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 It was my first visit with an Ayurvedic practitioner and we were discussing my schedule.

As the owner/operator of a destination hotel and spa, I wore 10-too many hats and worked seven days a week. I propelled myself into action each morning with a 2-mile run fueled by caffeine. I ate on the fly if I ate at all, and I collapsed most nights around midnight with the sinking awareness I would never get caught up – on work or sleep. I was exhausted. I felt heavy physically, all my pants and skirts felt two sizes too small. And emotionally I felt dense and murky.

Now I saw across from this woman who was looking at my tongue, talking about a possible thyroid imbalance, and pushing me to take a weekly, self-imposed ‘time out’.

Seriously? And when was I supposed to fit that in?

She suggested I take an entire morning off, but I resisted. She didn’t understand. I was important. I had a million things to do. People depended on me. I needed to show up for my team and be present. I had a reputation (#superwoman) to uphold. I feared I would be accused of not pulling my weight. I feared appearing lazy.

She was asking for one consistent day each week in which I didn’t hustle out the door until 1pm. I shook my head; not possible. I couldn’t fathom it. After some haggling back and forth, we finally compromised; on Saturdays, I would not leave the house until 11am. That was my best and final offer.

As it happened, my annual physical with my primary care physician was scheduled for the following week. And wouldn’t you know? I had gained 8 pounds and my bloodwork showed, wait for it … a thyroid imbalance.

“You’ve got to be kidding me”, I thought, “no one in my family has thyroid issues, my lab work has always been excellent, what the heck?”

My doctor patiently walked me through the numbers, he slid a prescription across his desk for a common, conventional thyroid medication and asked me to return in three months for a retest. I asked about diet and exercise. I asked about lifestyle interventions. I asked about getting off the medication if my numbers improved in the 90 day window. I asked if there were any other alternatives. He gently expressed that this was a common condition, that this medication was safe and effective for long-term use, that most women stay on it for the rest of their lives and are happy and productive. I was beginning to falter. I didn’t want to be another statistic, another woman resigned to a life-long dependency on medication. I envisioned this opening the floodgates to other meds in order to counter the side effects. There had to be another way, my head began spinning and I became more visibly and verbally agitated.  When he suggested I might be depressed, I burst into tears. Without another word, I grabbed the script, hustled to my car, blew my nose, and promptly reached out to the Ayurvedic practitioner I’d seen just one week before.

If this is ringing your bells, I feel you. And I want you to know there is hope. That hope, for me, arrived in the way of herbal allies, nutritional adjustments, shifts in movement, rituals,  routines,

and buckets of self-care. 

I had nothing to lose, so I set the prescription aside and went the route of Ayurveda. In addition to taking two rounds of an Ayurvedic herbal supplement recommended by the practitioner, I carved 3 hours out of my VBS (Very Busy Schedule) to have quality ‘Me Time’ twice a week. To my surprise, no one’s life came to a screeching halt while I was away. I continued to run my business, but I altered my lifestyle in several small but significant ways.

  • I supplemented my daily run with more restorative yoga
  • I practiced shoulder stand, and/or bridge pose, and fish pose Every. Single. Day.
  • I put my legs up the wall every Sunday afternoon for no less than 25 minutes and made space every Sunday evening for a long soak in the bathtub with all the magazines that had ben piling up in the house.
  • I became more deliberate about practicing pranayama and more intentional about which techniques I utilized.
  • I began blocking time out for lunch. If that weren’t enough, I eventually began sitting down to eat lunch (unheard of in my line of work) – no phone, no laptop, no discussion. Just me, a pretty view, and a plate of wholesome food. In 3 months, I submitted blood for a retest.

The Six Stages of Disease

Ayurvedic medicine teaches there are 6 stages of disease pathology, the first two of which are more or less asymptomatic. In the third stage there may be vague or non-specific symptoms, you know the ones – “I just don’t feel well” or “why am I so tired all the time?” In the fourth stage these symptoms become more pronounced and disruptive, and by stage 5 they have manifested into a specific condition or diagnosable disease. By the sixth stage we have reached the ‘chronic’ category. More on this in a minute, but first … 

I remember the call.

My husband and I were shopping for supplies for an upcoming event at the resort. We were standing in line to check out when my GP’s number showed up as an incoming call. Stepping outside to take it, I discovered his nurse on the other end telling me there was no need to come into the office for the follow up. In fact, everything looked great. She went on to say I should continue with the medication and to call when I was ready for a refill. I almost burst into tears. And not because I was feeling heavy, exhausted, and depressed. But I was relieved, elated, inspired.

Three months earlier, my bloodwork indicated I was heading into stage 5 and a full-blown thyroid condition. I was lucky. We caught the signs and symptoms early and, even though I was resistant at the outset, I acquiesced to the TLC interventions (therapeutic lifestyle changes). This was a significant event in my life as well as in my career, shifting me towards a new path. Sometimes clients question why I continue to use a GP when I have this education in an alternative method. This is why: I think annual bloodwork is smart. It’s fascinating, it provides a benchmark, and I believe it’s the responsible thing to do. Without it, I would have continued ignoring my exhaustion, fatigue, and overwhelm, simply chalking it up to ‘that’s life in the restaurant biz’.

Today I am more deliberate about what and where I eat, the rhythm of my days and nights, setting boundaries around my time and energy, and I am a total boss at self-love. I realize I was given a gift of witnessing the efficacy of Ayurveda first hand and I want to do good by that. Ten years later, my numbers remain steady in the normal range, I’ll continue to monitor my bloodwork, and I will definitely keep my herbal allies close by.   #longexhale