I haven’t always been as health-conscious as I am today but, growing up, I had a great foundation for general health. My father was a professional athlete and collegiate coach and my mother was a “weekend warrior” athlete. I grew up with health, fitness and exercise being major priorities.
But while I was fortunate to learn the importance of prioritizing basic health when I was young, other things fell through the cracks. Perfectionism and overachievement were heavily rewarded in our household. This can be emotionally and developmentally healthy, but it can also set children up for a lifetime of self-induced stress and anxiety – especially when that anxiety is modeled by one or both parents. I know now that this behavior can be unintentionally passed down to kids and then recycled over to the next generation – until we personally decide to say “no more” and take a stand for our and our family’s health.
My parents were wonderful and my home life was great, but no family is perfect. Both of my parents were type-A, high-achieving and successful in their own careers. Looking back now, it’s clear that with my mother in particular, chronic anxiety pushed her harder and harder to overachieve.
My mother truly loved life and was the most gregarious and fun person I have ever known, but underneath it all she was suffocating from unrelenting anxiety that was gnawing away from the inside.
This angst would frequently explode out in one of what we called Mom’s “meltdowns.” From my point of view as a child, it seemed that her bursts of frustration, crying, screaming – totally at her wit’s end – were random, and that just the smallest thing would set them off for no real reason.
As an adult, I know better. She literally could not help it and, besides, how many of us haven’t felt the need to just let it rip from time to time? Occasionally, that’s normal and even healthy but it can easily become symptomatic of something much more serious.
We know so much more now about women’s hormones and the role they can play on physical and mental health than we ever did in the 1980s or even the 1990s. It’s also true – both then and now – that women’s health concerns are often disregarded and minimized by standard Western medicine.
Truer still, women are expected to be and do everything with little to no appreciation or recognition. Always putting yourself first is a psychological and physical burden that is simply not sustainable. Something eventually must give. I saw it in my own mother’s life and I still see it today in many of my patients until we begin working together.
Our mental and physical health are directly linked. The chronic stress my mother experienced due to overwhelm and anxiety materialized as breast cancer in 1998. After a mastectomy, radiation and five years of tamoxifen, she had apparently cleared that hurdle. She fought it like a champ and, of course, being who she was, went into her office after radiation treatments with a trash can by her side so she could throw up between meetings. She was not about to let anything stop her.
All things cancer-related seemed good for the next 15 years but her chronic anxiety was still a constant, unrelenting companion. Then, in 2013, just at the beginning of my medical career, I got the call – the one I always knew might come and deep down on some level knew would happen. My mother’s cancer had returned. It was stage 4 and had come back with a vengeance.
After a two-year battle of chemo, PET scans, biopsies and crushing angst, the waiting was finally over and she was no longer in pain. The long, slow goodbye was complete.
At this point, my life and career path were forever changed.
What are those of us that are left behind supposed to do?
How do we pick up the pieces and make something of an otherwise horrible experience?
What is there to be learned?
No two people deal with upheavals like this in the same way. For me, the most effective way to handle grief has been to use the pain to clarify my calling as a healthcare provider. My mission has changed to focusing on serving other women – mothers, sisters, wives and partners – who are dealing with challenges similar to the one that eventually took my own mother.
An unintentional inheritance I received was the visceral awareness that life is short. I have turned this awareness into action. Now, I share my deep and transformative medical knowledge – information that could have helped my mother, had I known it back then – to help other women just like her by holistically addressing anxiety, burnout and overwhelm before it’s too late.
I work diligently to help more women get a lasting handle on their own anxiety so the same story doesn’t have to play out in their own lives and in the lives of their families. No woman should have to leave her friends and family way to soon because she simply didn’t know of other, more holistic ways to address chronic anxiety before it literally burns up the body from the inside out.
While there are certainly some genetic predispositions that make some people more susceptible to the grip of chronic anxiety, much can be done to mitigate those tendencies. Proper nutrition, lifestyle management and making sure that your home and work environment support you all play a role in keeping your anxiety well managed.
Today, I coach patients on how to eliminate the three primary areas of stress from their lives:
- Metabolic stressors: providing the right lab tests so we can determine internal stressors and imbalances and how best to address them naturally.
- External stressors: Learning to notice and eliminate toxic load from the environment, people, work and other areas.
- Mental stressors: Taking realistic approaches to mindfulness and setting boundaries and exploring other often-elusive concepts so you can finally claim your calm.
My goal for clients is empowerment and long-term health resiliency so you can finally feel like yourself again – or for the very first time.
Bottom line: your DNA is not your destiny. You do have the ability to make changes with compassionate support, guidance and accountability.
And I have more good news if you are feeling stressed, anxious, out of gas and at your wit’s end: it’s not your fault. We are living longer than ever before in a culture and world that glorifies burning the candle at both ends while we are constantly bombarded by environmental toxins and stressful stimuli 24/7/365.
The stress we live under and its effects on the body are harder on women’s internal systems than they are on men’s. That’s not sexist – it’s a physiological fact. Another fact is that women typically receive less guidance and support from their healthcare providers because their health concerns are not taken seriously.
The world out there is not going to change so it’s up to us to get real. We can be brave and make the necessary changes to advocate for ourselves so we can be there for the ones we love and get the most joy out of our lives. I have made it my life’s work to support women’s physical and mental health by finally connecting them with the right tools and evidence-based answers.
I am sick and tired of other providers who have dismissed their patients and blamed women’s health issues simply on “hormones” or “getting older.” Even worse are those physicians who have been neither responsible enough to educate themselves nor humble enough to realize that there are other options available for their female patients.
True healing opportunities treat women as individuals, not numbers in a system that doles out cookie-cutter prescriptions and protocols. Those old models simply do not work.
No mother, sister, daughter or friend should have to say goodbye way too soon. No mother should have to feel guilty for the intense emotions she feels or worry about the impact of those emotions on her kids. A woman should never feel guilty for simply feeling what she feels because those feelings are real and they are legitimate.
I do this work in honor of my mother and for all the other women out there I see on a daily basis doing their best to live with chronic pain, anxiety and burnout.
Enough is enough.
I have dedicated my practice to combining my diverse knowledge of both Eastern and Western medicine along with functional medicine, anxiety management and behavior change to get to the physical and environmental root causes of my patient’s anxiety, pain and feelings of overwhelm.
Together, we accomplish this by creating programs and wellness solutions that get to the underlying causes. We address them, one by one, once and for all in a way that is individualized, realistic and easy to follow.
Most importantly, my goal is not to make my patients dependent upon me. Rather, I show you the framework and coach the right changes for your own body. I do this by providing loving kindness, compassion and radical accountability so you can lead your best life. You can seamlessly and effectively manage your anxiety, feel like yourself again and be there for your friends and family for a very long time to come.
If my story resonates with you and you would like to know more about my health rebuilding programs, I’d love to carve out some time to determine if it’s a fit for your own goals.