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Insights on Stress

Posted By Administration, Monday, December 20, 2010
Updated: Friday, April 18, 2014


by Andrea Purcell, ND

The 2 running themes at the office this week seem to have been the stomach bug; which is making its way around Southern California, and Stress. My advice for the former is to wash your hands, and choose restaurants carefully when eating out.

Today’s discussion will be on the latter since Stress seems to be all around us, permeating some days more than others. It directly affects our health, (blood pressure being the quickest marker of it), our ability to restore and replenish (when it affects our sleep), and it robs us of being nourished through our daily interactions.

Below are 3 examples of how we must remain in the present, see the opportunity in adversity, and how nurturing ourselves through coping mechanisms can reduce our stress.


When we put ourselves on autopilot, motoring through life, day after day, the divine aspects of life lose their luster.

Our life becomes something we just do, instead of the wave of possibility that each new dawn can bring. One of my patients this week was mentioning how she initially came to the clinic. She had run into one of her friends at the car wash that she hadn’t seen in a while. They got to talking and she said to him, “there must be some reason why we were meant to meet.” He replied, “I bet your right, so let's just start talking and see where it leads.” They spoke about their lives, their challenges, their spouses, their health and so on. By the end of the conversation she heard how Naturopathic Medicine had helped him and confided that she too had been in search of a doctor or clinic that could help her get to the cause of her health issues as well, which in turn led her to my office. And so it goes….

The purpose of this example is not to say everyone needs a Naturopathic Doctor, it is to merely suggest that opportunities are within the people that we meet every day. When we are stressed we tend to withdraw and be focused on how we can just make it through the day. When this happens we tend to miss the “life-rafts” that get thrown our way.

Open yourself to the possibility within each interaction, sometimes the reason is revealed right away and sometimes it reveals itself over time, there are so many cross links within the divine plan.




Our life experiences change us and can spur us on in directions we never dreamed prior to their occurrence.

I don’t really know why but the end of one year and the beginning of another energetically seem to be filled with more births and deaths than usual. The ultimate cliché of when one life ends another begins, and so it is within the cycles of nature and time. I do know that when things are bad they never stay bad, and when things are good they never stay good, that is the organic nature of life; which can easily be seen within the real-estate market.

A patient of mine, who is a nurse, recently lost her mother to the complications of conventional medicine. (Not her cancer or her cardiovascular disease.) Through this experience, which left her disheartened with the conventional standards of care, she has changed her focus from dermatology to a career in alternative cancer therapies.

It is in this waking up that there is a shaking up, and a passion is invoked that was before dormant.

And so it is with our economy, more small business startups are beginning each day, as people no longer wait for their fate to be at the mercy of someone or something else. The creativity that is erupting from individuals and entrepreneurs can be seen across the Internet, YouTube, blogs, Facebook, digital marketing accounts, and smart phone applications. Many more people have found their voice and are using it to expand on their passion.


When things are going good it’s easier to be healthy and eat right. The challenge is to still make good food & life choices under stress.

Change is never easy and it’s hard to get up off of a couch that was really comfortable, the current stressors of today are upending that couch for many. It is affecting our health. The answer is not to look back to what was, the answer is to ask for the way to reveal itself, and develop healthy coping mechanisms in the interim.

Make your coping mechanisms a priority. Healthy coping mechanisms include anything that is supportive and nurturing to your mind, body, and spirit. (Some of you can rationalize that ice cream is nurturing. Frozen, fat, dairy, and sugar is in no way, shape or form nurturing.)

My last patient of the week, had been losing weight and really doing great on her food plan that she had been working on for about 2 months. She showed up completely frazzled, angry and hopeless at my office Friday afternoon regarding stress at work. When I took her blood pressure it was elevated, and she was giving herself hot flashes. She confided that she had not had any ice cream during the 2 months that we had been working together and that the incredible stress of the previous week sent her literally head first into the freezer. Although she knew that after eating ice cream she felt terrible, she couldn’t resist the urge to eat it right then and there. Negative coping mechanisms can be extremely deleterious to our health if we aren’t careful. Self-defeating choices include sweet treats, alcohol, smoking, soda, and impulsive behaviors.

This situation in particular is a classic case of emotional eating. Most of us do it to one extent or another, for some it’s mashed potatoes, chocolate, ice cream, or pastries, the list is endless. All sugar and carbohydrates boost our serotonin, which is a temporary antidepressant and makes us feel immediately better. Remember the nothing-good lasts, so then we crash, often feeling worse then before we ate it. She and I explored the situation, and discussed where she could work on directing her energy, we then discussed alternative coping mechanisms that included exercise, talking with friends or her spouse, walking on the beach, and others.

Stress, mental, physical, and emotional is all around us. Our stressors are actually becoming greater as the digital age continues to develop. This is because we now have within second’s access to events happening around the world, and to literally feel the impact of them. Now something happening in Asia can directly affect our bank account, and devastation in Haiti, can keep many of us awake at night for hours and be on our minds for days. Our nervous systems are busy integrating thousands of millibits of information per minute coming in from our computers, telephones, Internet, radio, and iPods. Now more than ever in order to be balanced and in good health, we must develop healthy coping mechanisms, see the opportunity in adversity, and stop to smell the flowers, watch a shooting star and embrace the beauty of each moment.


Tags:  anxiety  stress 

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