Every new patient of mine is required to fill out an extensive health history questionnaire. One of the questions I ask is for them to rate their stress handling skills on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 meaning that they have great stress handling skills. I also ask them to rate their stress levels. But of these two questions, to me the person’s stress handling skills is the more important one. The reason for this is because just about everyone deals with a great amount of stress on a regular basis, but most people don’t do a good job of handling stress. And as you probably know, stress can lead to numerous health issues.
Let’s take a look at two different scenarios. Scenario #1 involves a patient with Graves’ Disease who has a stress level of “7”, but their stress handling skills is a “9”. Scenario #2 involves a patient with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis who has a stress level of “5”, but their stress handling skills is a “2”. The fact that they have two different conditions doesn’t matter. What I want to focus on is their stress levels and stress handling skills.
While the patient in scenario #1 has higher stress levels than the patient in scenario #2, she also has significantly greater stress handling skills. If both of these patients were following a natural treatment protocol and didn’t do anything to further improve their stress handling skills, patient #1 would have a better chance of recovering. Obviously there are factors other than stress which play a role in one’s recovery, but stress is a huge factor. So if everything else were equal and the only difference between these two patients was with the different stress handling skills, the patient with the greater stress handling skills would have a better chance of recovering, even if they dealt with more stress on a regular basis.
In fact, if someone has poor stress handling skills and doesn’t do anything to improve this, even if they follow all of my other recommendations, it will be almost impossible for this person to achieve optimal health. They could eat a perfect diet, take the recommended supplements, get sufficient sleep, minimize their exposure to environmental toxins, etc. But if they are unable to manage their stress, they will not fully recover.
Chronic Stress Weakens Both The Adrenal Glands And The Immune System
The reason why someone with chronic stress won’t be able to achieve optimal health is because this stress will impact both the adrenal glands and the immune system. Chronic stress will cause the adrenal glands to secrete cortisol, which over a long period of time will weaken the adrenal glands. And as I’ve discussed in the past, weak adrenal glands will also affect immunity. So it really is critical that someone does a good job of managing their stress.
I’m pretty sure that stress was one of the main factors in my development of Graves’ Disease. I have had some patients ask me what I have done to better deal with the stress. While there are many different stress management techniques one can use (yoga, meditation, etc.), the truth is that I didn’t use any specific technique to manage my stress. Eating healthy and exercising regularly definitely helps me to better deal with stress. But a lot of it is mental in nature, as while there definitely is no shortage of stress in my life, I’ve just learned to handle it much better. In other words, just being aware of the impact stress had on my health has helped improve my stress handling skills over the years. This doesn’t mean I can’t further improve it, as I probably should do some meditation or yoga.
Of course I realize it’s not easy to rate one’s stress handling skills. And many people have a tendency to overestimate their ability to manage stress. If you were to ask me a few years before I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease to rate my stress handling skills on a scale of 1 to 10, I probably would have put an 8 or 9, although it probably was more like a 4 or 5. So while I do pay attention to what people put down on the questionnaires, I realize that some people think they do a good job of managing the stress in their life, but in reality they need to greatly improve their stress handling skills.
In summary, if you’re looking to restore your health back to normal by following a natural thyroid treatment protocol, then it is essential for you to develop good stress handling skills. If you don’t do this and if you deal with a lot of stress on a regular basis then it will be nearly impossible to achieve optimal health, even if you follow all of the other recommendations of the holistic doctor you’re consulting with.
Okay – this is a great idea, but how do you do it? I’m 99% sure I trashed my thyroid with chronic stress, but there’s no end in site to the situation causing the stress.
Dr. Eric says
There are many different ways to manage stress. I personally find that eating well, exercising regularly, and just being aware of the impact chronic stress has helps greatly. Other people need more specific techniques, such as deep breathing, yoga, or biofeedback. The following is an article I’ve written in the past on stress management. Even though it’s target towards people with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, it actually can benefit those with hyperthyroidism or Graves’ Disease as well:
my name is Carolyn and am having a hard time to agree to taking radioactive iodine as a solution to my(graves desease)I always was stressed out as a child and no I never knew how to handle stress. so My thyroid was under hypothyroidisim, for many yrs, after my Mom passed away I ended up with high blood pressure. Now it is over active and my eyes are starting to hurt, they puffed up last summer i was taking tapazole, my thyroid swelled up during the time i was taking the Tapazole, so stopped i was fine for awhile and now it’s acting up again. went to a specialist and they want to kill my thyroid but i disagree. My hands are not tremmering. My heart was racing pumping hard. I took a sm. dose of radioactive iodine they said it was to read the images, and my heart rate has slowed down i’m having decafe coffee 1 a day apposed to having 4 – 6 cups a day. the doctors suggest i go back on tapazole but it really doesn’t agree with me i get confused can’t make up my mind on that stuff. plz help me. what should i do? my email : email@example.com ps i did my own reserch and people with thyroid problems should not have taken the H1N1 flu shot and i was informed to take it by our community health officials.