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Episode 72: How to Reduce Chronic Stress with April Likins

Brief summary of show:

In this episode, April Likins and I discuss how to reduce chronic stress.

Our society is one that is always connected, and friends, family and colleagues expect us to be available at all hours of the day. How do we navigate this? Is there a way to put a boundary around our inner peace?

April is a nationally board-certified stress + burnout health coach for busy and overwhelmed high achievers trained at both Duke Integrative Medicine and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Driven by her own health struggles of battling Lyme Disease, Endometriosis & her personal burnout journey, she's extremely passionate about empowering driven & professional women to optimize their health, reduce their stress levels, find balance and start nourishing their bodies from the inside out.

Listen in as we talk about:

  • [2:30] Why we have so much chronic stress

  • [3:30] How to deal with external expectations and stressors

  • [4:35] The difference between stress and chronic stress

  • [8:20] Steps you can take to lessen chronic stress

  • [14:10] Tips to get in tune with your body

  • [14:05] How to set boundaries

Notes from Natalie:

Connect with April

Connect with Me

View Transcript for this Episode

[00:00:00] Natalie: Hi everyone. I've talked about burnout on this podcast in the past.

[00:00:03] In fact, it's one of my most downloaded episodes. Often chronic stress coincides with burnout. We simply take on too much and the way we react to life and how we manage those situations, it adds up to a physical and mental breakdown. My guest today is April lichens. She's a stress relief. Burnout coach for overwhelmed professional women.

[00:00:27] She trained at duke integrative medicine and the Institute for integrative nutrition. She's driven by her own health struggles of battling Lyme disease, endometriosis, and her personal burnout journey. She is extremely passionate about empowering, driven, and professional women to optimize their health, reduce their stress levels, find balance, and start nourishing their.

[00:00:50] From the inside out chronic stress is a dangerous game to play everyone I've been there and I wanna help you work through and avoid what I've been through. And so many of you are dealing with, please take just a moment if you would, to leave a review of the podcast and subscribe. So you don't miss an episode and be sure to share this with your friends who could use some inspiration and help let's get started today with my guest April, like.

[00:01:18] April. Thanks for joining me. I wanna talk about an issue that I think a lot of people, a lot of women experience, and they may not even know that what they're dealing with is chronic.

[00:01:29] April: Right. Yep. It is certainly um, widespread right now, too. And it's interesting that even before COVID hit the world health organization really called it the health epidemic of the 21st century.

[00:01:39] So it's, it's getting worse and worse and it's something that's really common do to,

[00:01:43] Natalie: yeah. Do, do you think it's the pressures of the world? We put more pressures on ourself. We have high expectations or

[00:01:49] why so much chronic.

[00:01:51] April: You know, I think it's a lot of it, but I think a lot of it's tied to, I think, into our tech use and you know, the, the, the work home life balance too as well is, there's just, there's so many different ways for people to get in touch with us.

[00:02:03] Now that 10 years ago, 15 years ago, often joke. I wish we could go back to the nineties when people couldn't get ahold of you. If you were out of the office or you weren't home, you had this tremendous freedom, but even when you're not working, you're still kind of working. People can email you on your phone.

[00:02:17] They can get you through social in a lot of different ways. And there have been some studies that have kind of shown that it's, it's too much multitasking and, and multi switching back and forth and not having that downtime. The way that that we had decades ago is, is really creating a lot of this chronic stress.

[00:02:33] Natalie: So we try, at least I try to create that downtime mm-hmm but then the world. Expects that I am responding within hours. So you almost feel like right, you are at a disadvantage, especially in the work world and even parenting world. I mean, your kids obviously we're there for our kids if we need them quickly.

[00:02:52] But

[00:02:52] if the world has this expectation, you're gonna respond within an hour and you don't, how do we deal with that? Can we deal with.

[00:03:00] April: I think it just, it's all about kind of setting those healthy boundaries, you know, and figuring out what's a good boundary for you and that too. And so, and a lot of the clients that I work with wrestle with that sort of thing too.

[00:03:11] And so it can be having little pockets of time of boundaries in your days. So you've kind of got little pit stops. In there where you're, maybe it's going outside for, you know, for some fresh air and vitamin D for five minutes, you know, or taking a quick walk around the block or whatever it is, you know, instead of having to have these big gaps of downtime too I've had quite a few clients that have just this year decided to unplug in the evenings.

[00:03:34] And so instead of, you know, having a whole day away from their tech devices, maybe they'll, they'll just, you know, put it in airplane mode or they'll put it away, you know, an hour before bed. And so there's smaller ways that you can kind of tune, tune things out that gives you some space to be able to just recharge.

[00:03:52] Natalie: Yeah. So important.

[00:03:54] Okay. Mm-hmm so let's talk about what chronic stress looks like. I know it's what you specialize in and you help people with, what does it look like? How can someone know? Is there a difference between stress and chronic.

[00:04:07] April: Yeah. And so stress in itself is, can be a good thing. it's part of our survival mechanism, right?

[00:04:13] So it's, you know, it's designed to keep us safe, so there can be good stressors. We've we've been working out, you know, maybe our electrolyte imbalance is a little bit low. We're prompted to, to go cool down, get some water. That's that's an example of a good stress response too. But where chronic stress really gets dangerous is when it's that day in and day out chronic stress where you've got cortisol, you know, drips happening daily, which can lead to a whole other slew of things.

[00:04:39] And you're starting to experiencing more of the, the warning signs in your body. Like the. That chronic exhaustion, fatigue, sleep issues. It could be trouble falling asleep, trouble, staying asleep, you know, increased anxiety, moodiness, any number of things, cravings change a lot of times too. And so sometimes pupil's appetite will rev up and so they'll, they'll be more hungry.

[00:05:00] Other times they'll eat less. And you know, that wired, but tired feeling too. And so that inability to kind of sit still can be a good indication. And there's so many other things too, as well to kind of just look out for, and that could be stomach issues chronic headaches and then poor immunity.

[00:05:16] Stress is very much linked to our immune system, which right now we want to have of course, a healthy, thriving immune system.

[00:05:22] Natalie: Yeah. I, I relate so much to that. Wired and tired. I think a lot of people do, or I'm just exhausted. And exhausted more. So when I did the, the morning show, when I was a morning show TV anchor, I was up at two 30 in the morning.

[00:05:35] I was so tired. Yeah. But I was, my brain was still on, even though my body was exhausted. it took kind of that, whoa, what am I doing to my, my body response, which is when I left and started this new venture, say I have to find a more regulated and normal. Lifestyle. Yeah. Is that what you find with a lot of the clients and people you work with that they might not even realize that's what they're doing because everyone around them is doing the same thing.

[00:06:04] April: Yeah, it's pretty common. it's hard. And a lot of the people that I work with are the high achiever types too. And so they wrestle with the workaholism and the people pleasing and, boundaries, you know, setting those boundaries between work and life. And it's so crucial now, now more than ever, I know, to just.

[00:06:18] Take a politic we're talking about too. And, and it's hard for a lot of people to just slow down. There's this kind of still this perpetuating, I think belief system that, you know, sleep for example, is a waste of time when the body's actually doing incredible things in the middle of the night, it's categorizing memories.

[00:06:35] You know, it's wiping proteins that are linked to cognitive decline and there's all kinds of things that are, that are happening in the, at that time. Studies have shown that it's very much linked to our stress and being able to be more resilient, but this, that common misperception of like you snooze, you lose, or I'm wasting time, I've gotta stay up really late to get all the work done.

[00:06:54] And so switching that mindset can be really empowering and seeing sleep is more of a, the superhero that it is with

[00:07:01] Natalie: stress. Oh yeah. I value that. So much more than I did in my twenties and thirties. Mm-hmm when I was trying to climb this corporate ladder. And I thought that was the achievement. And now by the achievement that I really strive for is balance, which I know is hardly achievable, but just happiness and feeling good.

[00:07:23] Versus a title or a job or money doesn't matter as much as all of that. So let's get to some more solutions. Sure. We've identified what chronic stress is. Some of the symptoms the societal problem, but let's,

[00:07:36] let's talk some steps people can take to better themselves and not find themselves in that place in the first.

[00:07:43] Definitely.

[00:07:44] April: So first I see that's really helpful for a lot of clients. It's helpful for myself too, is kind of having a solid morning routine, cuz there's a big difference between, you know, those mornings. I'm sure you can relate where you just hit the ground running. Yeah. And, and the rest of the day feels crazy and like a rat race and you're, you're just feeling like you're trying to tread water or stay afloat.

[00:08:02] Yeah. First is a morning where maybe it's 10 minutes, 20 minutes, where you just have a little bit of space to yourself to maybe get some movement in. It could be due to do some deep breathing. It could be to listen to a fabulous podcast like we're listening to right now. I mean, any number of things, but just to have that space to be inspired or rest or pause.

[00:08:23] Before you, you go right into the hustle and the grind. It can be really, really helpful too. Exercise making movement a priority. That's such a wonderful way to, to regulate the nervous system and even better. If you can get outside, there's a lot of. Movement. You're hearing about lately the last couple years on rewilding and getting outside in nature.

[00:08:42] And you're seeing a lot of doctors actually writing prescriptions for patients to just get outside, you know, for 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes to get that that nourishment from the fresh air. You know, and, and being able to, to be mindful and kind of unplugged during that time, that can be so helpful too. I have quite a few clients that like to do mindful walking.

[00:09:02] So

[00:09:02] they'll, they'll turn their phone off or they'll, they'll leave it at home if they're just going around the block or something like that then, and, and just instead, just enjoy being present of what you're seeing and hearing in the walk, what you're experiencing, and that can be such a wonderful. Break to again, the hustle and the daily grind too.

[00:09:21] What else? Caffeine is another one. I see a lot with people too. Cause that's one of those things where you can get in such a cycle with it. Mm-hmm and it's like anything else, you know, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. And so. Too much caffeine for certain people can of course increase stress levels because in your stress response, cuz it's a stimulant, but it can also throw off your sleep.

[00:09:41] And that's one that I see a lot with people that a lot of people don't realize, you know, studies have shown that caffeine could stay in your body you know, up to, I don't know, 12 hours. So if you have, you know, have a cup at noon, Allegedly, you know, a quarter of that is still in your system at midnight.

[00:09:59] And so for a lot of people, they have to kind of figure out their caffeine sweet spot of where they can, how much they can have, you know, and get away with it. But experts kind of recommend sticking to one no, no later than one or 2:00 PM. But if you're more sensitive, cutting it back can be really, really helpful.

[00:10:16] Cuz then you get in that cycle of. You're exhausted. You don't sleep. So then you reach from a caffeine, right? And so you, you know, you're hungry cause you start stress eating and you think what the heck I've already blown it. So why work out today? Or why get some movement? Yeah. And then it's just this whole kind of vicious cycle too.

[00:10:33] Natalie: I know with caffeine, it's, you know, it's not just the coffee in the middle of the afternoon. If you drink soda, if you like, we'll, we'll go to dinner and, and I love iced tea and I know I can't have an iced tea at dinner. That's got enough caffeine in it. then a few hours later around bedtime.

[00:10:47] So, and even, even in other things, chocolate and you know, mm-hmm, there there's caffeine and other things that will stimulate your body and keep you awake.

[00:10:57] April: Yeah. So it's just something to be mindful of too. Yeah. But I know quite a few people that, their cut off is 10 in the morning. And so for me, it's about that time too.

[00:11:05] So I have to be mindful of that as well. Sleep is a big one, you know, really making sleep a priority and ha you know, and, and getting that high quality sleep too. And knowing your sweet box, you know, that perfect number is between seven and nine for all of us, and really experimenting with what. Number you feel your best and you thrive at and making that a consistent priority, but sleep is a game changer.

[00:11:27] That's one of the first things I always talk with people about is of course, how, what, how your stress levels currently, but also how how's your sleep, cuz they go hand in hand. Yeah. And building that resiliency,

[00:11:37] Natalie: you know, some of these things are certainly things we can implement right away. Mm-hmm start prioritizing your.

[00:11:43] Cut off caffeine take a walk, like all these things, you know, there are things we kind of know, we just have to make ourselves do them. Do you think though, that it takes time like to give yourself that time? Like, I don't imagine you can just change these things overnight or even within a week. Yeah. It takes time to see these changes take effect.

[00:12:34] April: I'm a big follower of like James clear and BJ fog and those guys, you know, tiny habits and habit stacking and all of that. So to be successful in any area of change, change is hard for all of us. It doesn't matter what we're trying to change. It's difficult. So, you know, it's. Trying to change things one degree a time versus, you know, just revamping everything all at once.

[00:12:53] It's a lot easier to, to create those tiny habits. So maybe for someone listening, it's again, all of these things, the great thing about, you know, resilience techniques, you know, as is that some work for some. Some work for others. And so a lot of it's experimentation of what works well for you.

[00:13:09] So somebody listening it may maybe getting out in nature feels like something that they, that they, that excites them and that would reduce their stress levels. But a lot of it is just seeing what works for you and then giving yourself that space daily to just ask yourself, what do I need today to thrive?

[00:13:26] And the cool thing is your body will tell.

[00:13:29] Natalie: Yeah, I, I have found that I've had to learn to listen to my body mm-hmm and I think that's something we, we struggle with, especially in America. Mm-hmm, , you know, we eat what we want, we drink what we want. We, you know, maybe take some vitamins, but really listening and maybe even journaling, but being able to say, I didn't feel as well today.

[00:13:48] What did I. Less right. Mm-hmm or can you, can you talk to that a little bit because I'm still learning that. And I think a lot of us just aren't in tune with our own bodies.

[00:13:58] April: I, I agree. And I think a lot of it just goes back to how you're wired. Some of it is again, the type eight. Types. If you played sports, I see that a lot with people too.

[00:14:08] I played sports and, you know, growing up, back in the days, I'm showing my age, but you know, I played sports year round and you were just, you would sprain something or do whatever, and they just wrap you up and put you back in the game. And so a, a lot of people grew up with that mentality of, you know, just suck it up, dust it off and go back, get back in.

[00:14:28] Yeah. And. Really creates this feeling of not being in your body. And so it does start with learning to be in your body. And, and that can start with just simple practices, like breathing body, scanning, you know, different things to kind of get you back in it, cuz you learn to ignore those, those warning signs.

[00:14:44] And the reality is the body's communicating with us all the time. It's like that little engine light on the car, you know, saying slow down or whatever, whatever signal, but often we're just not listening. We're so focused on. You know, getting to point a to B that it's, we can just tune that out. And so it's really getting back and reconnecting with yourself.

[00:15:03] And again, like I said, it starts with just asking yourself, what do I need today to thrive? Yeah. And you'll you'll know it might be, I need some more liquid. We're a little dehydrated, you know? Yeah. Or, gosh, it's such a beautiful day today. I haven't been out in a day or two. I really want some sunlight.

[00:15:17] Yeah. I need some movement, whatever that is, you know, but giving yourself that space to even. Ask. Yeah. What do I need?

[00:15:25] You've talked a

[00:15:26] Natalie: lot about the physical parts of chronic stress. Mm-hmm I wanna go back to something you mentioned, because I think a lot of people struggle with setting boundaries. Mm-hmm and society work volunteer jobs, all of these things kind of come at us.

[00:15:39] And, and I know for a lot of people, the email comes in and we feel this need to immediately answer mm-hmm or, you know, how, what advice do you have for setting boundaries? So. You are in control of what's going out instead of the demands coming at you over and over and over from emails to calls to texts.

[00:15:58] Like, you know, I've, I've had to learn the texts come pouring in mm-hmm . I have to immediately respond to every text. I can take a set period of time later in the day to respond to a group of them instead of immediately.

[00:16:13] April: Yeah. And so again, it's figuring out ways to create boundaries that work for you. So I have some clients that just have to log off from their computer, you know, literally walk away from it.

[00:16:23] Of course now more than ever as we're, we're still working virtually in hybrid. So many people, and so it could be things like that. It could be turning off the notifications mm-hmm it could be putting your phone in. Do. D mode. Yeah. That can be really, really helpful, especially when you're in that focused laser focused, maybe you're writing or you're working on a project or something where you've got that focused attention and you don't want all the notifications.

[00:16:45] It's just turning it off for 30 minutes while you're, while you're focusing on that task too. And so, and, and then we train people too on how to how to get in touch with us by our response. And so we're responding. Two minutes to every email, then it also trains people that they could get us in two minutes, a lot of the time too.

[00:17:05] So it's kind of figuring out what, what your buffer, what you're comfortable with. Is it an hour or two hours? 24 hours and setting those expectations? I think with work is helpful to say, you know what? I I'll work from here to here and when I'm off, I'll be spending time with family. And so I, I might not get back to you during the weekends.

[00:17:23] I may not get back to you at all during the weekend.

[00:17:25] Natalie: Yeah. And that's okay. Mm-hmm to know. That's okay. That you don't have to, and, and that there may be people who want immediate gratification and, or immediate responses, I should say, but maybe those aren't the people we wanna work with. Right.

[00:17:41] April: Yeah. And I think on that topic too, with regard to stress, a lot of it is also.

[00:17:48] Being mindful of social media and the news too. Mm-hmm, setting healthy boundaries with those boundaries, with those that, you know, if you're checking your phone first thing in the morning and you're reading the news, it's probably gonna be a little bit of a gloomy morning. Is that

[00:18:01] Natalie: you're gonna start your day.

[00:18:02] Yeah.

[00:18:03] April: Yeah. It's like starting it on a more positive note too. And so again, I think it's been getting more comfortable with your boundaries and being okay with learning to say no. I think people really appreciate knowing where your boundaries are when you are able to help communicate them in healthy ways.

[00:18:18] Natalie: Yeah, I agree. But you have to know what they are before you can identify, goes to other people like knowing exactly. This is how I start my day. This is when I start, when I write emails and then letting people know that. So they don't, they don't push past. Yeah, great

[00:18:34] April: tips. And you know, there's the common struggle too, of just checking the phone while you're, when you wake up in the middle of the night.

[00:18:40] And so for a lot of people just setting a boundary there of plugging the phone in across the room. So if you need it for an alarm system, you know, if it's across the room, you have to get up. And so you can't land bolt in bed and respond to emails and do all the things or be tempt. You know, to respond via slack or whatever, if your B you're seeing messages from your boss or your coworker.

[00:18:59] And so sometimes there's a physical boundary that can be helpful as well. Yeah.

[00:19:03] Natalie: I challenge people if you haven't tried that, set it across the room. Yes. Your alarm might be on it to try cause you will, you will wake up. I know I have. Sleep app on my phone right next to me. And it almost causes me more anxiety when I wake up in the morning and I see that I didn't get a good night's sleep then I know.

[00:19:20] Yeah. My whole day is, oh, I didn't get a good night's sleep. Mm-hmm instead of, I just don't think about that anymore. I'm just gonna sleep. Yeah. So sometimes technology. The beauty of it where it's helping us, we think it's helping us is actually not helping us much at all.

[00:19:35] April: yeah, that's a good point. Cuz we can get so laser focused sometimes on tracking things that yes.

[00:19:39] You know, it's to your point about listening to your body a minute ago, it's like we can allow the technology to determine what we think of our sleep instead of. Listening to our body, just listening to your body and saying, okay, how do I feel like I slept? Yeah. You know, and that can cause that can cause more anxiety, you know, when it tells you, oh, you, you didn't sleep well last.

[00:20:00] Natalie: Yeah. And it's something about just good old fashioned knowing ourselves and our bodies versus the

[00:20:05] April: technology. Yeah, it works. It works. Yeah. It does

[00:20:09] Natalie: boy. So many good tips. We're gonna have a lot in the podcast notes for everyone and where they can get more information, but why don't you go ahead and tell us where people can follow you and learn.

[00:20:19] Yeah,

[00:20:19] April: definitely. So listeners can connect with me on my My Instagram handles a little different it's glow B. Lovely, of course I'm on LinkedIn and a lot of different places I have. If this has been helpful and you're feeling a little stressed and overwhelmed, I have a brand new resource too, that I just put out called 15 ways to say goodbye to chronic stress with some of the tips that we went over today, and a lot more to to just help you feel more calm, centered, and balanced too.

[00:20:46] And if you're struggling and. Any of this resonates, don't hesitate to reach out. It's always good to hear, hear from you and hear, hear what was helpful. Answer any questions too, as well. Sometimes

[00:20:57] Natalie: it just takes somebody guiding us through to get through those tough spots. So thank you so much. I appreciate your time.

[00:21:03] And I hope to talk to you again soon. I've learned a lot and uh, working on all these things work in progress. Certainly. Yes, we're.

[00:21:10] April: Always a work in progress. Yeah. So thank you so much for having me on you bet. Take care, Paul, you as well.


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