How to Decrease Stress Through Nervous System Regulation

Polyvagal Theory is a term thrown around quite a bit in the world of counseling and functional medicine, but how does it play a role in our stress responses in the day-to-day? That’s what this episode focuses on. This is a deep dive into understanding what it means to be in a state of “fight, flight, or freeze,” and how to support your body in healing so that you can become more stress resilient!

Carly Stagg is a former nutritional therapist turned family nurse practitioner specializing in functional medicine. Her professional practice focuses on autoimmunity, hormone balance, and thyroid care, as well as complex chronic conditions such as mold, Lyme, PANS and PANDAS with a nurturing, gentle approach. She is passionate about the innate self-healing capacity of the body and especially practicing medicine in a way that supports the body in regaining balance rather than competing with its natural state. She currently sees patients via telehealth at Ritual Functional Medicine. She has partnered with Chelsea Blackbird in creating the upcoming School of Christian Health and Nutrition, a 9-month training program focused on empowering and equipping those who feel called to work in the field of health and nutrition.

Download and listen to this episode here or find wherever you get podcasts.

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How to Survive Stress Without Burning Out

It is well-known that chronic stress contributes to chronic disease. Research shows that as much as 90% of illness is attributed to the impact of stress. Finding a way to manage stress in our very busy world of constant notifications is a challenge. So I was excited to connect with Erica Cuni for this recent podcast episode. Spoiler: multiple listeners have written in to tell me that this is their favorite one!

Erica Cuni, known as “The Burnout Professor,” is a stress and burnout expert. She teaches high-achievers how to consciously thrive through an integrative approach. Erica is the founder of “The C.U.N.I. Method” – which stands for Create Undeniable Natural Impact. She is a former Trauma Psychotherapist, Clinical Director, and Adjunct Lecturer and Clinical Professor at Central Connecticut State University. Her mission is to help make the mental health field more effective, accessible, decolonized, and non-stigmatizing.

Download this episode here or listen wherever you get podcasts.

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Are Your Thoughts Making You Gain Weight?

Confession: I took a page out of the media handbook and hit you with a headline to get your attention. Weight gain is not as simple as “thinking it into existence.”

But I CAN tell you this: what you think about your food changes your ability to absorb and utilize nutrients.

Have you heard of the cephalic phase of digestion?

This phase is crucial to how our food is utilized. How and what you THINK about your food impacts the way your body absorbs and utilizes nutrients. In fact, researchers have shown that 30-40% of our digestive response is due to the cephalic phase, which is our awareness of what we are consuming.

This is what your brain needs to know:

  • Does it smell good?
  • Is it colorful?
  • Does it look appealing?
  • Are you grateful for it?
  • Does it appear to be a threat to your survival?
  • Will you feel nourished and safe with this meal?

The crazy thing is, you’re not even thinking these things on a conscious level. But your body picks up on it. In fact, there is an interesting component to this phase, called the “cephalic phase insulin response.” Simply thinking about carbs, or even fantasizing about a piece of cake or candy you are restricting, can cause your body to produce excess insulin. This is just another reason I like to focus on the principle of ADDITION over RESTRICTION… and another reason I hate dieting. Stress is stress to your body, whether it’s a perceived stressor or a real stressor.

So, this holiday season, be intentional about pleasure. Get excited to sit down and eat a nourishing meal with those you care about. I always say, “a body in stress will not digest,” and this reminder is needed even more so during the holidays.

When you sit to eat, slow down, breathe in between bites, and chew your food. Remember – the only part of digestion you can control is the amount of times you chew to assist in the breakdown. Be sure to allow your senses to take over; that’s when the magic happens. Food heals. It brings peace.

Food is crucial for survival. We must create a relationship with food that makes us feel safe.

If not, we make what is intended to be a restful and healing experience a stressful and inflammatory experience.

Your body will let you know which is which. 

If you need help with any of the above, reach out! Optimizing digestion is a big part of what I like to work on with my one-on-one clients. We also dive into this a bit in my Feast 2 Fast program, which re-launches early in January. It looks like another weight loss program, but I assure you, it’s all about incorporating real food into our real lives – and allowing room for the fun food we get pleasure from.

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with good food, good people, and lots of good JOY!

Stress and Your Immune System

I’m going to keep this short and sweet, but it needs to be said.

When you’re stressed, your body isn’t prioritizing immune health.

When you’re stressed – and this includes physical stress as well as emotional – your body’s main job is prioritizing survival of the stressor. All other functions get altered in order to survive.

Healing can only occur in a parasympathetic state. Learning to manage stress and actively rest, limiting stressful external physical triggers as well as negative self-talk, gives your body a chance to heal…which optimizes immune function.

Some of us are living as if every day we are running from a saber tooth tiger. Your body doesn’t know you’re just stressed from kids’ schedules, relationship conflicts, pandemic fear, work, sleep issues, your dietary restrictions or nutrient deficiencies, and your stressful exercise routine (yeah, that’s a stressor).

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