Diary of a Student Nutritionist - Week 13 - Stress and Fatigue

Now we really needed this lecture right back at the beginning of the course to help us through! This was a lecture quite close to my heart as I have personally experienced anxiety, panic attacks, agoraphobia, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. It was very interesting to understand biologically what was going on in my body when I was experiencing this range of bodily and mental reactions.

One thing that was great to hear right at the beginning of the lecture was that:

'Our bodies are not designed to live in a perfect environment'

It is not healthy to live in a perfect environment as our body functions best when it is challenged i.e exercise, learning something new, cold water swimming, etc. This was comforting to hear as many of us are looking to get to the point of complete relaxation and be able to go with the flow at all times. I now know this is unrealistic and to find a more rational idea of what good mental and physical health actually looks like.

After learning about the role of genetics and its effects on stress, this also showed me that some people will have to work harder than others at dealing with stress. For example, if the enzymes in your liver are genetically very good at breaking down stress hormones you have a better chance of getting over a stressful event faster than someone whose liver does not. However, it isn't always slow liver enzymes that can cause excess stress in the body, sometimes people will overload a very healthy liver with stress, such as a 50-hour workweek followed by the gym every day. This is where a practitioner can support a client to manage stress both in terms of stressors on the body and then how well the body can deal with it.

One thing that is always great when doing a course in natural medicine is that after being told all the ways our bodies can go wrong, we then get taught 101 ways to support ourselves and our clients to correct/manage it.

A great thing I learnt through my journey with extreme stress is that balancing everything is key, from hormones to blood sugar levels and at its worst even temperature. These changes send signals to the body that there may be a danger to prepare for. Although the effects of these changes no longer have an obvious physical or mental response, I am aware of their impact on our daily stress buckets. I would encourage clients no matter how stressed they feel to balance their bodies and minds as much as possible and see what benefits occur.

Stress support is an area that I would like to work in as it is something I have been through myself and therefore will be better able to empathise with my clients. Extreme stress with panic attacks and agoraphobia doesn't feel how you would imagine and it is very much something you would need to experience yourself to really know how it feels. I also have the benefit of having been through it and out the other side and the most powerful thing within my healing journey was that there was hope so I would love to dish that out as much as I possibly can!

The second half of the lecture was on fatigue and once again my experience enabled me to really understand what the lecturer was explaining. For example, the difference between tried, fatigued and then chronically fatigued. How it feels and the ways it mentally and physically affects you is very different in all three and this again is not something everyone will have experienced.

My chronic fatigue was something I was told I would never get better from and that I needed to mourn the life I once lived....welI I refused to accept this and went in search of hope. Now I am not back to where I would like to be in terms of running a few times a week and spending hours cooking but I am able to work, study, do long walks, shop and no longer need naps. These were all things I really struggled with for quite a few years and little changes here and there all added up and hence the name of my business 'The Health Puzzle'. I also have plenty of things still up my sleeve to try and do which brings me a lot of hope for the future.

There is just so much you can do as a nutrition-based lifestyle medicine practitioner to support a client with stress and fatigue. Some recommendations are obvious while for others you would need to understand the biochemistry of the body to work out. When you combine the two you create life-changing results....and I can personally vouch for that!

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