Stress, Stroke, and Hormones

What is stress and how does it impact stroke recovery? In this episode, I talk with Speech Language Pathologist, Wellness coach, and endocrinology expert Michelle rusk about the nature of stress and the role of Cortisol in our bodies.

Modern life is stressful enough without contending with stroke and recovery. Add more mundane and major sources of stress to our lives on a daily basis drives out bodies to a continuous state of Fight, Flight, or Freeze. Overtime, that causes more health problems, which introduces more stress to the system

Breaking the cycle of stress requires that we understand more about it and  just how it impacts our bodies.

If you don't see the audio player below, visit http://Strokecast.com/Stress to listen to the conversation


Who is Michelle Rusk?

Michelle Rusk smiles at the camera in this selfie taken in a kitchen.

Michelle Rusk is a North Carolina based Speech Language Pathologist, licensed to treat patients in North Carolina and Virginia. She is also a Wellness Coach and Dutch Test practitioner working with clients from all over.

She owns and operates Coastal Speech Therapy and Wellness. Coastal Speech Therapy & Wellness is a private practice offering virtual therapy throughout Virginia and North Carolina for those with brain injury. She serves patients as a therapist, certified brain and hormone health coach, and DUTCH test practitioner.

What is Cortisol?

Cortisol is one of the body's stress hormones. When an emergency arises, the body dumps cortisol into the system to increase blood pressure, blood sugar, and other mechanisms that give us extra resources to run away or fight a threat.

Humans have been around for about 100,000 years. Up until the last hundred years or so, that system worked fine. Modern life though, for all the wonderful and amazing things it offers, introduces a lot of low level stress that builds and builds.

In response, our bodies push more cortisol into the system. We end up living with a higher level of cortisol than we were ever meant to. That contributes to a whole array of health issues.

As Michelle explains, the way to address that is with lifestyle changes,

What is the Dutch test?

Michelle uses the Dutch test with her wellness patients. It's a urine test that assesses the levels of hormones in a person's system, with cortisol being the big one.

The company actually offers a variety of tests that work in different ways to assess hormone levels. You collect the samples at home, send them off to the lab, and then get the detailed results.

You can learn a lot more about the tests and see sample reports at http://DutchTest.com.

Once you get results, you should discuss them with your doctor or medical team. Actually, it's probably a good idea to talk with your medical team first because these tests can cost several hundred dollars and generally won't be covered by health insurance.

Social Wellness Groups

Michelle's comments on social wellness groups are also interesting.

An online or in person stroke support group is a powerful thing. There's a lot of value in connecting with other survivors. It's not just about getting tips for living with stroke or learning about local resources, though.

It's about the community.

Often we can go through our days isolated. Most of the people we talk to have not experienced a stroke. They can't understand our experience.

In a support group, though, we're around people who do "get it." And that's a big deal.

A social wellness group takes that to another level. There are the benefits of the community, sure, but there's the added benefit of the instructor led skill development. Michelle is able to coach conversational norms, among other things, to help reduce the sense of isolation out in the real world.

Michelle on Discharge Day

Michelle mentioned how amazing discharge day is, even if it is tinged with sadness as the relationship changes. Here's the post she mentioned: https://www.instagram.com/p/CcQuULsOABh/

A screen shot of an Instagram post celebrating patient discharge. The IG caption reads "The best and saddest day EVER. . On the difficult days, we pause and look back at how far they’ve come before we move forward again. . Then they’re ready and we GO at those challenges head on. . Until we make it to the end of our time together. They no longer need me. 🥲"

Mimi Hayes Kick Starter

Mimi Hays survived a stroke shortly into her first job as a teacher in her twenties. She had a ridiculous amount of trouble getting treatment which still makes me angry. So naturally, she turned to a career in comedy, and she's a delight. We talked all about her adventures here: http://Strokecast.com//mimi

Mimi has performed all sorts of places, including the massive Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. Now she's trying to get back to Fringe and has launched a KickStarter to do that. It's open until July 9, 2022.

Check it out here, and follow Mimi on social for fabulous minutes throughout the day.

Hacks of the Week

Michelle had three different hacks to share with us this week

First, don't isolate yourself. You don't have to do recovery alone. From the therapists to the doctors to the other patients to family and friends, there are people who want to be there on the journey with you. Let them, and invite them.

I always say the stroke club is full of cool kids. But the dues really suck!

Second, find therapy in everyday life. Whether that's trying to use an affected hand to turn on a light or finding reason to speak just a few more words, the therapy that really matters isn't taking place on a mat table (though that helps). It's taking place when you do or attempt to do the tasks in life that have the potential to bring you joy.

Third, don't guess. Dutch Test. To understand what is going on with your hormones, start by knowing what those levels are. Then you and your medical team can discuss the lifestyle changes that can be most helpful.


Where do we go from here?

Here is the latest episode of The Strokecast

No comments: