Why ‘Managing’ Stress Will Only Ever Be A Band-AidNov 23, 2022
‘Managing’ stress will only ever be a band-aid….Wait, what?! Hang on Filly, isn’t managing stress a good thing?
Well, yes, that’s what I *used* to think too. And it’s how I lived my life for quite a few years, especially when I was healing my burned-out adrenals, neurotransmitters, gut and detox pathways.
Back then, I realised that my physical healing was being sabotaged by my high-stress levels (you can’t out-supp or out-diet a bucket load of stress!). Back then, I thought that the biggest culprit to my high-stress levels was my work-life-family imbalance - I was doing waaaaaaay too much, especially with work, and literally burning myself out. To help support my healing and make healing actually possible, I made the decision to create a more balanced lifestyle. I stripped back my workload, especially ditching stuff that I was doing for “free”, and was more intentional around having down-time and time with the kids and Chris.
This definitely dialled down ‘stress’ and allowed my body to start healing, but the thing was…inside, I still felt a lot of tension and guilt. For example, when I was working, I felt like I had to RUSH even faster to get everything done in a shorter amount of time. I’d actually get quite panicky and anxious when it hit 2pm, knowing that the kids would soon be home from school. And then on the flip-side, when I wasn’t working, I struggled to fully ‘relax’ when I ‘did’ breathwork or went for a walk or spent time with the kids. My brain was always switched on, alert, thinking about work, thinking about all the things I ‘had to do.’ (I later realised I was living and feeling like this because I was riddled with fear: if I stopped working, I’d drop all the balls, they’d crash down, I’d lose my business, we’d run out of money, we’d lose the house, I’d be poor forever, etc, etc...).
So while I was ‘managing’ stress in terms of working less, doing self-care, and spending time with my family. And while, yes, this definitely helped to physically heal my body. I was, still, only ‘managing’ stress rather than actually resolving the root cause of my stress (will get to this in a moment!).
What ‘Managing’ Stress Looks Like
I see sooooooo many people only ever ‘managing’ stress. This often looks like ‘doing’ stress-reducing activities like:
- Having more balanced work hours
- Going on holidays
- Sleeping more
- Eating healthy
- Doing yoga, meditation, breathwork
- Being out in nature
- Spending time with family
- Repeating affirmations
Don’t get me wrong, all these things are great and healthy, and healing. But if you’re not addressing the deepest root cause of your stress (which is WHY you get triggered by stressors in the first place), these activities will only ever manage your stress, and in effect, will only ever be a bandaid. Yoga or bushwalks or holidays will actually become like a blood pressure medication for hypertension! Only ever a bandaid. And while they might help symptoms, and even support your physiology, they will never end your body burnout because these ‘doing’ activities aren’t addressing the root cause.
You might recognise you’re just ‘managing’ stress if you:
- Constantly getting negatively triggered by people, events, deadlines, to-do’s, kid, noise, light.
- Feel ‘fragile’ - you have to be really careful about what you eat, how you sleep, how much you do in the day, etc., otherwise you break-down pretty easily.
- You ‘force’ your way through self-care activities like breathing, meditation, yoga, exercise.
- Self-care is just another thing you have to ‘tick-off’.
- You feel like you can never fully relax and switch-off when you have down-time.
- You find yourself worrying a lot and/or feeling anxious.
If you ticked any of the above dot-points, you, my friend, are only ‘managing’ stress (if at all).
When ‘Managing’ Stress Crumbled
While you might get away with just ‘managing’ your stress for a time, and keeping on top of your mental and physical health, at some point things will start to crumble.
COVID 2020 was my crumble moment. Chris’s (past) gym business got shut down, then there were the lockdowns, homeschooling, pivoting business, financial struggles and the fear of the unknown. All my usual stress-managing techniques stopped working, because I was exposed to a very big stressor (as most of us were). Because I hadn’t addressed the deepest root cause of my stress (or WHY I was constantly triggered by stressors), the ‘managing’ techniques didn’t hold up in the pandemic. For me, the deepest root cause of my abnormal stress response came from a deep-seated and hidden belief that I was weak and incapable (you can read more about my deepest root cause here). This dysfunctional belief, stuck deep in my unconscious state, really freaked out (showed up as anxiety, fear, overworking, self-pressure, defensive) at the time of the pandemic. If I was truly weak and incapable, how was I going to get through the challenges that COVID gave our family? No amount of breathwork, healthy eating, or trips to the beach could calm the way I was responding to stress (the pandemic) because I was using those exercises as ‘band-aids,’ rather than addressing the root cause of my inner fears about myself.
And sure enough, all my old health issues started to surface - anxiety, insomnia, hormonal imbalances, acne, chronic back pain, and heartburn. While I was able to ‘manage’ some of these symptoms using all the tools I had in my functional medicine toolkit, a few symptoms persisted. Heartburn was one of them - I ran lab tests again, and I treated the gut again. The supplements and diets that worked last time, didn’t budge the heartburn. It wasn’t until I started doing deeper healing innerwork on my dysfunctional beliefs, that symptoms dissolved. And even better, I am now able to live my life (in all areas of my life) with flow and ease, rather than force and fear which had been my pattern ever since a kid.
Why ‘Managing’ Stress Prevents True Healing
If you’ve read this far and you’re suspecting that maybe you too are only ‘managing’ stress (if it all), or if you’re frustrated with your lack of healing (even when you are ‘doing all the things’), it’s highly likely that you have some hidden dysfunctional beliefs about yourself that are keeping your nervous system in a state of stress and triggering an overactive stress response. No amount of gut work, toxin-free living, healthy eating, adrenal supps, etc, etc, will EVER allow you to fully heal until you can address your dysfunctional inner beliefs. When you can do this, your unconscious mind will feel safe, your nervous system will feel safe. And when you nervous system feels safe, your body will feel safe and finally be able to rebalance and heal.
The body and mind are connected, people!
THIS is what we call ending body burnout. Healing the body is never just about physical healing. It requires looking at the deepest root cause of what led to your body burning out in the first place and/or keeping you in a sick state. 98% of the time the deepest root cause comes back to dysfunctional beliefs, stories, patterns and programs that you have been running for a very long time (even before you got ‘sick’!).
Not many people heal at this deepest level (which is why people continue having health issues pop up time and time again, or why health issues never really resolve), but if you’re the rare 5% of the population who is seeking true and deep healing and you’d like to learn if this can be possible for you, I’d love to invite you to book in for a free discovery call.
Filipa Bellette is Co-Founder of Chris & Filly Functional Medicine. She is an accredited Clinical Nutritionist & Functional Medicine Practitioner. She is also a Ph.D. thought-leader, award-winning writer, and regularly published as a guest blogger & in the media. Together with her husband Chris Bellette, Filipa has worked with over 2,000+ busy, burnout clients in the last 10+ years, and specialises in producing healthy, balanced, and happy Mums & Dads...or as she calls it, a Power Parent! Filipa’s own passion for producing high-performance Power Parents came from her own personal experience of Mummy Burnout, after having babies and juggling the demands of business, family, and her failing health.
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