What the hell is ‘stress’?

The word stress has ceased to be meaningful. In fact, it has become a word which I experience as being inherently disempowering – how can we possibly cope with a concept which has become so big, and which has such a pervasive effect on our lives?

I want to take this opportunity to share with you my own experience. For me, time-management issues are right up there as a huge source of stress, and I cope by trying to be as creative as possible with how I use my time.

  • I use my understanding of my cycle and when in the day/week/month I write or treat or create best
  • I schedule my days tightly, helped by an email management system I created, and
  • I’ve become very good at delegating tasks I might previously have tried to undertake myself.

These days, I’d describe these actions as enacting my ‘female power’ – focusing less on productivity and adrenalin-driven output (as I’m simply not wired anatomically or hormonally to function in the same way as a man), and more on self-care in order to achieve my objectives.  I learnt a lot about working with female power from a time-management course I did called ‘Be Fruitful‘ from the One of Many group, and I’d recommend this to all the working women out there struggling with the same issues as I describe above.  I also discovered (although why this is was a surprise to me I don’t know) that if I don’t go to bed around 10pm I just cannot do my life very well – I can only afford a couple of late nights a week before I crash.  How did it take me so long to realise the power of sleep?!?

Over the years I have also discovered that if I don’t take care of myself, I can’t take care of anyone else. I began to realise that I put on weight when I was working too hard and lost it when I rested (something that took ages for me to make sense of, see diagram below). I realised that my judgement was poorer when I was sleep-deprived, and that my communications skills with my family and clients took a nose-dive if I hadn’t had any time to myself.  So, even in my busiest periods this year for example, when I was treating, writing, lecturing, developing a course, mentoring and being part of my family, I took a day off each week and did…absolutely nothing! Or, as close to absolutely nothing as was possible.

OK, disclaimer, sometimes I had a vodka (Smirnoff Black from my freezer, neat, no ice, thank you) and a lots of Montezuma 73% dark chocolate, and I definitely caught up on reading for pleasure rather than work, and my favourite TV programme (Hello Outlander!). I also had a massage each week at home (thank you Nicole, Skevi and Vicky) or an Acupuncture treatment as I realised that when I spent all of my week treating clients, someone else had to hold my stuff for me, as I do for others.

Before I begin to sound too smug, I want to share that these are hard-won actions, discovered over many years, and in some cases, are things I had to train myself and others around me to consider important.  I’m also grateful for the job I do being a vehicle that means anything I do for myself my clients benefit from; from that point of view, business and personal service intersect.

This year though, I thought a lot about stress as it related to female health, and I increasingly believe this ungraspable ‘thing’ we have in our lives in the form of stress affects us in a more concrete way than most of us realise. In an ongoing effort to understand more about the mechanics of what stress is, I listened to a lecture on Adrenal function by Dan Kalish as part of my preparation for a lecture on Assisted Reproductive Techniques and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This lecture crystallised the concepts of ‘stress’ and ‘self-care’ for me, enabling me to translate it into TCM terms and offering it as a treatment to my clients.  In practice, this can mean treating a PCOS lady to reduce hormonal and mental stress which in turn shortens her cycle, giving her a chance to conceive naturally. Sometimes, it is helping a mum who endlessly juggles her time to create more energy so she can do the work she needs to make space for herself in her life. Or, perhaps, it is helping one of my Canary Wharf-based clients to sleep better at night, and make better food choices, rather than tossing and turning all night turning over the same issue and propping herself up the next day with sugar and coffee.

I want to share with you what I learned about how adrenal function affects us in particular ways around issues with:

  • Weight-gain around the middle
  • Anxiety
  • Poor digestion leading to bloating, concentration and memory issues
  • Increased PMS
  • Fatigue

I’ve written before on my blog about weight gain, the gut and the brain (Part I and II) and about weight gain and inflammation, but in this blog I wanted to take it to the next level. I wanted to show you how life management techniques and TCM treatment intersect not to get rid of the stress (that’s just life!), but to help you become more mentally and physically resilient to its effects.  And, to make a profound difference to how you feel in your life:

  • More optimistic
  • More resilient
  • Less anxious
  • Less tired
  • Slimmer
  • Happier in your body

Effectively, this equals = Less Stressed!

Here’s wishing you a Happy Christmas and/or Hanukkah, and looking forward to seeing old faces and new in my clinic in 2018.



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