The other night I was indulging in an episode of trashy reality television. Cat fights, gossip, stilettos — the whole bit. It’s not often I watch these shows because of how sensitive my stress response is, plus I’m just not proud of it, but it’s one of the few guilty pleasures I still can’t shake because it’s so darn ridiculous.
In this episode, one of the cast was arrested and taken into court before a judge. While the judge was executing orders, the charged woman tried to ask a question. The judge cut her off and quickly replied, “Don’t speak. Anything you say can and will be used against you.” Even though this statement shouldn’t seem remarkable, it struck me.
Sure, we’ve all heard those words before (hopefully not in the same circumstances as this woman) but this time it reminded me of something: expression, freedom, the thyroid gland, silence. “Anything you say can and will be used against you.”
Many of the thyroid clients I work with have never (and I do mean never) learned to speak because of how scary it feels. I don’t mean the mechanics of speaking here because of course they do know how to string words together. Rather, I mean the intention of speaking: putting forth new ideas, vulnerable sharing of experiences, speaking off the cuff and from the hip, creation, sussing it out for as long as it takes, and change making.
Why are we so scared to speak?
The fifth chakra of the body governs several things, including the thyroid gland, the throat, the voice box, and the neck. The thyroid gland, which operates as the “master” controlling one’s metabolism, is not separate from your voice. While they may be anatomically distinct systems, they share an energy center which is acting out tension patterns every single day whether we know it or not. This energy pattern usually originates in childhood (or after trauma) and will either be over-developed or underdeveloped based on the adaptation strategies we have learned in order to get the love and care we desire — or, in order to avoid certain punishments from those who prefer we do not speak.
In some ways, developing your fifth chakra abilities is like a baby learning to make its first audible sounds. At first the noises come out as indecipherable vowels and consonants, squeals, shrieks, and growls. Eventually though, through immersion, the child learns to form words, then sentences, and eventually masters written and spoken communication to the point where it is effortless.
So too is our relationship with speaking the truth and our thyroid gland. When you speak authentically, you will release excess tension in that area or you will build-up energy where there was none. Too much energy can indicate hyperthyroid tendencies, and too little can indicate hypothyroid. (I have observed that those with thyroid nodules or comorbid thyroid conditions tend to have a little bit of both.) Knowing when and how to speak is a balancing act that can be remedied in a split second or it may take years depending on the internalized trauma one has endured. Only through practice can we get to the point where we trust our “first” or instinctual voice.
In order to communicate freely, you must address why you were not vocalizing things in the first place. If you take a step back, think about how many times you were scared to speak. Think about how many times you were given “the look” by those in authority. Think about how many times you were spanked, ignored, neglected, ridiculed, guilted, shamed, or had something taken away when you said something others did not like. Is it still happening? Who is doing this to you? It may surprise you that even those closest to us, those whom we love and whom we know love us, are perpetually acting out the silencing.
In many ways, dysregulation of thyroid chakra energy (whether it be too much or too little), points us back to that warning: “anything you say can and will be used against you.” Because it absolutely categorically has been used against us and we have had to learn this lesson over and over to our own detriment. Chances are you have learned to associate speaking with withdrawal, retribution, embarrassment, deprivation, rejection, imperfection, and penance due.
I know you have done these things because I have too. After being silenced for 32 years of my life, I now choose to speak. I choose to speak against the odds, against retaliation, against judgment, against isolation or scapegoating, and against whatever hatred may ensue. I no longer care about the punishment because I have seen the dire consequences of not speaking. I have seen how physically sickened people can become when they turn off this life-giving part of themselves. I have seen how small and miserable it can make people feel when they have no voice.
Your voice is your power. It corrects, it acknowledges, it processes, it prevents, it brings about justice, it plans, it feels, it enjoys, and it releases. When you learn to speak without judging your speech, the power others once had over you no longer activates the sympathetic fight-or-flight response because you see that you are too powerful to be silent for them. You can no longer cater to their desires in martyrdom of your own. In fact, chances are, you were probably so powerful to begin with that your voice was silenced to make life easier for others. Think about that for a minute.
We all get to decide when, how, and to what degree we will speak. Know this: there may always be punishment lurking around the corner. There may always be someone ready to play “gotcha”, ready to argue, ready to tell you it’s your fault because you said something, ready to tell you off. Let me ask you this question: does it matter? Once you activate your fifth chakra, these things no longer hold so much weight because you are fully capable of defending and protecting whatever you have said in truth and honesty to begin with.
Yes, “anything you say can and will be used against you” but whatever is bubbling up to the surface for you to talk about is as necessary to the spirit as pure water is to the body. It may be used against you but how much longer will your body and soul allow you to remain silent?
The term “empath” has gained popularity over the last few years as people seek more and more to understand themselves and their stressors.
I myself am an empathic or highly sensitive person and trust me, going decades without understanding what this personality trait was drove my health into the ground.
When I observe clients with the same traits, I make a point to help them deconstruct this.
Empathic people are highly sensitive to others’ emotions, intentions, and often, even physical sensations. They tend to operate from an “others-centered” place in which we constantly look for ways to reciprocate, recognize the needs of others and meet those, and put off our own needs for risk of feeling selfish—or because we’re waiting for our proverbial “prince charming” or “fairy godmother” to rescue us and finally meet our needs.
In some cases, we also attract people who do not have good intentions for us and actively work to harm us (personally, I did not believe this until I experienced it).
While these are honorable traits and most certainly help others as well as society, empaths run a high risk of burnout and increased physical and emotional health concerns than someone who’s not as sensitive.
The nervous system of an empathic person may operate differently because empaths often feel they’re constantly coming up against threats to their wellbeing. These act as fight-or-flight stress responses and can keep them in a state of constant adrenaline rushes, high or low cortisol, gut dysfunction, high blood pressure (and altered heart or kidney function), nutrient deficiencies, and other hormonal imbalances.
For empaths, it can feel like we don’t have a choice in the matter.
But the good news is, we do! It took me decades to realize I had a choice in how I responded to overwhelming stimuli from others, whether they realized they were putting their difficult emotions and intentions on display for the world or not.
I’ve come up with several ways to help empaths protect themselves from the toxic burden of others’ emotions, expectations, and intentions and now make a point to talk sensitive, stressed clients through these as well.
How empaths can protect their nervous system in a stressful world:
- Identify your triggers. When someone’s presence or an interaction with someone begins to stress you out, stop and consider what about them has left you stressed. There’s usually at least one trigger that has us feeling depleted and overwhelmed (for some of us, there are many triggers).Did this person try to bully you into doing something that you didn’t want to do? Were they too pushy and ignored your boundaries? Did they try to shame you? Did they try to guilt you? Did they seem angry? Did they talk over you and dismiss your thoughts and needs? Did they not show appreciation? Did they seem to not trust you or make you not trust yourself?
- Identify the corresponding wound. Once you understand what the trigger was from the interaction, figure out why that trigger bothers you. Did the anger they projected remind you of an angry parent from childhood? Do you feel like no one ever thanks you? Do you carry shame from an abusive relationship or failed situation in your life? Do you never feel good enough? Did you feel invisible? Did you feel chaotic? Did you feel misunderstood? Did you feel like you did not have equal say? Did you feel trapped?
- Understand your reaction to their emotions and work through it. If you were triggered by someone’s anger and, say, you realize it’s because growing up, your father was always angry and you worried about upsetting him, begin to deconstruct those feelings to get past them. So next time you’re in the close vicinity of someone who cannot control their anger, you can consciously recognize your stress pattern and cut it off at the chase. Instead of devolving into your stress response when confronted with this trigger, you can remind yourself that realistically, this person’s emotions cannot hurt you because, in this example, they’re not your angry father and you are not a small child who can be punished.
- Confront the non-empaths and stand your ground. I’m not proud to say this, but many empathic people are pushovers. I mean that in the most loving way possible, and trust me, I myself was one for over 30 years of my life. I bent over backwards for others, didn’t even consider my needs, and did whatever I could to make other people’s lives easier. They walked all over me and I asked if it was comfortable for them.I had also, without realizing it, attracted people who were good at “using up” empaths for their own agendas. It made me stressed and sick and my nervous system was a mess.
Interestingly enough, just as I was acknowledging my own empathic and intuitive abilities (which I have previously spoken about), I was given a message from an Intuitive professional who said my life lesson for the next 12 years was to trust my intuition and “STAND YOUR GROUND,” which he of course said in a very slow dramatic tone.
I laughed when he told me this but thought, “Okay, I’ll keep that in mind.” It wasn’t until I was put in abusive situations back-to-back-to-back in which my old adaption methods of being the wallflower and appeasing others didn’t work that I realized he was right and I had no choice but to stand up for myself or literally end up in the hospital.
I tell you this as a cautionary tale. We must learn to confront the people who are displacing toxic emotions, intentions, and expectations onto us—whether intentionally or unintentionally—and let them know we will not tolerate it.
That said, I also believe in nonviolent communication and behavior. We must be firm both in our actions and words, but we cannot give non-empaths a taste of their own medicine; we cannot be hateful back. We can only be honest and unyielding in order to protect ourselves. Your physical health and your emotional wellbeing is not up for discussion and if we play their games, they’ll just target us more intently.
As with everything in life, getting “good” at being empathic requires constant work.
Many of us were not taught how to enforce healthy boundaries or how to focus on our own needs. As you work to deconstruct the stress triggers in your relationships and environment, you can become better and better at self-care.
Remember, your wellbeing is not up for discussion and recognizing these things is a very important step towards improving your health.
Spring has officially sprung and while some people were recently knee-deep in snow and cold weather, no matter where you live you’re likely feeling a resurgence of energy to just get started!
Spring is one of my favorite seasons because it symbolizes new beginnings and not only the desire to set new intentions but to start actively pursuing them. Chances are, you’re feeling this way too and you’re ready to give your physical health the attention it’s been craving all winter.
It’s important to get clear on your goals—no matter what those may be—and what’s holding you back because recognition keeps us motivated through rough patches, hard work, and stagnation.
There were many times in my journey healing my Hashimoto’s where I felt discouraged and alone, but I never let it allow me to quit. Instead, I persisted until remission was accomplished. I have witnessed many clients do the same with plenty of education and support, plain ol’ elbow grease, and unwavering intention.
Setting Your Intention
To accomplish your health goals, first start out by putting a voice to them.
- What specifically do you want to see improve with your physical or mind-body health?
- Which symptoms are a total drag on your everyday life?
- Which are limiting you from being the person you want to be?
- What is utterly painful or annoying?
- What is it that you truly desire for your health?…
…fewer symptoms, less medication, remission, the ability to enjoy vigorous exercise again, better sleep, fewer depressed moods, less bloat, thicker hair, increased libido?
Put those wishes to paper and map out your end goal.
Make a list, then edit it. Come back to it and add when you notice something new you’d like to resolve and check off the goals you’ve achieved.
This needs to be written down and/or spoken.
When you do this, it becomes tangible and something to work towards. It also allows you to see the areas that need specific solutions. Whenever you’re feeling discouraged, go back to your list and remind yourself what you want for your life and how far you’ve come.
Then keep persisting.
We often have deep desires for ourselves that we never write down or verbalize because we’re scared we’ll fail. “What if I say this and it never happens? How stupid will I feel?”
But again, setting a specific intention is the first place to start. To succeed, we have to also identify and forgo the negative mindsets that hold us back.
There’s no doubt that changing your diet will improve your health; we have the science (and people who’ve lived it) to support this. Instead of operating from a place of, “What if it goes wrong?”…begin with “I’ll try no matter what.”
This isn’t to say that things always go according to plan, but if you have the desire to reach your goals, your health will undoubtedly improve because you’ll always seek solutions and implement those solutions no matter what.
When I was pregnant with my daughter in 2012, I wanted a homebirth. I was a young, first-time mom who had no knowledge of what labor actually felt like. The older women in my life offered me patronizing skepticism because I’d never done it and it’s hard work!
But I knew this was what I wanted for my child, so I persisted into four long days of unmedicated labor with all of the fear, doubt, and insecurities that arose in each contraction—or lack thereof. Early on the fifth day, I birthed a healthy 9-plus pound baby girl and was so thrilled that I’d achieved my goal despite what any naysayers told me.
Any health journey will require the same mindset. Yes I was young, yes I was inexperienced, yes I had high hopes. But I knew it was possible. So I persisted. And I did it.
You have to go into any goal with the mindset that nothing is impossible, nothing out of your reach. This can be one of the most challenging things you’ll ever do because it requires breaking age-old patterns of thought that tell us things like, “This is genetic. There are no solutions. I must live this way forever.” Or, “This approach is too non-traditional.”
Family, friends, doctors, and co-workers often discourage us from even trying, only because they too are limited to their own cyclical, negative thinking. If they haven’t experienced it for themselves or read the research, it may be difficult for them to understand the goals you have for yourself. But remember, there are always solutions—it’s simply up to us to find them.
And it’s important to actively seek out supportive, well-educated allies to help us along in the process.
Hire a Coach
Although I graduated from nutrition school and have a deep love for imparting nutrition research onto my clients, this isn’t the only benefit I offer them.
Hiring a coach is an integral part of your health equation because we’ve been in the trenches ourselves (a good coach will have “been there”) and we understand the journey. We get the ups and downs, bumps in the road, and huge accomplishments. We understand that “this too shall pass.”
When you’re going at your health goals alone, you can become scared of every little setback, be worried about which next steps to take, agonize over every dietary decision, or miss a huge piece of the puzzle altogether—a piece that’s critical for sequencing an approach for lasting results.
Sequencing matters. Big time.
When you have a coach by your side, helping you investigate all factors and piece things together, you can customize a personalized, sequential approach. Adopting random strategies in random order is akin to bailing water out of a leaky boat.
It’s difficult to see things for yourself (even for coaches!) and becomes challenging to see the big picture—the forest for the trees, if you will. As a health coach, I’m not simply creating a specific, strategic diet plan for my clients. I’m also there to hold their hand and say, “This is one bump, it’s not the end of your journey. Do you know how far you’ve come?” It’s seeing a client in their time of vulnerability and saying, “You are so powerful. You’ve got this.”
Action Steps to Take Now
Once you set your specific goals, identify any negative thinking that’s holding you back, and find support, here are the next action steps to take:
1. Undergo an elimination/provocation diet. This involves removing possible food triggers/antigens from your diet for at least three weeks, then reintroducing one by one to chart any reactions. Any foods you are sensitive to and still consuming will affect how your gut, immune system, and hormones function.
2. Identify gut dysfunction. Is your gut “leaky,” allowing food proteins, bacteria, and yeasts into circulation in the bloodstream where they don’t belong? This will perpetuate the allergy-autoimmune-inflammation cycle and also make it difficult to truly digest and absorb the nutrients you’re getting from foods. See #1—doing this diet is a fantastic start in “healing and sealing” the intestinal lining, although many people need additional support cleansing yeast and bacteria from the gut.
3. Support detoxification. We live in a world full of chemical byproducts. No matter how hard we try, they’re inescapable, though we can certainly reduce exposure. Start by weeding out contact with harsh chemicals, plastics, and other immune- and endocrine-disrupting substances. Then add in foods and supplements to support your kidneys, liver, and bowel in their detoxification processes.
4. Deconstruct your stressors. Stress isn’t just the concerns over money, your job, or relationship problems. Stress is the undercurrent of our nervous system in any given situation—and we’re reacting all the time, whether we realize it or not. In every moment, try to tune into your heart rate/blood pressure, thoughts, and breathing to see where you’re stressed and then, begin to work through the problems in the given environment.
Remember, pain is always the signal.
You’re being asked to undergo a healing process to resolve it. It’s up to us to recognize it and act on it.
Set your intentions, identify anything (or anyone) holding you back, work with a coach to guide you in the process, and just get started.