I’m going to show you a few transformational photos of myself.
The first pic is 2012 me, when I was in residency, stressed to the max, fulfilling insanely long work hours, meeting the pressure to follow insurance protocols, all while trying to stay aligned with my purpose for being a doctor-to help people heal. Yet, I was becoming sick.
After learning and committing to a new personalized lifestyle routine through the Functional Medicine approach, here I am a few years later:
My personal life was a shadow I struggled to maintain. You’d find me at the hospital, exhausted, trying to gather some nutrition from whatever convenient food I could find, aiming to find just enough energy from the random sleep patterns, and depressed from having to spend more time going through piles of paperwork for insurance purposes than with patients.
My aspirations were crumbling under a mountain of stress and so was my health.
And, maybe you feel or have felt like I have.
Perhaps your stress and anxiety have taken over your ability to create, focus, reach your goals, and remember to instill self–care. Instead, you see every small decision to be downright STRESSFUL!
You want to achieve success while providing your body with nourishing foods, keeping up an exercise routine, and maintaining healthy relationships while not feel frazzled in the midst of it all.
While my career seemed successful from an outsider’s view, on the inside, I had hit a realization. My stress and anxiety were at an all-time high and I found the current conventional medicine model did not focus on healing. I had to find another path to enhance my health, job and life. That is when I discovered Functional Medicine. I learned to move away from managing my symptoms and move into a deep connection with my whole body as a network of inter-dependent systems. This approach led to the overall wellness, happiness and the career of my DREAMS.
If you find yourself commonly stressed out and battling with anxiety like I was, you will want to learn some of the healing methods I utilize in my Functional Medicine clinic. As high amounts of stress are associated with poor mental and physical health, I will share with you the ways I help my patients and myself, find stability in the rush of life, and the serenity to embrace it.
HOW DOES STRESS AFFECT YOUR BODY?
Stress is how your brain and body respond to any demand. Such demands from work, exercise, social gatherings, school, major life changes, or traumatic events—can be stressful. Based on the type, timing and severity of the demand, stress can affect various functions of your body.
The systems of your body most affected by stress are:
Brain Your brain functions, abilities to learn, and store memory all become clouded under the heavy fog of chronic stress. Stress can cause functional changes in your central nervous system which sends hormonal signals that can negatively alter different parts of your brain and even change its shape!
Cardiovascular System Stressful situations set off a chain of events in your body. Your body releases adrenaline, the hormone that temporarily causes breathing and heart rate to speed up and your blood pressure to rise. Your autonomic, sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system may be activated to respond by increasing heart rate, dilating blood vessels, narrowing your veins, contracting the arteries in your spleen and kidneys, decreasing heart rate, dropping your blood pressure, or even totally stopping the heart-beat.
Stress and cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, arrhythmia, and stroke have long been linked with chronic stress.
Immune System If you are chronically stressed, you are more likely to have an impaired immune system. Hormones released via your central nervous system and lymphatic system have immune-suppressing properties. This can lead to genetic instability, growth of malignant cells and tumor expansion.
Gastrointestinal System Stress affects your GI Tract in two ways. First, have you ever noticed a lack of appetite when stressed? Or maybe you feel the urge to overeat. This happens when cells in your central nervous and peripheral nervous system sends signals to inhibit or increase your desire for food intake. And what you eat also sends signals throughout your body, making nutritional choices imperative to enhance how your body functions.
Secondly, stress interferes with the process of absorbing nutrients from food. It hinders your intestinal permeability, mucus and stomach acid secretion, and can create inflammation linked to diseases such as Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and colitis.
Endocrine/Hormones System As noted in the systems mentioned above, many of the signals that get sent throughout your body in response to stress are hormonal. Numerous endocrine, or hormonal, processes can either be activated or changed by stress.
When you are in a situation where your life depends on your ability to be in “fight-or-flight” mode, hormonal responses such as adrenaline can be good as it gives you energy to handle the situation. Yet, this is not a daily situation for most people. However, most Americans are suffering from moderate to high stress, and 44 percent reported that their stress levels have increased over the past five years.
TAKING A STAND AGAINST STRESS
If you wrestle with stress daily, and especially if you have a chronic disease, you may be vulnerable to the negative effects of unmanaged stress. There are ways to tackle it! Here are some tips from our Health Coach, Gin Burchfield:
Practice Self-Love with Oil – In Ayurveda, the word for oil has the same meaning as the word love. Take time to perform deep self-massages with a warming oil like sesame. This helps mobilize ama (toxins). Applying essential oils to the feet before bed – like clary sage and lavender, help fight stress and depression and prepare you for deep rest. Follow this link to learn how to do a self-massage.
Early to Bed – One of the best places to restore from stress is in the deep restoration of sleep. Prepare for restful sleep with a set bedtime routine. Mineral baths (like epsom salt) are grounding and allow you to wind down for bed. Get to bed well before 10PM. This will allow your body to use its natural nighttime bile production to process emotional ama. Create the opportunity for your body to go into several cycles of restorative REM sleep by allowing 8-10 hours for sleep during trauma recovery.
Journal – Journal your stressors, your feelings, your sadness, your anger and your gratitude. Give all your emotions to the page. Hold nothing back. Allow your true Self to feel heard. Have a plan for the next time you experience stress and times when stress arises. Learn from your experiences and allow the process to grow you and shape you into the next best version of your highest SELF.
For more information on Functional Medicine visit my website at KiranGrewalMD.com and follow us on Instagram & Facebook for daily health tips, information and inspiration.
To Your Health,
Kiran Grewal MD & Gin Burchfield, Health Coach at the Grewal Center for Mind Body Medicine
"My goal is to share my knowledge with the world. I believe in delivering valuable and ethical content that changes the lives of my patients." -Kiran Grewal MD