-ing at the sweet Christmas lights on the local stores. We even accomplished a few things(no, we never did write our Christmas cards….oh well) by getting some Christmas shopping done. We ate and slept incredibly well, we laughed, A LOT, but the high point for me came on our long walk Saturday morning along the beach, the sun spectacularly shining on the bluest of water, the air calm and cold. While walking, I heard a soft bark from somewhere near the dunes, and much to our wonder and surprise, was a beautiful seal lion, waiting patiently for the tide to come up so she could return to her sealife. We were able to get close, but not too close, and truly it was a magical moment to be in the presence of such a magnificent wild marine animal…..and all because I remembered to take time to pause and remember to breathe amidst all that is left to do.