When I was first diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, I spent weeks researching what my “flare triggers” could be. Logically, as colitis affects your gastrointestinal tract, I started with food triggers. For the next 10 years, I was on and off different #antiinflammatory and elimination diets. I went gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, caffeine free, alcohol free. You name in, I tried it. And while there are without a doubt certain food triggers that aggravate my condition, I found that none of them were the main culprit. Something else was contributing to my ongoing flares.
When your body is stressed, it releases cortisol into your blood stream which increases your heart rate and your blood pressure. It alerts your body that something isn’t right and elicits your “fight or flight” reaction. Which is a good thing if you are being chased by a bear or slamming on your breaks to avoid a car accident. But when you start to live in a constant state of chronic stress, your body will start to develop long term health issues – both physically and mentally.
My immune system doesn’t function normally so when I would find myself suffering from headaches, sore throat, nausea, body aches, fatigue, diarrhea and insomnia, I assumed I had caught a cold. But this was happening every few months. I never had a fever but I would feel run down for a few days so I would rest, drink liquids and take it easy. Once I started to feel better, I would plunge head first into my normal routine until a few weeks later when they cycle would start again. It took me years to realize that my unmanaged, #chronicstress had actually manifested itself into physical symptoms.
Everyone has stress in their lives; It is not something we can ever remove completely. By nature, I find myself to be a fairly anxious person. I worry about everyone and everything. I look at every scenario and contingency plan for every possible outcome so I will never be surprised or caught off guard. I am not spontaneous. Not having a plan or knowing what is coming causes me immense amounts of stress. Needless to say, “Pandemic Katie” hasn’t been the most relaxed.
Over the past two years, I had developed a strict and effective self-care plan that was instrumental in keep my stress levels in check. I was exercising daily. Meditating. Doing my weekly infrared sauna and cryo treatments. Reading at least one book a month. These were commitments I had made to myself and my wellness and I did not skip or reschedule the time I had committed to focusing on myself. And it was working. My colitis has been in complete clinical remission for almost 2 years. A feat which had taken me about 15 years to achieve.
Running has been my favorite outlet. Especially distance running as it provides me with an opportunity to have uninterrupted alone time to focus on whatever I need to work through mentally. The physical aspect helps to relive any tension I’ve been carrying around in my body. After a long run, I feel relaxed, refreshed and confident.
In June, I got injured and had to take a break from running. With the kids out of school, my carefully scheduled weekly self-care time disappeared. Within a matter of weeks, I felt like a completely different person. I was cranky, anxious and emotional. I was suffering from fatigue, depression and headaches. My colitis began to flare and I was experiencing pain, bleeding, diarrhea, insomnia, joint pain and inflammation. All of the outlets I had carefully cultivated over the course of 2 years to keep my stress at a manageable level had suddenly vanished and I felt the effects immediately. I had cracked.
I scheduled time with a therapist because I felt completely overwhelmed with how I was feeling and couldn’t manage everything that was being asked of me. I started a course of prednisone (steroids) to calm the inflammation in my body down. I’ve been slowing finding my way back to making my health a priority. It’s been a bumpy and difficult few months but this that only reiterated to me how important it is to take care of myself. I’ve scheduled my visits to #ImagineFloat this week since the kids are back in school and I am in desperate need of a recharge. I’m planning to invest in myself by taking advantage of their 7 Day Detox Program which includes 3 infrared sauna sessions and 3 floats to be combined and repeated over the course of 7 days in order to receive the maximum benefit of both services. I’ve neglected myself for too long and it’s time to reset and focus on getting my stress under control so I can be the strongest and best version of myself #physically, #mentally and #emotionally.