Let's face it - stress is not good for anyone. All people, regardless of genetic makeup, should take steps to both minimize and better handle stressors in their lives. However, people with the MTHFR mutation are especially vulnerable to falling ill due to chronic or acute stress. Stress can tip your body that already has compromised immunity over the edge into a full blown health crisis.
In fact, I can speak from personal experience that my health collapse occurred during a period of particular and prolonged emotional turmoil. If I could go back and do it all over again, of course I would change many things. Nonetheless, I survived and learned invaluable lessons to share with people like you on the other side. I can't say that my health crisis was 100% due to the stress I was going through. I also can't say that my genetic predisposition was entirely to blame. The mind-body relationship is extremely complex and the cause of my illness was likely equally complex. In my heart, I believe that I had a physical vulnerability and stress exploited that chink in my armor, bringing life-threatening consequences.
Stress causes real physical changes in the body. For instance, it activates your sympathetic nervous system (the “fight, flight, or freeze response”), raises cortisol levels, induces inflammation throughout the body, and can seriously disrupt sleep, just to name a few symptoms. If the stress isn't managed quickly and your body remains in this state, it can take a grave toll on your immune system - something that a person with the MTHFR mutation especially can't afford. If you are additionally an HSP (highly sensitive person - not to be confused with being “sensitive”), and many people in this demographic seem to be, that can complicate things further. Not only is your body more reactive to sensory stimuli, but you may be vulnerable to even unconsciously absorbing the emotions of others in a way that can cause serious problems when they're negative or hostile. While this physical difference in how the nervous system and brain neurons function makes one especially intuitive and empathetic, it can also be your downfall, especially when it's combined with having the MTHFR mutation.
So what do you do? Well, removing sources of stress from your life, when possible, is a start. Learn to say "no." Give your body time to rest. Remove yourself from toxic and hostile environments. Seek and build healthy relationships. Don't overbook your schedule. Know when it's time to walk away. Have healthy boundaries. Practice self-care.
However, it's not always that simple. Sometimes, life thrusts stressors upon us that are inescapable. In those cases, all we can control is our response. Foster your spirituality. Identify lies you’re believing and replace them with truth. Change what’s in your power to change and release the rest. Practice meditation and deep breathing. Reframe how you’re perceiving the situation. Eat nutritious foods. Eat less toxic foods. Get plenty of exercise. Channel that energy into art.
If you're still struggling, there is no shame in seeking help. A therapist can help you to develop coping strategies that will give your body the best chance of making it through your stressful situation without compromising your health. I wish I would've done that. Despite being a super introspective person, it took me many years to really gain perspective on why that stressful event I referenced to affected me in the incredibly deep way that it did. A therapist may have been able to help me reach that understanding much sooner, therefore allowing me to internally respond to it in a way that may not have compromised my health so much. That’s what therapists are for! Utilize them.
Oh, and make sure you're taking a methylated B vitamin complex and have cut folic acid out of your diet. Doing so can greatly boost your body's ability to handle stress in a healthy way.
Have you ever fallen ill due to a stressful event in your life? How do you best manage your stress? Tell us about it!