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Sometimes, You Just Need to Quit For The Sake of Health

Updated: May 27, 2020

We all know stress is bad - but it's like one of those things that you know isn't good for you, but you don't really know how much it's effecting you. Especially in our crazy, hectic lifestyles where working around the clock is a social norm and getting 4 hours or less of sleep is a badge of honor.

This mentality and way of life has led many people to seek help through Nutritional Psychology and Consultations with me for balancing their hormones and reversing the damage that stress has done on their body. And often times, one of the first things that needs to be done is to simply slow. down. (If you're interested in how stress effects your hormones, check out my free natural hormone balancing series on YouTube HERE).

Because your mental state and physical state are both tied together. If your body isn't healthy, then neither is your mind and vice versa. The body is a system, completely intertwined and reliant on each other.

Today I want to share a story of someone who listened to her body cues and put her health truly first. Meet Dominique. Dominique is a health and fitness writer and business owner who has lived the crazy, sleepless nights of a writer on a deadline... and also the negative health side effects as a result.

I first met Dominique through work - I remember she was outgoing, extremely smile-y (if that's a word?) and genuinely excited about health and wellness. Over the years, I've gotten to know Dominique on a more personal level and we bonded over our shared history of anxiety. Just last year, Dominique did something that some people might think is extreme (spoiler alert, I think it's awesome)... she quit her job for the sake of her health.

I've asked Dominique to share her experience so that you may find inspiration to take a big step toward achieving your own health and wellness dreams. Granted, not everyone needs to quit their job in order to get healthy (you can do other things like a DIY Wellness Retreat and proper nutrient timing). For Dominique, it was necessary. But find inspiration to take that step toward achieving true wellness for yourself in Dom's story.

autumn elle nutrition mental health Dominique Astorino

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m Dominique; I’m in my 20s, living in San Diego. I’m a writer (mostly writing about health and wellness!), author (my first book is coming out soon!), new dog mama (to a beautiful floof ball named Stella), and overall happy human being who loves the beach, travel, food, cozy nights in, good books, Chanel everything, Pilates, and Disneyland. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been this year!

At what point was your anxiety the highest/health the lowest?

There was a span of time between late 2016 and mid 2017 in which things were sliding downward and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was off; there were a lot of highs to offset the lows, so I pushed through. After I got back from a trip to Europe in September 2017, things took a more drastic turn; I could identify that I was legitimately depressed and my health was at an all time low (and continued to get worse), despite being a fitness and health editor in one of the healthiest cities (SF). 

Between November 2017 and March 2018, after going to the emergency room, being tested for Crohn’s with some seriously invasive procedures, going in and out of urgent care multiple times, getting the flu four times in one season (at two weeks a pop), enduring an excruciating rupturing cyst from PCOS, and spiraling deeper into a near-crippling depression, I finally started having dissociative panic attacks with no apparent triggers. They’d come from out of nowhere and put me into a blacked out, drugged kind of state. I was diagnosed with general anxiety and panic disorder my a primary care physician who prescribed me Ativan and a 12-week medical disability leave from work.

Why do you think it got to this point?

There are a number of reasons I think it got to this point. The umbrella to all of this was that chronic stressors had crept into my life silently and sneakily, and we live in a cultural climate in which this kind of stress is normalized. Here’s my assessment:

- Environmental factors: my living situation was not conducive to giving me a healthy home base or respite, and the actual weather climate in SF contributed to poor mood, low vitamin D, and seasonal affective disorder; living far from my best friend group and family didn’t help either.

- Work stress: I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus or throw shade with details, but I will say that I was not in a healthy nor balanced work environment and this contributed to a significant amount of stress. As my psychiatrist puts it, it was “not a fair or reasonable relationship."

- I didn’t give myself a break: I never gave myself permission to take a break until I had hit a low point. I didn’t feel justified until things got so bad, I couldn’t function. HUGE mistake! But we learn the most from these challenges, don’t we?

- Stress is sneaky: as I mentioned, stress crept in silently. Everyone’s stressed. Everyone’s burnt out. Everyone’s working hard. This is normal, right? Just keep pushing through! This is all such a messed up mindset. Life shouldn’t make you feel like you’re drowning every day. You shouldn’t ALWAYS be tired or ALWAYS be getting sick or ALWAYS feel like you need a glass of wine or gallon of coffee to survive. Because stress can be sneaky and can come from a myriad of sources (relationships, finances, work, living environments, etc) it can be hard to identify what in your life is off, not working, and contributing to ailing health.

- I didn’t sit with my negative feelings: this was a tough one for me to realize. As someone who always wants to look on the bright side, acknowledging shitty feelings is really hard for me to do. I’ve learned since that instead of packing a feeling away and focusing on something positive, sometimes the best thing you can do is to face the bad feeling face to face. Sit with it. Ask it what’s up. Where’s it coming from? What’s it trying to teach you? Use this feeling as a warning and a guidance system versus something to avoid.

When did you realize something needed to change?

I realized something needed to change when I was in the emergency room last November, but I didn’t give myself permission until the dissociative panic attacks began. It was then I felt like I was truly out of control and needed help… the closest I’ve ever come to needing a legitimate intervention. I found myself sobbing in my bedroom thinking “I need my mom”… and in your late 20s, that’s not exactly an empowering feeling.

autumn elle nutrition mental health Dominique Astorino

What steps did you take to heal your body and mind?

Step one: the BREAK. I call this my Life Reset (this is actually the title of my forthcoming book!). The medical leave gave me the foundation I needed to wipe the slate clean, clear my plate, cancel plans, and truly hit the hard reboot on my body, brain, and life.

I left work, I left town, I cancelled all plans, I turned my phone off, and I headed to the beach in San Diego (staying with my family!) to read books, meditate, see my psychiatrist, and get things sorted out.

(NOTE FROM AUTUMN: You can do exactly what Dominique did without taking a medical leave or multiple weeks off from work by doing a DIY Wellness Retreat! Read how to do one HERE)

Step two: CLARITY. I used this time of peace with no distractions to hone in on what felt good in my life and what didn’t. It was SO. MUCH. EASIER. when I had taken a break, it was like I was seeing with new eyes. Imagine you need glasses to see (I do, lol) and taking those glasses off and trying to read a sign far away — it’s all such a blur you don’t even try to read it, because what’s the point? Put the glasses on, and the sign's as clear as day, easier than ever to read. That was how I felt with my life, and I knew instantly what needed to be eradicated. I had certain gut feelings and intuition along the way, but the chronic stress had caused me to doubt myself — I was weak and unsure, and didn’t give myself due credit to make major decisions.

Step three: REBUILD. Once I had the clarity, I began to rebuild my life exactly how I wanted it to be. It was such a fun, empowering project. Who are the people I want around me, what’s the environment I want to be in every day? What do I want my days to look like? I knew I wanted puppies, Pilates, sunshine, and writing on my own schedule to be in my day to day life, so I got a reformer Pilates membership, brought home my first puppy (BEST DECISION), made my move to San Diego permanent, and began my new life as a writer for my own company.

Were you scared to make these changes?

TERRIFIED!!!! Can you imagine being off on your own in a big city with the job that was supposed to be “the dream” with everyone telling you how perfect and wonderful your life is while you’re out chasing success, when on the inside you’re legitimately crumbling, in and out of hospitals, losing the actual will to live, and want to move in with your parents just to tune the world out because you can’t deal with anything anymore? I’m guessing some of you can — and that’s exactly what I was doing earlier this year. This was HARD. I didn’t want to “give up” on myself. I didn’t realize at the time that I wasn’t even close to giving up on myself and this break wasn’t anything to be ashamed of, but at the time I was mortified, terrified, and deeply burdened with shame.

What are practices you now live by?

Trust yourself. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. I wouldn’t say I’m a more negative person now whatsoever, but I’m much more comfortable saying no to things that don’t feel right, and being OK with doing things that I want to do versus what I think I should do.

Identify stress early. Use negative feelings, panic, overwhelm, etc as a guidance system versus something to run from or suppress. Let it be like a check engine light to assess what’s off and realign. Check in with myself often.

Slow down. I switched gears from constant cardio and bootcamps and running to reformer Pilates, long walks, and occasional yoga. I’ve never felt better.

(NOTE FROM AUTUMN: Walking outside for 15 minutes has been found to reduce your cortisol - stress hormone - levels because of something called negative ions. Learn the deets HERE)

Meditate. This is a work in progress, but something I hope to have in my life every day to keep that “step two” clarity with me daily.

Have fair relationships. With your friends, significant others, employers. Relationships should be fair. I’ve been known to give more than I receive in a number of capacities, and that’s when I allow myself to get run down. I’m striking more of a balance in more areas of my life in this way.

Give myself permission. A big part of this was not giving myself permission for a number of things — to feel bad, to slow down, to take a break, to say no, to make a choice because I wanted to (it didn’t feel like a good enough reason, which in retrospect is so sad). Giving myself permission has given me a lot of my power back.

Take breaks. I hopefully won’t need a 12 week break in the near future! To mitigate that need, I’m giving myself more days to have down time and turn off the way I did during my full Life Reset. 

(NOTE FROM AUTUMN: Getting high quality sleep is an important part of healing your mental and physical state as well. Get the best sleep of your life with THESE tips.)

What would you tell someone who thinks they are experiencing something similar?

Please, PLEASE give yourself permission to take a break — and trust your gut. You know something’s wrong. You know you’re not feeling good. Don’t wait. Clear your schedule, duck out of whatever you can, and hit the brakes. NOTHING is worth your health or happiness, absolutely nothing!

You might think “but I can’t leave work,” or “how will I pay the rent,” or “who’s going to drive my kids to school,” or whatever excuses you’re coming up with now to not take a break. They’re good excuses, they’re valid, but guess what — the world keeps turning even when you pause for a bit. I asked someone recently, “God forbid you were in a car accident and in the hospital for two weeks — who would run your business? who would make dinner for the kids?” She had answers to each of those questions (and then some). 

The thing is, we don’t think our mental wellbeing is enough of a legitimate reason to take a break and hit pause. Please trust that it is. What you are giving now to the world is not even one tenth of what you could be giving if you took proper care of yourself. THIS IS IMPORTANT. This is legitimate. This is urgent. Take care of yourself, friend. It’s worth it!

autumn elle nutrition mental health Dominique Astorino

I'm so proud to call Dominique my friend. She's come a long way in just the last year and I personally have seen a MASSIVE shift in her appearance, health and overall happiness.

One of my passions is to help everyone feel GOOD. I've seen amazing success with my own clients on healing their bodies through a variety of Nutrition Psychology techniques and prioritizing lifestyle changes that actually make them happy!

I know this seems obvious, but life is meant to be enjoyed. It's not a NORMAL state to feel constantly anxious, scared, worried or tired.

If you think you need to get back to that place of balance, don't hesitate to make those changes for yourself! And if you need help, reach out! Talk to a friend, ask advice, reach out to someone who has experienced something similar, like Dominique or myself.

Remember, you are worth it. It's okay to take a break. You deserve to be happy.

Thank you again, to Dominique for sharing your story!

Hopefully her story will help you take the steps toward crafting your life into one that you are OBSESSED with!

Your Nutritionist,


Autumn Elle Nutrition

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