This is my personal road to wellness, but please note everyone is different. I am not a medical professional. Neither my story nor any product I discuss is intended to diagnose, prescribe, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. It is your responsibility to educate yourself and address any health or medical concerns you may have with your doctor or health care professional.
Some of you may have heard my story before. My journey overcoming adrenal fatigue didn’t include a magic pill or quick-fix “microwave medicine.” Mine is a story that thousands of women live out every day; and one that thousands more are well on their way to experiencing. Perhaps you’re one of these women. Today, we live with drug over-use, adulterated foods, nutritional deficiencies, stress, addictions, and more daily toxin exposure than any other generation in history.
As a drug-obsessed culture, the more we take, the sicker we get. As a country abundantly overflowing with food, the more we eat, the less nourished we are. And, as women who’ve been told we can “have it all,” the more we do, the less satisfied we seem to be. As a result, we’re seeing more depression, hormone imbalance, auto-immune disease, diabetes, cancer, and mystery illnesses than ever before.
The lifestyle change that brought true and lasting healing to my life involved some essential adjustments to my daily living that included and excluded things I hadn’t ever considered very important. I’d like to start my story by putting you in the place where I was when the mystery began…a place of confusion and desperation.
Overworked, Overloaded, and Overwhelmed
Over a decade ago, I found myself in a fog. Our family had been under several years of near-constant stress. We had remained on “emergency mode” while running four full-time retail businesses, including the managing and publishing of a demanding international magazine.
I began traveling around the country with my husband and our ten children (sometimes for weeks at a time) speaking at homeschool conferences and eating on the road. During this time, I was homeschooling, writing books, editing a magazine, having and nursing babies, and helping my husband in the ministry of the church where he pastored.
Most of these things were supposed to be temporary (until we could hire more help); however, because our finances kept us in bondage, things grew more and more out of control. When you’re overloaded and on a crazy-tight budget, healthy eating, and even sleep, seem like the only disposable options. Who needs sleep, right?
Years later, even after the crazy-life began to slowly dissipate, what I discovered was that my body had already suffered the consequences. The damage was done and it was going to take a long time to correct. But, for me, it would get worse before it got better. My husband and I had to learn to let things go.
Emergency Mode: Fight or Flight
Let’s back up for a minute and talk about the fight or flight response? It’s a response mechanism that God gave us to help us escape danger when necessary.
The stress hormone, cortisol, is released by the adrenal glands as a response to danger, fear, or panic. When we shift into emergency mode, we get a blast of energy, and all our senses go into overdrive. Which is crucial if you’re trying to run from a bear, but we’re not designed to live in non-stop emergency mode.
When this happens, cortisol builds up in our blood, stresses our adrenals, and wreaks havoc on our endocrine system, as a whole. Which, in turn, affects every other system in our bodies!
“Eustress [good stress] creates a “seize-the-day” heightened state of arousal, which is invigorating and often linked with a tangible goal. Cortisol levels return to normal upon completion of the task. Distress [bad stress], or free-floating anxiety, doesn’t provide an outlet for the cortisol and causes the fight-or-flight mechanism to backfire.” – Christopher Bergland, Psychology Today
Scientists have known for years that elevated cortisol levels cause lowered immune function, unhealthy weight gain, memory problems, high blood pressure, hormone imbalance, elevated cholesterol, thyroid problems, and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Elevated cortisol levels also increase the risk of depression and mental illness.
All the body systems work synergistically; so, when one thing is off, it affects everything else. That’s why it’s important to do what we can to keep our whole body (and mind) at optimum health.
Worse Before Better
In 2006, during the week of my 40th birthday, we moved from Southeast Texas to Central Illinois and settled into a quiet place in the country where my husband had accepted a pastorate. Looking back at photos during this time, I was gaunt and pale. I had lost a lot of weight and already felt the effects of fatigue, but I didn’t realize it was affecting my health.
We loved the idea of a “simpler life.” But, while we were relieved to have the burden of multiple businesses lifted, there were parts of ministry life that we hadn’t anticipated, and that continued to be very stressful to us both.
A couple of months after we moved, our oldest daughter, Christa, got married. Wedding planning took place amid boxes, house hunting, and getting to know our new surroundings. Two adults and 9 children (with three under five and one still nursing) in a two-bedroom hotel room with only a kitchenette…for a month…wasn’t stressful at all!
Also, finances were tight, so eating healthy was sometimes a challenge, and the stress of paying bills weighed heavily upon us both – usually in the middle of the night or the wee hours of the morning.
Over the next year, I wrote another book, continued my speaking engagements, homeschooled my children, and continued to support my husband in the ministry of our new and growing church. Life was full.
Between 2006-2013, three more children were married, and ministry life was beginning to take a toll on the health of our whole family. I was becoming worn out. My husband was weary too; but, as the eternal optimist, it took him a while to notice. This was when I first started to realize something had to change.
The Spiral Downward
I had no energy and too much energy all at the same time.
I typically woke up every morning around 3:30-4:00 a.m. with the “weight of the world” on my mind. I filed through all the things that needed to be done, weren’t being done well, or needed to change. I worried about children, remembered responsibilities I had forgotten, agonized over all the things I wasn’t doing right or well, and basically tried to solve the world’s problems in my head.
I usually manage to get back to sleep right before it was time to get up. But as tired as I often was, it was usually the most energy I would have for the day.
By early afternoon, I was dragging. While homeschooling the kids, I often had to read and re-read the same material over and over to comprehend what it said. Right about that time, another child would need something, and I would completely forget what I was doing with the first child. I was overwhelmed, exhausted, jumpy, and emotionally “buzzed.”
I had no energy and too much energy all at the same time. I had no patience to deal with a busy household and rambunctious children. And it was impossible to take a nap, since every little noise made me jump and worry, “Was that one of the kids needing attention?”
Sometimes, while reading to the kids, I just fell asleep out of sheer exhaustion. “Mommy, mommy, the story isn’t over!” Frustrated, I would cry again. What is wrong with me? But as sleepy as I was, I felt like my nerves were on the outside of my skin.
Starting to Notice
While I knew I didn’t feel right, it was so gradual that I figured it was just the aging process, and this was to be my lot in life from now on. I had been super skinny (to the point of being self-conscious about it) my entire life, but suddenly I was 21 lb. over what I had ever weighed (even pregnant!). And, at 4′ 10″, that was a lot of weight! And all in the wrong places!
The decline continued. I had dark circles under my eyes, my skin was pale, and my hair was falling out in hand fulls. When my poor husband asked me what was wrong, I burst into tears, “I don’t know!” And I didn’t! I knew something was terribly wrong, but I couldn’t verbalize it. Was I crazy?
My memory started to get really bad…I mean, scary-bad. I even (secretly) Googled “Early Alzheimer’s” to check for symptoms. There were times when I would be driving down the road and would completely forget where I was going, for minutes at a time, long enough to miss my turn or exit! Sometimes, when we were traveling, I would even forget what state we were in!
I would forget entire conversations that had just happened; and I began to get self-conscious when talking to friends, wondering whether or not I had insulted them by not remembering some important topic or plan we had recently discussed. I couldn’t focus on simple conversations because my mind was racing, which caused even more anxiety! I wrote things down and saved emails in an effort to remember the details of life.
But the jumpiness was the worst. Sometimes, I would panic when a car was coming toward me in their own lane. I began to avoid driving, especially at night. My startle response was stretched so thin that even children playing and squealing in the next room or practicing the piano put me on edge. I couldn’t relax.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
My husband posted this prayer request for me on Facebook in February 2010. A month later, a family friend introduced me to Young Living and I joined. Little did I know my world was about to get rocked.
The Mystery Symptom
Oddly enough, what pushed me to get the answers I needed wasn’t the exhaustion, the memory loss, or the anxiety; it was a single, irritating, yet seemingly benign, symptom that, to this day, remains a mystery. It disappeared as mysteriously as it came. Our body knows what will get our attention!
I had resolved myself to the other symptoms—symptoms that were truly making the day to day fairly miserable-—symptoms I assumed came either from old age or some exotic illness that I’d never figure out.
But this. This symptom I needed relief from NOW! What finally caused me to pursue help from an integrative doctor in California was the development of sudden unexplained itching on my arms, legs, neck, and abdomen that went on for nearly a year. I had no rash and no skin irritation (except what had been caused by the scratching).
The itching had become so intense that it frequently woke me up in the middle of the night in tears wanting to claw my skin off. I had already tried going to our family doctor, who simply prescribed for me expensive creams that didn’t work (not even a little) and that had disturbing side effects.
I researched Lyme Disease, Lupus, Fibromyalgia, parasites, and the list went on; but nothing seemed to fit exactly what I was going through.
Finally, while visiting my daughter in California, her mother-in-law made an appointment for me with her integrative doctor. Numerous tests later, I was diagnosed with Adrenal Fatigue. My adrenals were shot, my thyroid was low, my hormones were out of whack, my Vitamin D was at 16, and my gut was messed up. I was told I needed to make some significant lifestyle changes to regain my health.
I finally had hope that things didn’t have to stay the way they were! But wow! I didn’t know how much better they were going to get!
Often, we don’t pay attention to our health until we realize we’re losing it (or have already lost it). We accept that slow decline way too early in life because we don’t pay enough attention to the red flags. We are negligent about what we eat, the stress load we accept, and the toxins with which we fill our lives.
A Lifestyle Change
This was when I began my slow journey to wellness. While some symptoms resolved sooner, it took several years for my adrenals to completely heal. Since that day in 2010, a lot has changed. I am often told by people who haven’t seen me in a while that I look younger now in my 50’s than I did in my 40’s. I don’t know about that, but I certainly feel younger, and I have a lot more energy than I did then!
In addition to eliminating gluten from my diet (which was huge), I made other major lifestyle changes. I started using Young Living’s supplements, as well as Ortho Molecular’s Vitamin D, and dedicated my kitchen to whole food cooking (including a passion for bone broth!).
I also got serious about detoxing my home and my body, so I ditched and switched to Young Living’s bath and beauty products, as well as their all-natural Thieves Cleaning Products, infused with pure essential oils.
It was about this time that I also got down and dirty serious about essential oils. I used them daily, and for just about everything! I diffused them day and night, took them as supplements, and slathered them all over my body! When I realized that essential oils came from the botanicals God had spoken into existence at Creation for the “service of man,” it became my passion and mission to share with others how they were helping me!
Feeling Fabulous in my Fifties!
A whole food diet, sunshine, deliberate stress reduction, supplements, essential oils, NingXia Red, the Psalms, financial relief, some healthy “down time,” and a focus on the simpler things in life were all part of the changes that finally helped direct me to a healthier lifestyle! And what a difference it has made!
Part of my daily regiment began to include 2-6 ounces of NingXia Red, an immune system-supporting antioxidant beverage loaded with nutrition, and natural energy for my tired body!
I chose essential oils that helped to support a healthy endocrine system, digestive system, immune system, and central nervous system. I diffused them, inhaled them on my hands, rubbed them into my temples and the bottoms of my feet, and I even ingested certain vitality oils in a capsule or a spoonful of honey.
Our home smelled amazing and our whole family began to feel more relaxed…and energized. It was a great combination!
With my head cleared and my energy restored, I began to realize that what we put in and on our bodies matters. What we inhale, eat, drink, and slather all over our bodies (which gets into our bloodstream) makes a difference one way or the other.
Stress drains us. A lack of sunshine saps our health – Vitamin D is so, so crucial (I took 10,000 IU’s per day for nearly a year – then I cut back to 5000 for maintenance)!
Many people are all into their supplements, daily exercise, and even essential oils, but they still use toxic chemicals on their skin and in their homes, eat their junk food, smoke, and work themselves silly. That’s like trying to fill a leaky cup.
What I discovered, is that Young Living isn’t just about essential oils; it’s a complete lifestyle change that caused me to pay more attention to my own health, as well as the health of my family. It encouraged me to study and then to start teaching other women all that I was learning about health, diet, wellness, and essential oils.
The healthy lifestyle I discovered made me realize the importance of the Christian’s response to God’s gift of oils – gifts straight from His hand at Creation. I also learned things I thought I already knew about community, personal growth, and leadership.
When I was exhausted and emotionally “buzzed” from fatigue and roller coaster emotions, I found it much more difficult to work hard, avoid sinful responses, be faithful with what I was called to do, or even to consistently read my Bible!
These 12 simple, but deliberate lifestyle changes reduced my stress and anxiety, impacted my gut health, helped me to lose weight, and lowered my cortisol levels:
- Scripture and Prayer – There is absolutely nothing more important than communing with God, reading His Word, and spiritually recharging each day. There is no real peace without Jesus. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4
- Physical Activity – Take a walk, ride a bike, swim, dance, practice aerobics, take the stairs instead of the elevator, learn a new sport! Whatever physical activity you can do, DO IT! Even “marital bliss” is a physical sport worth practicing regularly! The cortisol that is released during healthy, physical activity recreates the “flight” outlet and burns up cortisol!
- Massage and Relaxation – Yes, please. But even if you can’t get a professional massage, find ways to relax. Turn off the computer, television, phone, etc. and just enjoy the peace and quiet. You don’t always have to be “doing” something. Deep breathing exercises using essential oils is huge. Google “How to engage the Vagus Nerve” sometime. When you engage the Vagus nerve, this triggers a signal within your nervous system to slow heart rate, lower blood pressure, and decrease cortisol. Aromatherapy using essential oils can drastically enhance this process.
- Down-Time – Take the kids to the park or find a lake or body of water to enjoy. Unplug and find some nature to get into! Take a weekend off with your spouse and plan to do nothing but relax together! Contemplate life by the fire or on the porch. Read or write a poem! Take up journaling! I recommend the book, Switch on Your Brain, by Dr. Caroline Leaf. Learn to think healthy, life-promoting thoughts!
- Family Time and Community – Invite friends over. Have a hymn sing, play a game, or host a Bible study! Practice hospitality!
- Laughter – Lots of it! Learn to let things go and enjoy life! Find a clean comedian to watch and enjoy laughing with the family! Play charades! Laughter helps to release cortisol.
- Essential Oils (singles and blends)/Aromatherapy – Progessence Plus, Endo-Flex, Nutmeg, Vetiver, Frankincense, Lavender, Peace & Calming, Joy, Copaiba, Sacred Sandalwood, Stress Away, En-R-Gee, Idaho Balsam Fir, Clary Sage, SclarEssence, Rose
- Supplements – NingXia Red, Vitamin D, Cortistop, Omegagize (contains omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D-3, and CoQ10!), Super B, Thyromin, Mindwise, Master Formula, Sulfurzyme, Life 9, Essentialzymes 4, Sulfurzyme, Super B, Mineral Essence, Super C, MegaGal Fresh air and sunlight are super important, so enjoy the sunshine whenever possible! Young Living has a fantastic natural sun screen! But most of us still need a Vitamin D supplement boost! Again, I recommend Ortho Molecular brand.
- Diet – I went gluten free out of necessity, but I also eventually switched to a whole food/paleo type diet. Consider a food sensitivity test to see if there are any foods your body isn’t tolerating well. I was surprised, but found this to be key in regaining my health!
- Water Intake – I immediately started drinking large(r) amounts of water and cut out all sodas and bottled juices. Who knew such a small thing could have such amazing results?
- Integrative Doctor – I found it very helpful to have an integrative doctor who could guide me through the process of regaining my health. She was able to do various blood, saliva, and urine tests that helped us to target my body’s needs. She was also able to help me to discover which foods I needed and what I needed to absolutely avoid. She looked for the root of my problems, rather than merely treating the symptoms.
- Sleep – Sleep is super important for a healthy body! Young Living has an awesome supplement called Sleep Essence, which combines lavender, vetiver, valerian, and Ruta graveolens essential oils with the hormone melatonin—a well-known sleep aid—SleepEssence is a natural way to enable a full night’s rest!Also, try unplugging early, and instead enjoy a warm bath with one of YL’s relaxing bath bombs or a Cup of epsom salt mixed with your favorite essential oils (vetiver, frankincense, lavender, stress away, sandalwood, Peace & Calming, ylang ylang, or rose are all excellent choices!).Diffusing these oils or using them topically on your temples, neck, and the bottoms of your feet are good choices too! Enjoy!
God used Young Living to equip our family with the resources we needed to enjoy our health, and to spend more time together as a family. We have also grown to better appreciate a larger circle of friends – precious people who we may never have otherwise met. Sharing Christ’s love, while meeting the real physical and emotional needs of others, has perhaps been the biggest blessing of all.