"Remember your health and wellness goals are not a destination, it is a journey."
You are eating healthy and cranking out hours a week at the gym and yet you just aren’t seeing the results you want. You are about to give up because the frustration of giving it your all without the abs is killer. The struggle is real and you are most definitely not alone. This frustration is shared among many, but there is good news: you can make some changes to get you track.
These are some of the top changes I see clients needing to make to finally make that shift in their health:
Remember your health and wellness goals are not a destination, it is a journey. You have spent years developing habits and building the body you currently have, it will take time to achieve the body you want.
Jen Nobo, LMSW, Wellness Advocate
Holistic Health Coach
Certified Personal Trainer
To learn more about Jen, health tips, movement advice, or recipes, check out her website at www.jennobo.com or follow her on Instagram!
"Your brain builds new connections when it feels safe. It needs predictability, reliability, and a constant ebb and flow of regulation. When it is in a constantly stressful environment, the brain cannot form new connections." - robin helget
"In a chronically stressful environment, the body’s stress response is always on – there is very little relief from the surge of chemicals and the increase in heart rate and blood pressure. When this happens, the stress becomes toxic and can cause dramatic changes in the brain and body" - Toxic Stress
Stress and the physiological responses to stress is a natural and necessary biological response. Our bodies are built to protect us; however, the body is only meant to utilize these functions for a short and brief period of time. When we are consistently in a toxic environment or situation, our body is constantly is fighting chronic or prolonged stress, making our body stay in "fight" or "flight."
Toxic environments can include those in the home, within relationships, or at work. Toxic stress can prohibit new connections in the brain from forming, increase risk for addiction, and the risk for developing a hypersensitivity to threat.
1. New connections.
Your brain builds new connections when it feels safe. It needs predictability, reliability, and a constant ebb and flow of regulation. When it is in a constantly stressful environment, which can include feeling on edge, jumpy, increase in blood pressure, difficulty using your voice or speaking, and going into "Fight or flight", the brain cannot form new connections. It lives on experience, so if it's constantly stressed, it weakens the brains foundation that is essential in learning, behavior, and health.
Our bodies aren't meant to be in a constant state of stress. Because of the emotions that come with toxic stress environments such as significant anxiety, depression, or even trauma, people often will want or need to find something that will take that stress away, like alcohol or drugs. Many feel stuck in these environments that they feel that they can't do anything about the toxicity, leading to avoidance behaviors and constantly needing an escape.
3. Hypersensitivity to threat.
Our bodies respond to stress by increasing heart rate and shutting down our organ functions to go into survival mode. After all, this is what we have had to do all the way from caveman times when faced with a saber-tooth tiger in order to survive. However, today, we are not faced with saber-tooths; instead, we are faced with everyday stress, including toxic stress. When faced with toxic stress, your brain can begin to see everything as a threat. The then saber-tooth tiger is now the feeling of being threatened emotionally or professionally or a dirty look or an email. Our brains and bodies are responding the same as we did to the tiger. When the stress respond is turned on so often, it begins to see everything as a threat. It can't distinguish between the tiger or an email, but it does respond the same way. Physically, this has many negative impacts.
4. Physical impacts.
As mentioned before, when we are in toxic environments or experience toxic stress, the wear and tear of this can have a significant impact on your mental health. Things like anxiety, depression or even PTSD can be developed or intensified in these types of environments. Knowing your warning signs, paying attention to your body, and knowing when enough is enough is essential to taking care of your mind, body and spirit.
Toxicity leads to toxic stress. Being in toxic relationships or environments has many negative effects on your body both physically and emotionally. Take a minute to evaluate your relationships, your work environment, and other things that may be toxic in your life. Do you need to put up boundaries? Do you need to say something and use your voice? And if you can't do either, do you need to leave?
"I have always believed that when you have a voice, you have an obligation to use that voice to empower others." - diane von furstenberg
"Don't cause a scene."
"Don't speak too loud."
"You don't want to make her mad."
Many of us have been taught that speaking our opinion, using our voice, or sticking up for our beliefs and ourselves is something that is looked at as socially unacceptable in our world, especially for women. Some of us have been so afraid to share what we are thinking or stand for what we believe in that we have forgotten what our voices actually sound like.
It is common to feel nervous when speaking up for yourself or even thinking about having the hard conversations with people; however, it is completely acceptable and necessary when done in assertively and respectively, of course.
Four years ago a significant life event in my life happened that completely knocked me off my feet. In that, I felt like I had lost my voice completely in more ways than one. I didn't believe that my voice mattered. I didn't trust it. I didn't believe I was worthy of using it. Standing up for myself meant that I had to love myself more than the opinion of the person who was listening--which was something I couldn't do then.
It took time to heal, time to practice, therapy, and a great group of friends to push me to use my voice. The more I used it, the easier it became. I began telling the waiter that I ordered Pepsi, not Coke. I sent back food if it wasn't what I had asked for. I said "No" to activities that I didn't want to go to. I wore my favorite shirt even if someone else didn't like it. I didn't stay at events if I wasn't having fun. All of these things may sound like small victories, but it was in these victories that I was able to use my voice for the bigger things.
How to use your own voice
Take some time to think about ways that you can start using your voice. Is it sending back something you didn't ask for at a restaurant? Is it saying "No" to the multiple tasks your boss asks you to do that is not in your job description nor that you are getting paid for? Is it wearing your favorite shirt even if your boyfriend doesn't understand why you love wearing a shirt with avocados on it?
Using your voice with people of power
No matter what type of industry or profession you are in, you likely encounter at some poit someone who runs the company, is higher up on the totem poll, is completely unapproachable, or someone who doesn't give you the chance to get a word in.
The reasons why people of power stay in power is because they often feed off the control they have being in power. They have the choice to let you go, let you stay, increase your pay raise, etc. and that's why we often feel uncomfortable using our voice. Speaking our voice in the face of a bully can be unsafe, anxiety-provoking, and intimidating.
If you're in an environment where using your voice is unaccepted, put down, belittled, or brushed under the rug, evaluate if this is a place where you really want to be and an environment that you can really thrive in. Toxicity breeds toxic stress. If the answer is no, create an "escape plan". It may not be realistic to quit today or even next month, but planning how you're going to leave that environment if there is no way to make it better, can help give you the motivation, encouragement, and drive to look forward to something better.
In all situations, remember that your voice is your biggest strength. You have opinions, ideas, education, and experience that only you can offer. Be open to feedback but careful to what you let soak through your skin. Your voice matters. You matter.
If you struggle with finding your voice or using it, seeing a counselor or coach can help develop it, practice it, and empower you to believe it's worth using.
Robin Helget, LMSW, CPT