Impact of Busy-ness and Stress on Hashimoto’s and Hypothyroidism

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Health Mysteries Solved Podcast with Inna Topiler

How to Manage Health and Thyroid Issues When You’re Pressed for Time with Megan Sumrell

The Impact of Stress and Busy-ness on Hashimoto’s and Hypothyroidism

The Case: 

  • Donna has had hypothyroidism for 10 years
  • Medication helped at first but lately, she’s experiencing fatigue and weight gain. 
  • She was finally diagnosed with Hashimoto’s which sent her on a Google frenzy and left her overwhelmed by information. 
  • She’s got 4 kids, a full-time job, and is trying to manage Hashimoto’s with diet, exercise, and supplements – it’s all too stressful. 

When I met Donna and heard about her busy life and her health struggles, I knew the two things were connected. She was doing a lot right by supporting her nervous system and immune system through diet, exercise, and supplements but in truth, they were no match for the stress she was under. Taking care of herself became the straw that broke the stress-camel’s back. 

I knew exactly where to look to help her solve her mystery. 

The Stress of ‘Never Enough Time’

One of the greatest challenges we face in our lives is managing our time effectively. It often feels like there are never enough hours in a day to accomplish everything we need to do. That’s why I was thrilled to have Megan Sumrell, a time management expert, on this episode of Health Mysteries Solved. The first thing we tackled is the concept that there is never enough time in the day. 

Megan believes that there is a lot at play here. While many people rush to blame inadequate time planning for their unfinished tasks, our present-day world presents distinct challenges compared to the past. The expectations we impose on ourselves, as well as those imposed by others, have significantly evolved over the years. Looking back on her own journey, Megan acknowledges the tremendous increase in the number of responsibilities she now juggles compared to 15 years ago. 

To overcome this hurdle, Megan suggests that we find a balance between the influx of tasks and our capacity to handle them. It’s crucial to reassess how we plan and manage our time, distinguishing between what is realistically achievable and what is not.

Why Managing Tasks Can Be Challenging in Today’s World

Megan sheds light on two primary reasons that our task lists never seem to get done. First, she emphasizes the onslaught of distractions, particularly in the form of technology and all of these beeps, bings, and message notifications. She reminds us that, while technology has its benefits, if we don’t learn to control it, it can easily control us. Additionally, the instant gratification culture we live in contributes to the perception that we have more to do, even if it’s not the case. 

The second reason Megan highlights is the “just in time living” mindset many people operate in, where they only focus on their daily to-do list. Without systems in place to accommodate unforeseen events or changes, any disruption can lead to a cascade of delays and overwhelm.

This was exactly Donna’s experience. She found herself buried under an ever-growing pile of to-do lists. Interestingly, Megan challenges the traditional notion of relying solely on to-do lists. While they have their time and place, she doesn’t recommend solely depending on them. Megan acknowledges the satisfaction of checking off tasks but suggests that creating a list just to check it off may not be the most effective approach.

Transforming a Task List into an Effective Plan

Megan emphasizes the crucial distinction between a task list and a plan. While a traditional to-do list may contain all the tasks we need to accomplish, it lacks the essential elements of when and how long each task will take. Megan draws an analogy by comparing it to a shopping or grocery list without knowing how much money you have. Similarly, without turning our task list into a plan, we risk over-committing ourselves and not considering the feasibility or efficiency of our tasks.

Megan highlights the importance of budgeting our time just as we would money. By incorporating time constraints and prioritization into our planning process, we can make more informed choices about what tasks to tackle and when. This approach allows us to maximize efficiency, consolidate errands, and focus on what truly matters. Without this level of organization and prioritization, we may find ourselves perpetually trapped on a hamster wheel, feeling busy but not truly productive. And that is stress-inducing!

Mastering Prioritization and Overcoming Overwhelm

Understanding how to prioritize tasks can be challenging, especially when dealing with health issues or experiencing overwhelming thoughts. Megan suggests using a prioritization matrix that combines various approaches. When we find ourselves in a state of panic or anxiety, it’s crucial to recognize that it’s not a reflection of our intelligence or capabilities. Our brain’s chemical reactions during these moments can lead to irrational decision-making. 

Listen to this episode to hear about Megan’s practical exercise that allows us to operate at our highest capacity. This includes a time-limited approach to creating a list and then identifying what truly needs to be done within the next 24 hours and has negative consequences if not addressed. By narrowing down the list to these critical tasks, we can create a focused action plan.

Consulting our calendar, we can determine when to tackle these priority tasks. This approach helps us break free from the overwhelming feeling of urgency by taking a step-by-step approach. By calming our brain, focusing on specific tasks, and creating a plan, we can overcome overwhelm and maintain momentum.

Designing the Perfect Planner: Seeing the Whole Week

When it comes to effective time management, finding the right planner is key. Megan emphasized the importance of using a planner that provides a week-at-a-view layout with hourly slots. This design allows us to see our entire week at a glance, empowering us to assess our available time and commitments. By visualizing the bigger picture, we can strategically plan our days and make informed decisions about our priorities. Having a holistic view of the week enables us to stay organized and focused on what truly matters.

This includes your food. I always talk to my patients about planning the weekly menu. When you do this, you can buy fresh produce and cook in bulk. This saves time and reduces decision fatigue. I also recommend using those daily pill containers for your supplements to keep them straight and streamline the process. 

Planning for Success: Balancing Predictability and Flexibility 

The beauty of weekly planning lies in its ability to strike a balance between predictability and flexibility. By creating a weekly plan, we gain clarity and can allocate dedicated time for important projects and tasks. However, life is full of unexpected changes and challenges. Megan emphasized the need to plan for uncertainty. Whether it’s a sudden health issue or a last-minute travel plan, we must be adaptable. Megan’s advice was to allocate flexible time blocks or leave room for unexpected events. This approach allows us to manage our time effectively while still being able to adapt to unexpected circumstances.

The To-Don’t List: Letting Go of Unnecessary Tasks

One of the most transformative concepts Megan shared was the idea of the to-don’t list. It involves identifying tasks that we don’t enjoy doing or that can be delegated to others. By starting with these tasks, we can explore creative solutions to eliminate or outsource them. This practice liberates our time and energy, allowing us to focus on what truly matters. It’s essential to let go of tasks that don’t align with our values or bring us joy. By doing so, we can create more space in our lives for the activities that contribute to our well-being and happiness.

Prioritizing Self-Care: Health and Well-Being First

In our pursuit of productivity and success, we often neglect our own well-being. Megan emphasized the importance of prioritizing self-care and allocating dedicated time for it. Whether it’s exercise, healthcare appointments, or practices that support our well-being, our health should always come first. Megan reminded us that it’s okay to let some tasks slide temporarily. Just like a new mom focuses on her newborn and lets other things go, we need to prioritize our healing and well-being. When we give ourselves permission to focus on what truly matters, we can navigate life’s challenges with more resilience and grace.

The Power of Making Wiser Choices

Mastering time management is about making wiser choices with the limited resource we have: time. By embracing the power of weekly planning, using a planner that suits our needs, planning for uncertainty, and creating a to-don’t list, we can find greater balance in our lives. It’s essential to prioritize self-care and give ourselves permission to focus on what truly matters. In doing so, we’ll experience less stress, greater fulfillment, and the ability to achieve our goals while maintaining our well-being.

To help you implement these insights into your own life, here are some practical tips for effective time management:

  1. Start with a planner that provides a week-at-a-view layout with hourly slots. This allows you to see your entire week and allocate time strategically.
  2. Prioritize your tasks and commitments. Identify the most important ones and allocate dedicated time for them in your weekly plan.
  3. Plan for uncertainty by leaving flexible time blocks or creating buffers in your schedule. This will help you adapt to unexpected events or changes.
  4. Create a to-don’t list. Identify tasks that you don’t enjoy or can delegate to others. Find creative ways to eliminate or outsource them, freeing up your time for more meaningful activities.
  5. Remember to prioritize self-care. Allocate dedicated time for activities that support your well-being and make you feel nourished and energized.

By implementing these practical tips, you’ll be on your way to becoming a master of time management, finding balance, and experiencing greater fulfillment in your daily life.

Remember, effective time management is a journey, and it requires practice and self-awareness. Embrace the power of weekly planning, make intentional choices, and prioritize self-care. By doing so, you’ll create a life that is both productive and fulfilling, where you have the time and space to focus on what truly matters.

Next Steps

To help Donna get past her feelings of overwhelm and daily stress, we started with reframing her approach to task management. 

But first, we had to figure out the exact diet and supplements that she needed based on her thyroid type and Hashimoto’s triggers (based on her test results). We also came up with ways to better plan ahead so she wasn’t planning day to day.

From weekly food shopping to laying out her supplements 1-2 weeks in advance to actually understanding that she needed more time for herself, it all really made a difference. 

She never gave herself the permission to shift her priorities so doing this really helped. She was also shocked at how much her older kids were able to take on. 

Happy Ending

Donna’s shift in perspective gave her more peace of mind and that allowed her nervous system to calm more and as you know, the calmer your nervous system the quicker your body can heal.

Eliminating Health Mysteries

For Donna, we were able to find that missing piece of the health puzzle and help her regain her health. Could this be the missing clue for you or someone in your life? 


Resources mentioned

Thanks to my guest Megan Sumrell. You can connect with her on her website or on Instagram.

Related Podcast Episodes:

111 What Is Your Thyroid Type? (and How to Manage It) 128 How to Get the Health Benefits of Home Cooked (Even if You Have No Time) 138 Revealed! The Equation for Being Healthy and Feeling Good with Hashimoto’s 125 The Super Simple Mindset Shift to Help Hashimoto’s

Thanks for Listening

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