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149: The Impact of Stress on Your Health with Dana Lewis





Brief summary of the show:

In this conversation, we talk with Dana Lewis and discuss the impact of stress on women's health and the importance of finding ways to cope with stress and trauma. Dana shares her personal experience of losing her husband to cancer and the toll it took on her mental and physical well-being. We discuss the pressure women feel to 'fake fine' and the importance of vulnerability and processing emotions. Dana emphasizes the role of gut health in managing stress and shares tips for improving gut health. We also discuss the importance of taking time for oneself and finding purpose in pain.



Listen in as we talk about:

00:00 - Introduction and Background

00:17 - The Impact of Stress on Women's Health

01:19 - Becoming a Stress Expert

02:55 - Coping with Crisis and Trauma

03:54 - The Toll of Stress on Mental and Physical Health

04:46 - The Pressure to 'Fake Fine'

06:28 - The Impact on Children

07:18 - Finding Support and Processing Emotions

08:17 - The Importance of Vulnerability

09:22 - Supporting Others in Processing Emotions

10:01 - The Role of Faith and Gratitude

12:20 - Addressing Gut Health

24:21 - Simple and Sustainable Solutions

26:07 - Finding Purpose in Pain

30:37 - The Importance of Strains in Probiotics

31:05 -Conclusion


Notes from Natalie:


Connect with Me

Connect with Dana



View Transcript of the show:


Natalie Tysdal 

Dane, I feel like you're my new best friend. I had to remind you as we were getting ready for the podcast, we need to record because we just put it off immediately.


Dana Lewis 

Oh my gosh, yes, same.


Dana Lewis 

I love, I love, love, love good conversations and it's so great to be here.


Natalie Tysdal 

Well, this is such a big topic because women tend to take on the world, right? And we stress about everything. And then we wonder why our health is declining and we can't get things done. We're gaining weight, like all of those things because we've taken on too much. 100%, 100 % stress and the inflammation that's created by stress are truly just the evil path that we walk down without even really recognizing it.


Natalie Tysdal 

How did you become a, can I call you a stress expert? A de-stressing expert?


Dana Lewis 

Sure, you can call me a stress expert. I feel like birth by fire, birth by fire, girlfriend, birth by fire. I became a stress expert 10 years ago in 2013. My husband was diagnosed with stage four cancer in July and in August he died. And I think I catapulted into living in a state of shock and overwhelm and he was fit and healthy and by all standards, we were kind of like the healthiest of our friend group. Like we ate really well, we both worked out all the time. Like we were living life and I was the one that, you know, had him die on my watch and I just was like, oh my gosh, like what did I miss? What did we not understand about the impact of stress on the body? Because we all know you need good sleep, you need to exercise, you need to eat well. Well, what if you're doing all of those things and you have cancer growing in your body and you die within four weeks? So if we fast forward to that, through that, I mean, calling me a stress expert, like that's my birth by fire kind of situation because after that,


Natalie Tysdal

Oh my god.


Dana Lewis 

You get to a place where, like you were saying, as women, we carry the weight of the world on our shoulders, and we are nurturers and givers, and my boys at the time were six, eight, and 10.


Natalie Tysdal

I just have to ask, how did you get through? Life is so hard anyway, and to be that crisis, and I know you're so positive, and I know you've built now a new life around that, you never get over it, but how long did you feel like you were in crisis? Oh.


Dana Lewis 

For five years. I feel like, well, I know, I now know, and perspective is always 20 -20 when you look back, right? But I now know that I didn't have the tools to cope with that level of trauma. And I didn't even really at the time recognize trauma. I remember after he died for months, every time the door opened, I would look.


Like, oh, is he walking through the door? And then I would think to myself, hello, what are you doing? And then I started to research grief and what does that look like? And you get this cute chart. There's 10 stages of grief, and it's anger, and then it's sadness, and then whatever the 10 things are. And I remember trying to make sense of it. Like, okay, these are stages that I'm going to go through. Where am I now, and why am I just still angry?


And like years went by and I, the only tool that I knew to deal with the stress of the situation was exercise. Like I have been a fitness instructor and exercise fanatic for my entire life. And that was the only tool that I had, but it wasn't helping me to manage the stress well enough. And.


I've kind of coined the phrase faking fine, which is I now have a podcast called Stop Faking Fine because I recognized that I just kind of stuffed my feelings. Like back to your point of as women we do it all. I just, as the stress impacted me, I stuffed it down because I didn't have time to deal with it. I had three little kids.


Natalie Tysdal 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. And you have to make sure they're all fine, right?


Dana Lewis

Right, or hopefully more than fine, but trying to make sure that they're managing.


Natalie Tysdal 

Yeah. Yeah. How did your boys do through it all? How are they? I know you've got two in college and one in high school.


Dana Lewis 

Oh, my boys are great. And I think as moms, we sacrifice everything that we can for their happiness. But at the end of the day, like what I recognize now, and so as I kind of grew through my grief and I learned tools, I'm an engineer by degree.


And so reading about cancer and reading about stress and read, I tell people, I think I have a PhD in cancer. Like I've given it to myself, but I've just like read and researched and learned about stress and inflammation and all of these things. And through learning about that, I learned about like the impact of the gut and like actual nutrition that helps your mood and helps your stress resilience and helps all of these things. And back to your original question of how are my boys doing, they're great, but I feel like during the first five years when I was in a tailspin, for lack of a better word, like living in overwhelm, the queen of smiling on the inside, but crumbling, you know, smiling on the outside, sorry, but like crumbling on the inside, trying to just like make sense of what was going on, I recognized that.


I didn't have, I wasn't showing up for them in the way that I wanted to show up for them because they would be like, mom, mom, why are you nice to everyone at basketball, but you come home and you yell at us? And I was like, sorry, like we've all been there, right? But what tools, and so this is what I'm passionate about now is like what tools do we have to help ourselves? Not in that moment, then I shame cycle, right? Because now I'm like, oh my gosh, I'm not, I can't do it all. I'm not doing it all. I'm not good enough. These other moms are doing everything and like, what am I doing? And it's just chaotic until you learn the tools that can help you manage the stress better.


Natalie Tysdal 

Yeah, yeah. Oh, I relate so many things like ding, ding, ding, ding. Like when I did the morning show, I was anchoring morning show and I got up at 2 .33 in the morning and I was not happy in the mid afternoon. You know, like I used to say my four o 'clock was other people's midnight. Like I felt like crap, but everybody expected. And so I was talking to my therapist, which has been a godsend. And she said, you know, you're really good at like faking it.


Natalie Tysdal 

I'm like, well, what do you expect? I had to smile for five hours on TV, regardless of how I felt. Viewers don't care if you had a bad day. They don't care if you're tired or if your kids are struggling with something, you had a marriage issue. Like they just want to see you wake up and say good morning. So she went in a session with her. She said, how are you doing? And I went, well, but I'm okay. She said, do you see what you just did? Like you just faked it.


And so my word that I'm really working on is vulnerability. Like, I'm okay. It's been a hard day, but I'm working on it. Like being able to say, it's actually been hard. Things are not easy, but God is good and I'm working on it. Instead of just that I'm good. Like, do you know? You're healthy.


Dana Lewis 

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. A hundred percent. I would say I would say I'm fine or I'm good or I'm great or whatever phrase I would put on it. But for me in that moment, you know, eight years ago, seven years ago, I didn't want to engage in a conversation with you because I didn't, if I had said to you at that moment, like eight years ago, how are you? And if I would have said anything other than,


Natalie Tysdal 

Yes.


Dana Lewis 

I'm fine, I'm great, move on. I would have had to have had the maturity and the stress resilience to then have a conversation to invite you in, right? It was a shield for me to say, I'm good, basically move along. Like I can't mentally handle the conversation because back in that, in those days, back in those days, I feel like that, back then.


Dana Lewis 

back, you know, the years after my husband died, when people would ask, and they're all very good intended, like, how are you? I want to know. But more times than not, I ended up making you feel better because you cried, because you could see yourself in my situation. And you're like, no, but how are you handling it? And then your eyes are welling up. And I'm standing here going, I have three kids standing next to me. Like, what do you


What do you expect from me? I can't. Like, so I'm just gonna say I'm fine. And move right along until you, it's stress resilience, until you have the resilience. It might be also an element of maturity, an element of growth. You know, as we age, we realize that we don't need to carry it all. But if you can find the tools to help you manage it better, you're gonna show up better.


Natalie Tysdal 

Yeah, then move on.


Natalie Tysdal

Yeah. Yep. I 100 % agree. And the people that you can process those emotions with so that you're not stuffing them down. It doesn't have to be everybody that passes you the ask you how you're doing, be it a therapist, a best friend, a family member that you can, I have a friend, I'll give you an example, who through a really hardship in our lives would say, do you need to process with me?


And I loved that because I could be like, yeah, I feel with you and I just need, and it's not finding answers. It's just being able to process, talk about it, figure it out. And so I, I think about that with other people and she's so dear to me and got a God send that now I say that with other people, like, do you just need to, do you just need to process?  I love that. I'm going to implement that in my own life. I love that. For the certain people in your circle, having the circle of people. I remember a couple of years after Jason died, everyone was telling me like what I should be doing and they're like, you should be in counseling. And I was like, oh, that probably sounds like a good idea. Maybe you should get a counselor because I'm drowning in all of my feelings.


And I remember sitting in the counseling session and having the counselor say all of these great things to me. Like before you get frustrated with your children, you should count to five before you yell at anyone. And I was like, my mouth is already open and I haven't counted to like 0 .1. And it's like, I didn't have when you're living in fight or flight really is where you're living where your cortisol hormone is so high and you have no reprieve. There's no.


There's no downtime for your brain. It's really hard to have that executive functioning piece where you're like, I know that I should be able to show up better. How do I help myself do that?


Natalie Tysdal

Yeah. Yeah. I, okay, so let's get to that. We could just like share stories forever, but let's get to it. Stop faking fine. How do you, what advice do you have for people who find themselves in the situations like you and I have just talked about, be it extreme in losing a family member or just the day to day, I'm not okay. I'm pretending. Let's get to.


Dana Lewis 

One is recognizing it, recognizing it. I share in one of the earliest episodes of my podcast, like I remember throughout this process, I listened to what everybody should tell me that I should do. And getting a dog was one of the things. And I was like, okay, because I needed something else to take care of. And I didn't have, back to the executive processing, didn't have the ability to be like, okay, that's not actually what I need. What I need is to get my body to work better. But I was like, okay. But I remember sitting waiting for the, we got a puppy waiting for the puppy to like go to the bathroom. And I had organized my life in a way where it was June, kids were out of school. I had everyone in a camp all day long so that I could function by myself during the day. And I remember sitting there going, oh my gosh, now I'm waiting for this dog to go to the bathroom, like what am I actually doing? And it was in that moment that I realized like I am carrying all of this stuff and I can't, like what can I do? And it was right around that time that I was reading, because I continued reading about stress and inflammation and all the things, and I continued to get dripped on from all of the books about how stress creates inflammation and inflammation creates chaos in your mind.


Not that it has to create cancer, but it's like one of the things, but it also creates overwhelm. It's where anxiety comes from. It's where our depressive thoughts come from. And I started to just really tweak my diet to say, okay, I come from a fitness background, right? So I want to just say salad and plain chicken. And that's what you should have because that's going to make you look great on the outside, but you might not necessarily feel great on the inside.


And taking into consideration like the power of like healthy fats and the power of carbohydrates and the power of all these things in the right portion can help lower the overwhelm in your mind. Like first and foremost. And then I was introduced to like a probiotic supplement that is strain specific.


that helps, it's for mental wellness. It helps to lower the overwhelm in your mind. And I thought to myself, like, we can't hurt to try. Like, it can't hurt to try. So give it to me. I'm like, I checked the science because I was already in the state of like research. And this is like where I was really self -soothing for lack of a better term. We all have our vices, right? And I found comfort in the engineering.


Dana Lewis 

science of it. So I started on this protocol with a literally with a beverage that like helps with your gut brain access and helps to lower. Yeah, just put it in my water. It's like a little, it's a little beverage that I put in my water. And within a couple of weeks, my oldest son, who was probably 12 at the time, looked at we at the end of the year, like, let me back up the story. So like,


Natalie Tysdal 

So you just put it in your water. It was just in the supplement.


Dana Lewis

It's the end of summer, right? I started this protocol in like July, it's August, and I'm a single parent trying to like show up and do my best. So I'm on Pinterest and I saw some cool mom do a poster board of like the end of summer and like projection for like, what are we going to plan for next summer? Like, let's, let's write that. Let's do goal setting for like summer of, you know, whatever 2019, whatever year it was. So I'm like, oh, I can, I'm, I'm.


I've got that skill. I've got markers. I'm going to get a poster board. I'm going to do this with my kids. We're going to sit down and like, it's going to be so fun. So I get out the board and like this mom on Pinterest had put the board on the stairwell as you go to the basement. So it's like, I had like the total plan and I sit down and I asked my boys, I'm like, okay, this is like the third year or fourth year. I don't remember exactly since daddy died and we've, we're doing summer on our own. Like, let's make a list of things that we liked and things that we want to do again next year. And my oldest looked me straight in the face and he goes, mom, you haven't really yelled at us this whole summer. So whatever you want to do. And I was like, wait, wait, what?


Natalie Tysdal 

You're like, is that a backhanded compliment?


Dana Lewis

But like if you think about it through the eyes of a 12 year old, I'm like, I have found what people call stress resilience. I didn't know that I didn't have it. I just knew that I was hollering at people and I was stuffing my feelings because I couldn't show up for myself or you any better. Like I was juggling all the balls and some of the balls were dropping, but like I was doing the best that I could. And getting on this supplement, this silly drink that's probiotics and prebiotics that helps with your overwhelm, your gut -brain connection, helps to fire up your neurotransmitters for serotonin, for dopamine, helps to regulate cortisol, which is the big thing, because I didn't realize at the time that I was living in fight or flight. Like 10 years ago, if you would have said, are you living in fight or flight, I would have been like, what is that?


Natalie Tysdal 

What is that? Yeah. I think a lot of women live in that state of fight or flight and they get, for me, I get comfortable with that. Like being in the news world, I thrived on that. If I didn't have that, something was wrong. It was like, I need, I, yeah, like I love deadlines. Like give me a deadline. I can have it done. Like, and that was what I thrived in, but how unhealthy for that many years. So being still not having that was hard for me. It's still hard for me.


Dana Lewis 

Mm -hmm. So hard. So hard. And I can look back and understand that my husband also thrived on that, like the always, always, always going, and it had a detriment to his overall health. And for me, I knew that I wanted to have more patience. I knew that I wanted to sleep better. I knew that I wanted these things, but I didn't know how and so being introduced to learning about the power of the gut, first and foremost, and understanding that it has so like what you eat and the supplements that you take have can have such a huge impact on how you show up in this world so that you can say, I like stress is great.


Like the adrenaline of like a deadline and all of that is amazing because it actually raises your cortisol and you're like, all right, let's go. I'm firing on all wheels, you know, on all accesses. Let's make this happen. But the problem is it has to come down. And then you need to be able to have the quietness in your brain to say, I'm going to like take a bath and chill. I'm going to go for a mediocre walk and enjoy myself. Like do something that's not pressing, pressing, pressing. 


A 12 year old looked at me dead in the eyes and said, you are showing up better. I was like, okay, there is something to this and now I am here to help other women do the same because we want to be juggling all the things, right? We want, we're doers! No!


Natalie Tysdal

Yeah. We don't want to give stuff up. We want to take our kids to sports and be the Pinterest mom and all of those other things. Okay. So gut health, and I need to know about that product that you use.


Dana Lewis

Yeah, gut health. I have two things that I can share. I have created a super easy nutrition cheat sheet. If you're listening and you'd like a baseline for where to start, you can go to DanaLewis .com forward slash cheat sheet. And it is a downloadable and it's basically, it's not a diet. I don't like the word diet because I feel like diet implies that.


Dana Lewis 

you're gonna do it for a period of time until you gain a desired result and then you're gonna go back to whatever you have been doing before. This is more of how to learn to eat anywhere to lower inflammation and balance cortisol so that you feel good after, so that you continue to make good choices because I'm obsessed with habits, right? And every little habit that we do adds on to another little habit that we do that makes for a great life and you and I are both in the same place where we're like, I want to show up and do all the things. Be the Pinterest mom, get up at 2 a .m. and be the news anchor and also be at, you know, pick up at 3 30 and all the things. How do you do it? And do it to the best of your ability. And then this this drink is called happy juice. You can find it at Dana Lewis dot com forward slash happy juice.


And it is prebiotics and probiotics and phytobiotics that the underlying cause without getting too nerdy because I love the science, but of all of the overwhelm and the anxiety and the depression and the lack of sleep, it's your gut lining. If you think about it as like bricks and mortar, it's they have like little loose parts. And when they have little loose parts, your mind doesn't function properly.


So if you can tighten up the bricks and the mortar day over day over day, you can show up better.


Natalie Tysdal 

Yeah. I've done so many episodes. I'm going to link a few of them actually on gut health. And it's just so shocking. I don't remember as a younger person being aware of this gut health brain connection. It's like, what? Where was this my whole life? But so important in how we think our brain fog, our health, inflammation, like all of that. So...


Dana Lewis 

It's all of the things and we didn't learn about it when we were kids or even 10 years ago and I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that the food industry is getting, I don't wanna say worse, but like what's the right word? What's the right word? Like.


Natalie Tysdal

It is getting worse. You can see worse. It's getting worse and we're having to figure out how to compensate for that because it's hard and somewhat, I mean, gut health was probably important then, but it is worse.


Dana Lewis

Right, but when you were eating the food that you farmed from your backyard, that you didn't spray with pesticides and whatnot, your gut had a greater integrity. So you needed far less additional help. And the reality of the world that we live in today is it is what it is. Like, you're not going to get away from the air pollution, from all of the things that are slowly degrading your gut microbiome over time, but what you can be in charge of is helping it. And what I have found with this drink specifically is that it's easy. It's like three powders that you mix in a water bottle, you have it once a day and you go about your life. And the benefit to that is just a million fold because then you can show up for yourself and your life in the way that you desire to.


Natalie Tysdal 

Yeah. Well, let's before we end, give me a couple more tips. So we're going to stop faking. Fine. By being healthy, by processing. What else? What else do you give people? And what advice?


Dana Lewis 

And taking time for yourself, so there's also, like, people will say, well, you need seven to eight hours of sleep. And it's like, okay, well, that's great, how? Like, that's awesome. Give me tips on how. Like, putting down your phone 30 minutes before you go to bed. Like, taking the science behind gratitude, taking a moment, whether it's...


Dana Lewis 

I mean, ideally, it's the first thing that you think about when you get up in the morning and the last thing you think about before you go to bed is saying to yourself, what's one thing that I can be grateful for today? Having that gratitude practice has a huge impact on your gut brain connection. It has a huge impact on your mental wellness and a huge impact because the gut goes to the brain, but the brain also goes to the gut. It's a two -way street. So you can actually make your gut microbiome stronger with the power of your mind by putting positive thoughts through there rather than actually weakening your gut microbiome with negativity, right?


Natalie Tysdal 

Yeah. Wow. That's huge. I didn't realize it went the other way.


Dana Lewis

Yeah, it's a two -way street, but the thing about it, I think like that, I know that I was in the place where if you think that your mind is separate than your gut, when I was the number of years after my husband died, in overwhelm and in anxiousness, I just beat myself up over why can't I do this? Why am I not as mentally strong as these other women that I see? Why am I not, like I saw in the last 10 years, I've seen a number of other widows like get married, do other things. And I'm like, how do you, how are you thriving on that level? And recognizing that the gut and the brain are connected in taking the action steps to eat a little bit better, supplement a little bit better, so that you can show up for yourself a little bit better, I think is just huge. And giving yourself the grace to be where you are, right? To not fake find and just say, listen, things are not okay, but you have to do something about it. So like searching for the right answers and the right things and then holding yourself accountable to actually do them.


Natalie Tysdal 

Yeah, absolutely. And I did another episode. I'm going to have to find the number on the episode number on it's the daily things because as you saw and as many of us have seen, your life can change in a moment. And I fell and broke my arm in two seconds and my life has changed. I can't blow dry my hair. You know, like it's...


Dana Lewis 

But it looks fabulous, it looks fabulous.


Natalie Tysdal 

extreme, but just that's a really petty way to look at it. But our lives can change so fast that if we haven't built these systems and these things to where we're not overwhelmed because something can be taken away so quickly that we have to be strong enough and healthy enough. And for me, my faith strong enough that it can withstand anything.


Dana Lewis 

Mm -hmm, 100%. We didn't talk about faith. We'll have to come back and do that another time, but it's, having the faith, it's also like similar to gratitude because you're grateful that there is someone looking out for you. And I think to my own detriment, right after my husband died, I was like, I mean, God, why did you not save him? I prayed for the miracle, it didn't happen. But I am positive, just to kind of wrap that up, that my husband's prayer was answered, and that allows me to show up with confidence today and to have the faith that I've always had, but it wavered after he died. It was hard to be faithful and to believe that God has you when this tragedy just pull the rug out from under my feet. But yeah.


Natalie Tysdal 

Yeah, yeah. And where you are right now and changing people's lives though, never would have seen 10 years ago.


Dana Lewis 

Oh, heavens no. Heavens no, but I do feel that there is, I mean it, how do you say this properly? Like, making a purpose out of the pain and really taking my nerdy gifts and talents for wanting to understand the how and the why and the whatnot and being able to easily break that down for other people. Like I find my greatest accolades and my greatest happiness is in seeing other people achieve what they are trying to do because I was able to help them connect a couple of little dots. And then that, like to give that all the glory, like for that makes me continue, right? Yeah.


Natalie Tysdal 

What a beautiful thing. Yeah. Well, you gave your website and I will be sure and put it in the show notes for anyone who wants links to the things you mentioned, your download and the drink. I want that.


Dana Lewis 

Yeah, oh my gosh, this drink is just like the best, easiest thing. It's simple, sustainable solutions, right, that we all need. Don't overcomplicate it.


Natalie Tysdal

Well, I take probiotics, but then the prebiotics and the other one you've never even heard of.


Dana Lewis 

Oh my gosh, I could talk about this for another hour. But the thing about probiotics is that we all, I've always taken a probiotic. My husband took a probiotic. We take a probiotic because somebody told us it was gonna be good for us. But if you don't know, my quickest supplement check for everyone out there is if you're taking something and you're not sure what it's doing for you, you should stop taking it. Right, if you don't see a direct correlation between,


Natalie Tysdal 

Thank you.

Dana Lewis 

having it or not having it, then it's not doing anything. And from a probiotic standpoint, the strains matter. So you need the strains for what you're looking for. And the one that I'm sharing is for managing the stress better. They're stress specific. So nerdy tidbits by me.


Natalie Tysdal 

See, you're engineering making the difference. Yeah. Well, thank you, Dana. I appreciate you. And let's do this again soon because I know we could talk a whole lot.


Dana Lewis 

I love it. Thank you so much for having me. This has been so amazing.


Natalie Tysdal

We'll talk again soon.


Dana Lewis

Bye!






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