We all strive for excellence and fulfillment in every aspect of our lives – career, relationships, health. We juggle all things, try to make everyone happy, try to fulfill our work obligations, our family obligations and maintain our friendships and connections. We commit ourselves to doing – well – everything. We don’t want to let anyone down. Oftentimes though we have learned to equate being “perfect”, having a life we’ve built in our minds as perfect, to living in excellence. This confusion is quietly and slowly affecting you negatively both physically and mentally. It’s contributing to fatigue, overwhelm, weight gain, hormone imbalance, sleep issues and disease.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Perfectionism is a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable especially: the setting of unrealistically demanding goals accompanied by a disposition to regard failure to achieve them as unacceptable and a sign of personal worthlessness.
Most of us don’t think of being a perfectionist as a sign of being worthless. Many of us regard it as a badge of honor. We carry it around, identify with it, use it to show others how amazing we are. The reality is, this mode of operation is making us sick and overweight. It is setting us up for failure after failure which causes a circle of overwhelm, anxiety, depression and illness. There is no such thing as being perfect and because we never reach that goal – we are continuously failing ourselves.
Physically, perfectionism and the need to be all things to all people and to do it all flawlessly each and every time – is having a significant impact on our bodies. Perfectionistic tendencies and thoughts lead to anxiety and worry. Anxiety and worry lead to chronic stress which leads to weight gain – or the inability to lose weight, it impacts your ability to concentrate and focus, can cause headaches, irritability, a pounding heart, shortness of breath, upset stomach, loss of libido, an increase in blood pressure, extreme fatigue, unexplained muscle aches or pain, imbalances in blood sugar, fertility problems, erectile dysfunction – the list goes on. In short, the effects of being a perfectionist affect your central nervous system, your cardiovascular system, your immune system, your excretory and digestive system and your respiratory system.
Anxiety and worry trigger your bodies cortisol response (your “fight or flight” response) in the sympathetic nervous system. While this response is beneficial and works for you in many positive ways, when you experience constant anxiety, worry and overwhelm your body is in a chronic state of stress and the cortisol production doesn’t cease when it should. Your hormones become imbalanced causing a myriad of issues:
- Stress hormones cause your blood vessels to constrict which increases blood pressure and your risk for heart attack or stroke;
- Under stress your liver produces more blood sugar to produce the energy your body thinks it needs to fight the stressor, increasing the risk of developing insulin sensitivity and Type 2 Diabetes;
- Increased levels of stress hormones also affect the way food moves through your body which can cause acid reflux, stomach issues, constipation or diarrhea;
- Muscles tense up to protect themselves which could lead to cramps, back aches, shoulder pain, headaches;
- When chronically stressed the body’s response lowers the production of testosterone, causes issues with estrogen/progesterone production leading to menstrual problems and lowering libido;
- You may experience sleep issues as your normal circadian rhythms are pushed out of sync as cortisol – which should decrease as the day goes on, stays high. This suppresses the production of melatonin in the evening and impacts the timing and quality of your sleep. This hugely impacts your weight, hormones and all the repair functions your body goes through during its sleep cycles.
Whoa – I’m overwhelmed just reading all that!! So, what can we do about this???
We do not have to allow our perfectionistic & people-pleasing tendencies take over and destroy our health. There are several lifestyle changes, mindset shifts and everyday habits/practices we can build in order to take back control and make a significant impact in how we feel and look.
MIND: Lasting change is a losing battle without the right mindset
- Identification: Identifying when you are slipping into perfectionistic & people-pleasing tendencies is the first step. Once you are aware, you can consciously focus on change. You can redirect your thoughts.
- Let go: Work on understanding that nothing is ever perfect, you can’t control everything and you can’t be all things to all people. It’s ok to let go. You are enough just as you are!
- Mindfulness practices: (examples – yoga/meditation) Allow yourself to have space for thought & self-care. These practices will help calm your mind and body and help reduce your anxiety and stress.
- Move! Movement and exercise are natural stress releasers and have positive effects on your mind and body. Even just getting up and walking for 5 minutes around the office can help ease your stress tremendously.
- Breathe – Practice slow, deep breathing; focused breathing with the exhale longer than the inhale. This type of breathing sends messages to your brain and hormones that it’s time to relax.
- Introduce healthy foods into your diet which have a positive impact on stress reduction. What you eat HUGELY impacts your bodies reactions and ability to function. I can’t stress this enough!
- Green leafy vegetables boost your magnesium levels & contain folate which increases your dopamine levels (happy hormone);
- Foods that contain tryptophan (an amino acid – think protein) help produce serotonin and regulate feelings of happiness and hunger levels. Examples include nuts, seeds, tofu, fish, lentils, eggs, oats & beans.
- Anti-inflammatory foods with Omega 3 fatty acids to help counteract the effects of stress.
- Place importance upon & engage in positive self-care. This is NOT a guilty indulgence (I’m speaking to you Moms out there), it is an essential component of your overall health and well-being. You are just as important as those you serve – create a healthy relationship with yourself;
- Spend time with friends and family – those who make you laugh and who love you. Limit toxic relationships. Connect with your community;
- Take time to connect with something bigger than yourself – whether it’s your faith, the universe or a walk outside. Putting your anxieties and worries into perspective of the larger world often takes a lot of the pressure and worry off your shoulders and provides a positive opportunity for community and connection.
If you want to find out how you can use easy to implement diet and lifestyle changes to help you feel better, lose weight, reach your health goals, and not feel so overwhelmed and tired please click (or type into your browser) the link below to schedule your free 30 minute consultation.