If you're doing everything you can to get well, but still aren't feeling how you want, it's not that there's some magical healing secret you haven't yet figured out. There isn't a perfect diet / exercise / healing approach right around the corner yet never close enough to actually grab.
Rather, the problem is most likely that whatever tool you're using -- whatever diet, product, or stress management technique you're trying -- simply isn't doing what it's supposed to do. Not because the tool doesn't work or because you're doing something wrong, but because there are certain conditions in which some tools simply *cannot* work to their fullest potential.
I call these conditions "hidden stressors" and uncovering which one could be affecting your efforts is an important piece of puzzling together your unique, personalized path to health.
These hidden stressors may be the reason WHY your tools aren't doing what you "hired" them to do. (Aka why they're not doing what you expect and want them to do: leave you feeling better.) They might be the reason why you're not actually decreasing the amount time you spend in chronic stress and increasing the amount of time your body's optimized to do what it innately does best: heal.
For example, one of the most common hidden stressors that I see is what I call Split Health Stress.
It's basically the stress, or friction, that comes from feeling like you have to choose between your mental health and your physical health. In other words, it's the stress that comes from thinking that what's required to feel good physically is in (often direct) opposition to what you believe is required to feel good mentally.
Those struggling with Split Health Stress might feel divided between eating intuitively or eating according to a Paleo or AIP diet. Or, as is the case with me, might have both an autoimmune disease and an eating disorder in their past.
Figuring out which hidden stressor is messing with your efforts to get well is important because it helps us stop thinking there has to be something wrong with *us*. It reminds us that we could just be trying to adopt a tool (or as is the case in Split Health Stress, a diet) that simply isn't optimized to work for everyone in every season.
Because until you can eat a restrictive diet without feeling restricted, the side effects of restriction can elicit physical symptoms in the body.
And those physical symptoms are what we're trying to avoid, right?
Understanding how hidden stressors could be impacting the effectiveness of the tools you're using not only provides relief and clarity as to why things might not be working as you expected... but it can also point you in the direction of tools that are actually likely to provide better results.
After all, making changes to a diet is just one possible healing tool.
Restorative yoga is another tool that I cannot recommend enough to not only those who find themselves battling a different hidden stressor (what I call excess exertion) but also to anyone looking to manage stress in general.
There's also possibly my most favorite (and definitely the least tangible) tool: the mind.
What if we could use our thoughts and beliefs to impact the physical body?
And I don't just mean by "thinking positively" or pretending to feel well when you don't. Instead, I'm talking about completely rewiring our "operating system" so that we're better aligned with wellness and not illness.
You see, when we're first diagnosed with an autoimmune disease or chronic illness, we have to adopt a specific "operating system" to help us move through our new reality, right?
For example, we're asked, often over and over and over again, about the symptoms we're experiencing, when those symptoms show up, and what (if anything) provides relief. Because autoimmune disease and chronic illness is often invisible to the outside world, it's usually up to us as patients to provide as much data as we possibly can.
However, even though we may eventually be diagnosed, start treatment, or find ourselves in management mode... that hyper-vigilance we've trained our brains to do doesn't always go away. It doesn't matter if we're no longer in immediate danger, the brain is still looking for any sign of a possible problem that needs to be solved.
And that's only *one* facet of this full-blown operating system we tend to adopt when we get sick. Because this operating system is how we see, interpret, and react to the world, and ultimately is designed to keep us safe, it makes sense that things would shift when something like our physical health is in jeopardy.
Now, don't get me wrong. Having an "illness-based" operating system is great when we need to be diagnosed and start a treatment plan. We want to figure out what's wrong. We want to be on alert. We want to adapt to our new reality as best as possible.
However, this way of operating becomes a problem when we want to have health. We need to start moving through the world as someone who has health, not illness, and not very many of us are taught how to do this.
Because the operating system that helps us during illness is not often the same operating system that will help us have health. Not only do we have to train the brain to redirect its search for those signs of bodily problems but we ALSO have to start cultivating an identity of wellness. We have to believe we are people who get to be healthy.
And that's really hard when all you've recently known is anything but.
There's a lot that goes into recalibrating our operating system. We need to believe that it's safe to heal. We need to think it's possible to heal. We need to want to heal. (And untangle any logical or illogical fears we might have around that healing.) We *also* need to feel supported by life, comfortable receiving, and capable of taking whatever action we believe is required to get there.
And also also? We kinda need to be okay whether or not we ever get said health.
Yeah, it's A LOT.
If it seems like you're always trying to feel better and yet consistently coming up short... check to see if your operating system is a little bit outdated.
Because while we change up our diets, exercise practices, meditation schedules, and self-care techniques, we're not often encouraged to take inventory of our thoughts and beliefs. And yet, recalibrating this operating system, and mastering the energy of having health, just might be the most accessible (and most powerful) tool in the healing toolbox.
After all, it determines on a foundational level whether we spend more time in that "flight or fight" stress mode... or more time turning on the body's innate ability to heal in the "rest or digest" mode.
So, Split Health Stress, Excess Exertion, Outdated Operating System... These are 3 of 5 common hidden stressors that I see getting in the way of our efforts to feel better and heal naturally. If you feel like you're always running on that hamster wheel and yet never getting closer to what it is you really want health-wise, take the hidden stressors quiz and see if there's something getting in the way of your efforts!