The “Dark Stress”

A silhouette of a woman at sunset.

When we first started digging into the science of stress while developing the Stress Strategy Life Coaching course, I expected to learn a lot. Little did I know what I’d learn about myself and my own life in the process…

Did you know that the adrenals, thyroid and hormones are all severely affected by stress? Both for men and women. The adrenals kick in quickly when the body is in a state of stress, allowing the heart to speed up, the blood to pump and adrenaline to surge through your veins. When we experience short term stress, such as a close call while driving, this surge comes and than goes and we return to a peaceful, functional state. When we are constantly exposed to stress, however, this is not the case. The adrenals eventually can’t handle the task and thus call for reinforcements in the form of Cortisol, the “stress hormone.” Elevated Cortisol is responsible for a lot of further breakdown within the body such as the adrenals themselves and eventually sex organs. Both men and women may experience loss of libido, infertility and especially thyroid malfunction. Women are especially sensitive to these chronic stress floods.

The very dark reality of stress

The ugly truth of stress is that we are experiencing it chronically. Not just in rush hour or a rough day at work. Financial and relational stress are some of the most destructive to the human body.

As a health and Life coach this was a major reality check. Its so easy to accept a life of chronic stress. Whether you hate your daily job or feel stuck in an unhealthy relationship, there is no diet that will completely make up for that level of chronic self destruction. While the believer in me knows that any situation can be healed, life experience has taught me that sometimes we need to make hard choices in order to preserve the sometimes meager remains of what once was a vibrant, happy body and soul.

Once I understood what I now refer to as “Dark Stress,” I realized that I had my work cut out for me as a coach. So many clients had Dark Stress that they were medicating (unconsciously) with food, alcohol or self-obsession.

How could I possibly get them through a nutrition protocol when the beast of their habit was literally how they soothe or even protect themselves from their chronic unhappiness and pain?

Shoot! How could I even handle my own? Strong people endure the pain right? All the while the body dies but not before begging for its life. Sending signals of its suffering in the form of panic attacks, depression, eating habits, fear, exhaustion, sleep problems and disease. And yet we “endure.”

It became clear to me that as a health and life coach, my greatest gift was the ability to empower others to self-heal. Yes we use nurturing food in this process, but we first must tackle the mind. Life coaching isn’t the same as counseling. We are not licensed to do the things that a therapist does, however we have an immense ability to connect individuals to their true selves. Their greatest potential, that little voice that’s showing them the way. As a coach I realized that I had the responsibility and gift to breathe life into others and with that awakening came a sense of personal realization. In order to become the healthiest version of myself, I must truly identify the very things that broke me down. The things that I was enduring because “that’s what strong people do.”

In my eyes, there is no other way to coach. Nutrition is a component (albeit a powerful one!) but even still it is not the center of healing. The center lies in our Gut and not just our microbiome but that illusive feeling place. Some call it a soul, spirit, consciousness or being. Regardless, that is the center of everything we are and everything we can be. Some people just need someone to see that place in them and point the way. While I am not perfect and neither are the people I work with, I am blessed. To wake up everyday with the opportunity to change, to make a new path and to inspire that mindset in others. Dark Stress exists because we let it. We don’t change or grow. Maybe because we are afraid or maybe we don’t know how. Maybe we think we are doing “what it takes.” Ultimately, the choice is ours. Heal or Hurt.

I believe that true health exists when we learn to accept and let go of what hurts us. Past experiences, food or thoughts. Seek to heal from the center and the rest will fall into place.