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stress kills“Stress kills”. We’ve all heard that statement, but the American Heart Association and most doctors never take that point of view when a patient almost dies of a heart attack. They ask about genetics after looking at cholesterol and sugar numbers.

After ICU release and a day on the general floor the patient is sent home with a long list of drugs to take. Some may get sent to cardiac rehab or a dietician. Rarely to a nutritionist who is trained in using food to heal.

Based on what I read from the over 1k survivors in my Facebook group,  rare is there a discussion of how stress impacts the body.  More challenging seems to be educating practitioners how to identify the signs of stress related heart disease, and I have yet to hear of a patient learning that food can heal what stress has done to their body.

One year after surviving my heart attack (9.24.2013) I’ve become incredibly aware of the useless and harmful stress that can take me down again.  How I work, who I work with, and even the broken processes can increase stress.  Everyone has their threshold for pressure. Everyday stress–commute, unrealistic expectations, poor management, no leadership, colleagues without the proper skills, not enough tools or the right tools to achieve success will tax your body, mental state, and heart.

Exercise=good. Drinking alcohol regularly=bad. Plant based diet=good. Animal product, sugar, lotsa carbs diet=bad.

I know. I’ve heard all the stories. All the excuses. All the whinging. I even hear it from people on their 2nd heart attack. Change is hard. Grow the fuck up. Yep, we all gotta go sometime. But what if you don’t go for awhile and your children, family, neighbors have to take care of you? What if you can’t walk upstairs without wheezing in pain? Or just grocery shopping is the biggest event of your day?

Ruminating on my first job post heart attack and I’m grateful for being laid off last week. Financially it’s scary. But I knew from reading the Glassdoor.com reviews that the CEO could potentially push my stress level up.  I did my best to mitigate the impact on my body with the healthiest foods. I had to work. Hearing that I was laid off wasn’t surprising based on how the company is run.

When another employee resigned leaving an office with natural light, I asked if I could move into it. I shut down in rooms with no natural light. One of the reasons I left Seattle was the lack of sunshine. For days on end I worked in a space I dubbed “the tomb” because it was sucking the life out of me. Upon asking again, I was informed (around month 3) that I couldn’t move before I brought in a client. Motivating, right?

I sat in on client calls and listened to my CEO lie, and was expected to support each stretched story, every time she threw an employee under the bus, pretended we had skills we didn’t, and every conversation where she talked at (rarely listening or asking open questions) potential clients for almost an hour with such insistence that she knew what they needed…that I died a little each time.

The final stressor I think that pushed me over the edge was on a trip using my professional circle to drive business (so I could get an office with natural light and the CEO off my back) I knew that there was nothing at the company my peers would need. They were far beyond what we offered. Most were technical, marketing and creative geniuses who had done better work 15 years ago. I ate my way through that trip.

That I had allowed the stress by month four to push me back to sugar every day. That means gaining 12lbs. I had allowed the stress to trigger little pings of pain to prick my heart every week.  I had allowed the stress to take over my life so much that I haven’t built a social life or network of friends in my new home city/state.

So what? It’s the connections, the relationships, the love, the laughs combined with healing food that serves our bodies the most.

The day after being laid off I woke up feeling freedom. (Obviously not financially.) As I begin my interviews for new opportunities, I am empowering my spidey senses for the hidden stuff…secret agendas, behaviors, what employees aren’t saying, nervous ticks…you know…the stuff that makes bad work environments.

The net net? Change your life now. Seriously.