Holistic Health Bites podcast with Functional Nutritionist Andrea Nicholson featuring Rachel Headings discussing underlying stressors

Holistic Health Bites podcast, episode 106 Summary:

Rachel detailed her struggles with numerous health issues from a young age, leading her on a path to functional medicine. She overcame challenges by addressing root causes through diet and lifestyle changes.
Rachel explained how chronic stress keeps the body in a constant "fear" state, impacting cells and health over time. Mental, emotional and environmental stressors all contribute to dysregulation of the HPA axis and stress response.

Rachel recommended starting each day with solo time to self-regulate the nervous system and reduce stress-driven behaviors. Other tips included identifying stress signs, using supplements to calm the stress response, and prioritizing rest.  For those experiencing burnout, Rachel stressed the need to completely stop all activities and prioritize self-care and rest through nutrition, movement, social support and relaxing activities to allow the body to heal from chronic stress.

Rachel suggested small, sustainable lifestyle shifts like improving morning routines, food choices, movement habits and mindset to take control of health, focusing first on nervous system support before addressing other issues. By gaining self-awareness and writing personalized wellness goals, one can gain freedom from past limitations. Journaling, expressing emotions and self-love help reprogram thoughts for ongoing mental and physical optimization.


Full transcript: (unedited)

@0:04 - Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)
Okay. Welcome back to the Holistic Health Bytes podcast. Today we're going to have an interesting conversation around the body and brain and stress resilience and kind of all the things that can be the underlying cause that's keeping you stuck despite doing all of the amazing things.
And I am joined with a special guest, Rachel Headings, who's going to share with us her journey through this process.
Welcome, Rachel.
@0:29 - Rachel Headings
Hey, everybody. I'm so excited to be here. Thank you, Andrea, for inviting me to share with your guests. You know, the health and healing journey can look so different from everybody.
And there's so many ways to heal. There's so much information out there. You know, I love to kind of tell people, hey, you know, what's what else is going on besides all the tangible things to do?
So I really work with the world unseen with people. I'm going to the body mind spirit connection and it's super exciting.
You know, I've been in functional medicine since 2011, I've done a lot of functional medicine stuff with clients and I love diving deeper and going layer after layer to the root cause.
And so I'm super excited to dive into that a little bit today and do a little deep dive into the world unseen.
@1:18 - Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)
Yeah, I love it. So do you want to just kind of tell your story and how you got into functional medicine to begin with and then how you really started focusing more on the HPA access and some of those kind of unseen things that maybe plaguing people and probably frankly are.
@1:33 - Rachel Headings
Frankly are, you know, especially in the last couple of years with the stress levels flying off the charts. But you know, I was one of those sick kids.
I think most functional medicine practitioners out there have a healing journey of their own. I started off what I say on the left foot getting over prescribed antibiotics and going from doctor to doctor to doctor specialist, after specialist, getting sicker and sicker.
the time I was 15, I was on limited foods. had rashes all over allergies, asthma, anemia, gut issues, like you name it, I was dealing with them all.
And my parents were like, let's go try these chiropractors, because what else are we going to do? We've been to the allergist, we've been to the GI specialist, and we just weren't getting the help that was working.
So that's where my chiropractors were like, did you ever try to treat root cause? And that was the first time I heard the words that changed my life, because they started to put me on the elimination diet.
They started to give me anti-inflammatory herbs. They started to help me realize that there is deeper levels of how the body's all connected.
And when you work on one area, it can impact another. And I've pretty much dedicated my life and my journey into diving into that root cause.
And I've done functional medicine since 2011. And it's been amazing. And I love uncovering, like you said, investigate and uncover some of those root causes for people.
I hit a block. And the block, I came in probably my 30s. I still having digestive complaints. I was still having fatigue and hormone imbalance and inability to lose weight.
I'm sure a lot of your community can relate, can't lose weight no matter what I do. I eat lettuce, I work out hard, and I'm still, you know, the pounds aren't changing.
And so I had to do even more dieting. And I thought, okay, I'm taking all the gut supplements. I'm taking all the nutritional things to boost my nutritional deficiencies.
I know my genetics. I'm overriding all my genetic pathways. You know, what's happening here? What am I missing? Where's the magic supplement?
And that's when it took me to my next level of learning about the nervous system and learning about how trauma, emotional blocks, things that we are exposed to at young age.
I mean, I don't know anybody who hasn't dealt with trauma or hard things in their life. We're. I mean, more about myself, just the inner work.
And that's when I found Dr. Bob's stress reset and some things that really helped my nervous system get into what I call a rest and repair mode, probably for the first time in 30 years.
And that's when things started to change. And I thought, wait a second. I was missing something here because I was doing all the doing, but what was happening is I was still in fight or flight.
And I think a lot of people can relate, maybe they don't feel stressed, maybe they don't understand that stress is happening, no matter if we feel it or not, our cells are stressed all by a lot of things.
I didn't know that I was stressed. I thought it was normal to wake up in urgency and fall through the walls all day and run myself ragged and do it all over again, taking care of everything and everyone.
I thought that was normal. But when I got into rest and repair, I wanted to keep it. Because it felt so good.
And so learning strategies to keep that learning strategies to stop people pleasing learning strategies to give to myself first, learning strategies that I matter to, and then I don't have to take care of everything and everyone before myself.
And these are all the things that I teach my clients now. And then we go into the functional medicine protocols.
Because when we have our HPA access and our nervous system on board, and everything works better. And so I just put that out there because people aren't losing weight, you're just not sleeping well, or you got hormone imbalance, we gotta dig a little deeper.
@5:39 - Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)
Yeah, yeah, I love that. And I think that's such a common story. I talk to people all the time that are like, no, my stress is pretty moderate.
I feel like it's pretty normal. It's the same level as like everyone else. don't, it doesn't feel like a thing.
And yet they are the type A. They are the do everything for everyone else person. They are the people pleaser.
They are, you know, all these things. And all of that can be. stressful on the body is when you're not putting yourself even on the to-do list at all, or you're the opposite end of the spectrum, where you're trying to do all of it for yourself, for others forever.
And you're just not ever chilling.
@6:15 - Rachel Headings
You're never chilling. Yeah, or you're chilling and you're feeling guilty about it. That was me. I had to teach myself how to sit down and be okay with it.
Like that's not my norm. Rest feels lazy, rest feels like a cop-out. Rest feels like you piece of crap.
@6:33 - Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)
Why can't you handle it all?
@6:34 - Rachel Headings
Like those are the stories going on back here. And I'm like, wait a second. I see other people resting.
@6:41 - Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)
Why can't I? know, you kind of almost have to like convince yourself it's okay. Yeah, yeah.
@6:46 - Rachel Headings
And then it's okay, you can't handle it all. You know, in our society, we don't win any awards for everything we do.
@6:54 - Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)
@6:55 - Rachel Headings
But in a lot of it, we create on our own, right? just keep. going through our patterns.
@7:02 - Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)
So what do we do about that? are some of your favorite like stress management techniques or, you know, recognizing the different sources of stress?
What, what are some of your techniques that you use?
@7:14 - Rachel Headings
Yeah, you know, so we start to just dive in with clients and be like, look, when things are bothering you that wouldn't normally bother you, like the milk spills and you're screaming off the handle, that's a sign.
Okay, you're jumping. You just, somebody touches you and you jump. That's a sign. You're, you're overstimulated. You are wired and tired.
You lay down a rest and your brain just goes, that's a sign, you know, hormone imbalance, that's a sign.
Can't lose weight at all. You even gain weight eating the right things. That's a sign, you know. And so that's just what I would call cortisol being high for too long.
And for those of you who aren't familiar with HPA access and how cortisol drives the ship, just without getting too technical, it's basically think about a bear that's going to eat you or a lion, that scared feeling.
Your cells are in that state of fear all the time. And it can be created from mental stress, physiological stress, like toxins in our environment, foods we eat, and emotional stress.
Things that we've been exposed to, the stories we play in our head, mom wasn't here for me, dad did this to me, this trauma happened, that trauma happened, I felt shame, I felt guilt, all of it impacts your nervous system and how you handle stress.
And if we tested your stress level right now, there's a, there's a test you can do from Dutch with a court court is all awakening response, it can show you plain as day, how you're responding to it.
And most people are flat lining, I'm within a dead horse, or they're way off the charts, so wired and tired, they're completely wrapped and can't calm down.
And so when you know these things, things. What do you do? Well, you got to have an honest conversation with yourself.
Be like, what I'm doing is not working. Where do I start? And one thing I like to do with people because it's not a supplement and it's not a let me take this or take that is let me just have some me time with myself in the morning, me with me before anybody gets me.
Because especially if you're a mom or a caregiver or somebody who does everything for everyone day in and day out, give to yourself first.
That alone can change your insulin response, change your cortisol response, on down the line your metabolism can improve just from that.
And so it's not fancy, it's not a big huge supplement, but it's like, hey, popping some nice meditation music or some healing tones or journal something you want out of your life or just lay there and cry.
Crying releases cortisol naturally, you know, so I really had to rearrange my whole morning routine. I was balls to the wall from the second I got up busting out a workout.
It felt like I was running a marathon every single morning. And by the time I got through my to-do list I was whipping a dead horse by the end of the day and my hormones were letting me know there was no libido, there was bad PMS, there was brain fog, there was fatigue and I'm thinking I'm a functional medicine practitioner.
What the heck? Let me go do some more labs. I must be missing something. Pause. And then I found Dr.
Bob's stress reset. That was a gift from God. I swear. This guy's a genius. If you haven't followed him yet, please Google him.
Bob Rakesy is out of Houston. He's been teaching functional medicine for over 30 years. He's been using this protocol over 20 years and basically it is some products.
But the El C&E, the melatonin and the Rieshi mushroom are the magic combos that just block the stress response at the cellular level.
When I did that and my stress hormone stopped running the show, that's where this whole new inner calm payment.
Well, who's this new person? It's like everything started to work better. And I'm like, whoa, this is amazing. so just that's another strategy I like to use with people upfront.
Get your morning routine dialed in, have a strong conversation with yourself that's not working and get on something like the stress reset that can really make huge impact in a short amount of time.
And so we start there. I mean, you got to start untangling somewhere. But when you work on nervous system first, there's way less holes to patch.
People don't need as many supplements. They start to get quick wins. I've had clients lose 10 to 12 pounds within 14 days because we're dialing in their nervous system first.
it's often overlooked. I know I overlooked it and it's easy to do because we're out here doing all things.
@12:07 - Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)
Yeah and that's what our society like applauds or expects or at least that's what we all think. And so we just completely don't even look for it.
It seems normal because it's what everybody's doing. Everybody's on the go all the time. Everybody's pushing hard and everybody's got all the goals and yeah it can be hard to recognize that this actually isn't okay just because it's common doesn't make it okay.
@12:29 - Rachel Headings
Doesn't make it ideal. And we're bombarded by so much information now. think people don't realize things are moving faster.
Information's coming faster. There's so much everywhere. If you're not taking that time to just clean it out and let it out and just be for a minute without numbing with Netflix or alcohol or whatever your numbing vice is, if you can't just be with yourself that's another sign that we
We are dysregulated. We've got to start on that HPA access.
@13:04 - Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)
Yep. Yep. So what if you have been in this state for so long that now you're completely burned out?
How are you?
@13:12 - Rachel Headings
So that's right. Right. So there's the green yellow and red, right? So green, we're like chilling. We're calm. We're peaceful.
We're coming from overflow. We're like, I got some joy back. We're motivated. We're jumping out of bed. You know, our our vitals are good.
Our weight's good. We got energy. That's green, right? When we get to fight or flight to yellow, it starts to be like, go, go, go all the time.
We kind of explain the urgency, racing dots, hormone and bounce. Maybe your resting heart rate goes up a little.
know, your thyroid starts to take a hit. start to see signs and blood pressure. then let's say you get COVID.
You get a big life stressor event that's like, ah, it's. stress goes off the charts, right? Sometimes people know they're they're trigger and some people are just gradually over time get some up here.
But let's say, for example, you get the COVID vaccine and now you've broken the camel's back and you can't get over this chronic exhaustion.
You can't lose the weight. Your brain is a mess. You're not sleeping, you're achy and you blame the vaccine.
Well, this is your body saying, I can't do this anymore. This is the red zone. You're you're worrying all the time.
You're almost a hopeless, hopeless land. Brains kind of go into, you know, sometimes ADHD, suicidal thoughts, like there can just be a lot of signs that I can't do this anymore.
And when you're in fruit and I call freeze mode, the red zone, it is absolutely imperative that you stop everything you're doing and prioritize yourself in every area.
Because rest is the only way out of that and I've hit that I've hit that a couple times and it's scary Because you're like who is this person?
This isn't me You lose yourself somewhere along the way and then COVID hits or somebody dies or your job changes or you move and you blame that event But it has been building I Put myself on the back burner for 30 some years because I wanted to keep everyone else happy and Giving felt better than receiving and you know not using my voice was easier than having an opinion and making everybody unhappy You know you just live in that conditioned response until you can't do it anymore Yeah, and that's when that's when things really have to change.
I mean your body Just starts to break down then at that point.
@15:50 - Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)
Yeah So what are some things you mentioned the the three supplements that are really helpful to just kind of regulate everything But what are some just the behavioral things?
@15:59 - Rachel Headings
What are some?
@16:00 - Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)
Yeah, tactical things that people could implement today that don't require any special products or supplements or medications.
@16:07 - Rachel Headings
Yeah, you know, I'm a big fan and Dr. Sachin Patel taught me this of doing 10 things, 10 percent better, building your own healthy skill set.
You can be your own doctor, you can write your own prescription, you know better than anybody else knows you.
So number one, stop looking on the outside for the answers. I love having clients start to get interactive with their prescription because I was one of those who want out here for all the answers, every specialist, every test, every guru, but at the end of the day, I know what works for me.
So I would say, have a strong conversation with yourself, take some time in the morning and say, oh, this really helps me and this really doesn't.
write that on your prescription. This is, this is Andrea's prescription, me time 30 minutes. in the morning, you know, and then hydrate.
We all know, okay, most people in the world know that fruits and vegetables are better than chips and donuts, you know.
Hydration with minerals is better than, you know, non-filtered water. Most of us have the knowledge, but the question is why aren't we choosing that time and time again?
And have a strong conversation due to yourself. Does my health matter? Does me waking up and feeling good and not dealing with needles of insulin and blood sugar crashes and fear that I'm not going to a coma or losing my eyeballs or my kidneys matter?
Well, what can I do about it? Okay, I can hydrate. I can stabilize my blood sugar. I can choose my food wisely.
are the 10 things. If you do just 10% better, you're gonna have a whole new you. And it's taking your power back to realize that's on my prescription.
Okay, I'm gonna eat protein first. I'm gonna eat anti-inflammatory foods. Well, we all know donuts is pretty inflammatory by now.
you don't know that, you've been living under a rock and just open up any health and wellness, anything. they're gonna say eat, you know, green leafy vegetables, eat fruits, eat berries, eat real, God-given food, know, things that come out of the nature.
That's better than anything it comes out of a machine or a factory, first and foremost. So obviously dial in your food choices and do mindful eating.
There's no magic diet, there's no magic way, there's no magic, anything that you're missing. It's what helps your body feel good, food's information, feed it new information if you don't like what you have.
Feed it new information. And we know that protein, good fats, know, avocados, olive oil, avocado oil, some of these things are gonna help the blood sugar stabilize.
And that's gonna keep you from putting on those fat pounds. Another thing I like to say is This joyful movement, move your body.
Bodies are meant to move and we have a problem in this world called sedentary lifestyle. And the more you sit, the more you want to sit.
So make it a priority on your lunch break to move. Or I'm at a desk where I can move and I can walk and I can get my body moving.
And I prioritize movement every day. as you get older, just remember, intense workouts can drive cortisol. So just going and busting out at the gym in a hit workout or a crossfit workout or a marathon, whatever, you could be creating oxidative stress or rusty cells and inflammation by overworking your body.
So I like to say joyful movement, mindful movement, listening to my body, spending 75% of your time and rest and repair.
That's not a magic wand, but it helps to get into the rest and recovery. So that cortisol isn't driving the ship.
@19:58 - Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)
No, and then a little.
@20:00 - Rachel Headings
Nation right we talk about pooping every day. You're not it's not normal. I don't care how long it's been People say I'm not pooped for a week and that's how it's always been not normal Things are going through too fast or too slow.
We've got some cleanup to do in the gut And you know work within Andrea or your practitioner on toning up that gut There's lots of ways to do that and it doesn't have to take very long Part of it is getting out of chronic stress because everything in the digestive trap works better When the adrenaline isn't feeding the bad bugs, right and then we get overgrowth and they steal our nutrients And we get inflammation and we get no energy You know, and so that's another one I like to say and um, and I like to clean up mindset You know, most people are their own worst enemy.
They're thinking toxic thoughts daily. They're saying they're no good for anything. They have nothing to To live for or whatever like there's I know I was my own worst critic.
I talked to the dog nicer than I talked to myself, like something's wrong there. So we work a lot on what, where are your thoughts?
know, are you angry at someone or is this anger coming out of somewhere you didn't give yourself attention, you know, and that journey of self-love and self-acceptance can be very long.
There can be a lot on weed and unpack there, but it starts with really having some awareness that there's two voices in your head, the deep, dark, icky one, and the one that says, hey, you're worth something.
You can do this. You deserve better. Let's get your health on track. I'll help you. Which one are you going to listen to?
so I like to say clean up your thoughts. Let's focus on what you really want and let's start to work towards that together and just start to really write your own prescription.
@21:49 - Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)
I love it. I love it. I think that's all great actionable things that everybody can do. Some of it might require a little bit of guidance to do it right and do it thoroughly and
do it, you know, in a healthy way. But a lot of it are just things you could start doing today without really consulting anyone or even overhauling your life.
Like these can be baby stuff things. Like you said, 10% better. That's not that much. Not that one different change.
@22:16 - Rachel Headings
One different change for choice, you know, shorten your eating window. You've probably talked about intermittent fasting a lot, eat between 10 and seven 10 a.m.
seven p.m. twice a day, proteins and vegetables. Just that one thing will change your life.
@22:31 - Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)
@22:32 - Rachel Headings
You know, if you're super text out on energy, I wouldn't recommend that because you're probably not to handle it.
But if you've got a little energy reserve, you'll be able to handle it just fine.
@22:42 - Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)
Yep. Yeah. I think something simple like journaling. So many people are resistant to writing these things down. And I don't know if that's because of like childhood, dear diary thoughts of like what it looks like the journal doesn't have to be that it can just be writing a to do list writing the thought in your head.
writing about something you're scared of or something that's worrying you or bothering you or some childhood story that keeps coming up like write it down.
It's amazing how in your brain it seems like this big thing or this unsolvable problem and then you write it on paper and you're like well that looks really dumb when I read it.
It like totally deflates the story that you're spinning in your mind. It doesn't have to be this big complicated thing and it definitely does not have to be dear diary.
Just get the thoughts out of your head and onto paper and I think pen to paper more so than digital is really powerful and so easy.
We just have to get over that hurdle of doing it and it can be life-changing.
@23:45 - Rachel Headings
Yeah and we like to tell our clients this is another thing you could do easily free on your own time.
When that story comes up get it all out every emotion all the swear words everything that wasn't fair. How it made you.
feel it in your body, rage it out on one side or two side or five sides, you know, because it can take a lot of writing.
And then burn it, crumple it up, it, and on the next pages write a love letter to yourself. I'm so proud of you.
I'm so proud of you for showing up. I'm so proud of you for trying something new. I'm so proud of you for trying to rewrite this story that happened to that wasn't fair.
give yourself so much love because we go outside ourselves all the time for that validation, for that love, for that, will they like me?
me some likes on social media. Is anybody paying attention to me? We go outside ourselves for these things that we're not giving ourselves first and foremost.
And it's shorthand it. It's going to disappoint you every single time. And so getting better at filling your cup up with what you need and not looking on the outside for it.
That's freedom. And I don't know about you, but I love the idea of freedom.
@25:03 - Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)
Absolutely. Absolutely. I think we can be free from so many of the things that are holding us back. Poor food choices, medications, diagnoses, family history, believing that we're stuck with all these stories.
this is just our lot in life. And yeah, we can be free from all of those things if we just approach it the right way.
I think that's such a powerful message. So if people are interested in learning more about you, if they want to work with you, if they want to learn more of your techniques or just from all the amazing resources you've already shared today, what is the best way to reach out?
@25:33 - Rachel Headings
Yeah, you know, I have Rachel Headings.com. That's H-E-A-D-I-N-G-S. It's a hard thing sometimes. You can find me on Facebook, Instagram.
I also have GetOutOfStress.com. You know, that's an easy handle to find. I would love to chat with you. If you tried all the things, you're tired of doing functional labs or you know somebody who's like at their widths and whipping a dead horse, screaming over the
build milk, can't lose the weight, you know, the people in our programs are just doing fabulous with that. I'd love just to have a conversation, you know, just where, where, what if you tried, what are your challenges, what's not working?
And yeah, just dive in.
@26:17 - Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)
Yeah, I love it. We'll definitely link up all of that in the show notes for anyone to just click on easily and find you and reach out.
Thank you so much for sharing all of your amazing personal story and all the lessons you've learned and some great actionable tips with everybody today.
know there's a lot of things that people can just implement today and get started on this journey. So thank you so much.
@26:40 - Rachel Headings
Amazing. Thanks for having me.
@26:41 - Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)
Hope everybody takes the bull by the horns and goes for it. Yeah, absolutely. This is for sure a change that everyone needs to be making.
Whether you feel like you're stressed or not, there's work to be done. All of us, 100% myself included. I think every functional practitioner out there included all of us need to be doing.
more of these things and putting more of ourselves on our own to do list. So I think all of this was great actionable information.
So to everyone out there, thank you so much for tuning in. We'll catch you again on future episodes. Awesome!


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