Does Wellness Start with the Medicine Cabinet?

This might sound like an odd question coming from a Health & Nutrition Coach but it is a funny way of asking: where should we start when it comes to being well?

This morning, as I was getting ready to take my five-year-old daughter to camp, I felt myself in a whirlwind of stress. We were late, her lunch was not made and she was so exhausted from the week that she refused to get dressed. As I was frantically brushing my teeth, I thought about just throwing in the towel and staying home today. Then I took a
purposeful, but way too short breath, and considered the relaxing herbs and essential oils that were lined up in my medicine cabinet. But as I went to open it I caught a glance of my frantic self in the mirror and stopped short. Other than the fact that I saw how horribly frazzled I looked, I realized that the answer was in fact in the medicine cabinet. But not on the inside…the reflection I saw on the outside…in the mirror. ME.

At that moment I realized that my elevated heart rate, clenched jaw and surge of cortisol were completely in my control. Although I could not change the situational stress I could control my reaction to it. It also dawned on me that I had gone to sleep too late last night and, at that moment, my frantic reaction and poor decision to have that extra cup of coffee was making the situation (and my health) worse.

We have these moments all day when we can choose how to handle situations, or what behaviors to engage in, that will either set a healthy foundation or set-off a downward spiral. For example, the simple fact that every time we handle stress negatively our cortisol levels increase is no small thing. Cortisol, is a powerful chemical. It is a steroid-based hormone that has a mechanism to enter cells and modify our gene activity. The amount of cortisol in your body is driven by the amount of stress you are experiencing. In addition, caffeine consumption, your eating patterns, how much physical activity you get and your sleep patterns all affect how much cortisol is released in your system. Cortisol's main function is to save us when we are under stress. It also serves other critical functions like breaking down stored proteins for cell repair, reducing the inflammatory response and aid in proper distribution of glucose and other nutrients.

All good, right? The problem is that when too much cortisol is produced, particularly over a long period of time, there can be significant consequences to our health. These include increased inflammation, high blood pressure, cellular damage, weight gain and depression to name a few.

There is no question that there are things in our medicine cabinets that can help us feel better. In this case I am using the term “medicine cabinet” broadly to cover all external fixes – pills, potions and practitioners. Some are extremely helpful tools and certainly should be used to support us. After all, how bad could breathing in essential oils be? But the next
time you reach for something in your personal medicine cabinet, take a six second pause in the mirror and ask
yourself if you have done all you can do first. Learning to pause and take responsibility for what is in your control will
start building your awareness and self-healing toolbox. With a healthy foundation you will be able to know when you have done all you can and when it is time to reach out for help.

Making the connection between your choices and the affect on your health will help you feel more in control and age well. Consider checking in on a weekly basis to see how your Six Pillars of Health are doing: Eat, Move, Sleep, Think, Connect & Enjoy. For more detailed information about the Six Pillars of Health please visit


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