Culturally, we’re trained to reach for a pill or quick fix for symptoms related to our health without looking towards the root cause, which is often much deeper and involves more drastic lifestyle adjustments. In this blog post, we interviewed Lindsay Nielson, founder of ‘The Lindsay Report’ and ‘de-stress ninja’, to learn why it’s essential for her to be cognizant of her stress levels and the tactics she uses to navigate life with a chronic health condition.
Lindsay grew up in a household with an “I can fix-it dad” and a mom who advocated for natural health, and was always hunting for answers for her daughter. Even with this mentality, Lindsay went 23 years without a proper Lyme disease diagnosis that would have helped her start her treatment sooner.
Many of us can empathize with the feeling of helplessness when you know something is wrong, but you’re not getting clear answers from a standard medical evaluation. So often, chronic or complex health conditions can fly under the radar while taking a drastic toll on your physical and mental health without showing up as irregular on traditional medical tests. Symptoms are frequently tied to or exacerbated by stress, as was the experience with Lindsay, and so many others.
Despite years of managing symptoms such as extreme fatigue, insomnia, neuropathy, brain fog, and a compromised immune system, Lindsay has remained impressively buoyant. My simple 2-hour call with her left me feeling more empowered and positive to make the best of the cards we’re dealt in life. To better cope as a wife and mom of 4, and to handle the demands of modern life while battling Lyme disease, Lindsay took an affinity to ‘life hacks’, or systems so “she could do the most with the least amount of energy and time”. Along with her Lyme disease diagnosis, she was told by her doctor that it was critical that she reduce stress. Stress is triggered by external and internal causes, Lindsay realized she had to tackle both, which required some major lifestyle adjustments.
Lindsay shared so many effective ways that she manages internal stress, the majority of which come from mindset shifts and mental training. I’ve done my best to cull it down to 5 ways to reduce internal stress below:
- Control your reactions: “It’s a mental game, our reactions to events are a wonderful way to start cutting out stress. When situations escalate, imagine you’re a 911 operator. How do they handle intense moments? They stay calm, they provide directions, etc…”
- Create and communicate reasonable expectations: “When you feel frustrated with others, that comes from an expectation we have that wasn’t met. I try to unpack that and use the SMART guides to set clearer expectations moving forward. They should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and done within a timeframe.”
- Stop trying to be the hero all the time: “We need to realize that some things can and should wait for tomorrow because we need to listen to our bodies and protect our energy. This means taking rest periods, turning off in the evenings and even waiting a few days to get back to people (imagine that!). Let go of the idea of perfectionism that still exists, it’s not real.”
- Putting space between you and the problem: Lindsay uses the analogy of taking off for a flight when you look down and see all the little houses and have a broader perspective than when you’re on the street. Creating distance, which could be space or time, to step away from the problem, helps create visibility to be in control of the situation versus a victim of it.
- Create lines of help: “We live very isolated lives and don’t have that instilled sense of community that we’re meant to. We need to create those lines that we can turn on and get help when we’re not okay. We can’t ignore the paper cuts, we are all dealing with the human conditions. It’s okay to feel that and have that moment, that enables you to move on and continue.”
Lindsay’s wisdom doesn’t stop there. She brings this same simplified, empowered approach to external stressors such as environmental toxins, social pressures, diet choices and more. Here are 4 ways Lindsay reduces external stress:
- Switching to non-toxic products at home: “it’s just become our way of life, it’s hard to think about the changes because we made them incrementally. We don’t use harsh chemicals like bleach. We love using Force of Nature to clean the house and Redmon Salt Products. For beauty products from face masks to tampons, I seek out organic ones and read labels to avoid fragrance, parabens, and sulfates.”
- Saying no, politely: instead of obligatorily accepting every invitation, Lindsay uses her go-to line, “I wish I could, but we’re not able to right now” which says it all. It communicates interest but also sets a boundary to protect her energy so she can feel better in the areas of life she wants to focus on. She says, “people respond well to transparency, and this helps me from feeling the need to say yes right away.”
- Living within a budget: debt and financial hardship can be a huge source of stress on individuals, couples, and families. Lindsay and her husband took the You Need A Budget approach to feel in control of their finances and allocate funds for their lifestyle, versus the sentiment of handing over a paycheck as soon as it hits the account.
- Get lots of sleep: Lindsay has struggled with bouts of insomnia and extreme fatigue and does her best to ensure she’s getting deep, quality sleep to allow her body to recover. She’s found a few supplements that help and often chooses not to eat meat with dinner as it can take a while to digest and keep you up at night. Working with her functional practitioner, she takes a custom magnesium and lavender blend, and insomnitol capsules to help her get into and stay asleep. During the day she uses the Headspace, 10-minute ‘Rest’ meditation to build in calm moments to get out of the sympathetic nervous system that we often spend too much time in.
One of the many things I love about Lindsay is how realistic her approach is. She emphasizes the incremental changes from the small daily choices she makes over time, it doesn’t have to be all at once. “All these little minute changes and adjustments become habits and together they add up to lower cumulative stress. Once you understand and live this way, the stress starts to go away.”
Similar to Lindsay, over the last 2 years in our own health journey, we’ve gradually become more educated about the toxins in our products, food, etc, and have graduated to smarter choices with the long term benefits in mind. We find Lindsay’s attitude of being an advocate and choosing to help spread helpful advice to others rather than being a victim is so encouraging. Be sure you’re following her on Instagram, @thelindsayreport, you won’t regret it. Her bubbly personality, relatable demeanor and endless feed of life-hacks are so appreciated!