laundry on the line

When You’re Stressed About Stress

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve recently become aware that I show all the symptoms of low cortisol and adrenal fatigue, and in researching that I’ve learned that managing stress is just as important for low cortisol as it is for too much cortisol.

When I think about managing stress, I’ve always thought about emotional stress – the big, obvious kind that comes from dealing with people or work or circumstances or not sleeping enough. That’s a big part of it, but it turns out, that’s kind of the easy part.

And then there are the environmental stressors – the noise and clutter that unconsciously take up our attention and cause low-grade anxiety and stress. Digital clutter, physical clutter, background noises, the million little decisions we have to make each day – these things can add up and place a lot of stress on us. These are also relatively easy to deal with, albeit time-consuming. But we can all set aside time to tackle the clutter, use white noise or noise-cancelling headphones to block out the noise, and create routines and habits that cut down on our daily decisions.

laundry on the line

Doing things the slow way is one way I’ve been managing stress. Bonus: less exposure to chemicals!

The hardest category for me has been the hidden stressors – all of the exposure to chemicals and toxins and pollutants in our food, our water, the products we use and even the air we breathe that can disrupt our hormones and endocrine system and put stress on our organs, digestive system and immune system. It turns out that this stuff is everywhere, and we don’t need to be aware of it in order for it all to place stress on our bodies that impacts cortisol production and our overall health.

I find this group the hardest because it is so insidious, and because it also carries the biggest monetary cost. It gets expensive to always eat organic and pasture-fed, to take supplements that cancel or mitigate the effects of the toxins, to always drink filtered or purified water, etc. If you’re someone who loves to use makeup and beauty products, finding versions that don’t contain potentially harmful or disruptive chemicals is also difficult and expensive.

I’ve dealt with a lot of this by opting for a more natural approach to beauty and to cleaning. I make my own household cleaner out of vinegar, water and hydrogen peroxide. I’ve also substituted skin and hair care products with ACV and natural oils. I wear makeup rarely enough that I don’t need to worry about the occasional exposure when I do wear it, and I’ve really streamlined and minimized the amount I wear. (Sidenote: my skin has been so much healthier since I started doing all of this.)

Veggie garden

I even started trying to grow my own veggies to help cut down on food toxins and make it easier to eat healthy.

But there’s only so much I can do, and that’s where I’m often tempted to get anxious and let this stuff stress me out, and I realize the irony of getting stressed about trying to avoid stress. But I can’t avoid everything. It’s simply not possible, let alone practical.

So I have a choice. I can either fret about what all those unavoidable toxins are doing to me, thereby making the effects worse by letting it stress me out. Or I can remember and trust that God is sovereign over my health and my lifespan, that he is Yahweh Rapha, the Lord my Healer, and He can protect me from the effects of all that stuff I can’t avoid.

I have a responsibility to be a good steward of my body and my health, but we’re not called to be perfect stewards – only faithful ones. His grace will always be there to fill in the gaps and make up for our shortcomings. I try my best – and my best wavers from day to day – and that’s enough. I have nothing to fear.

This comes back to what has become one of my guiding philosophies for work and life — do the best you can with what you have, right where you are, and trust God to handle the rest. And it’s also a good reminder that when I start to get motivated by fear, I’ve let my gaze wander too far from the One whose perfect love casts out fear.

There’s no way I’ll ever eliminate every source of stress from my life. But as long as I keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, I’ll have perfect peace. And that’s better for my health than all the detox diets in the world.