I don’t wish any kind of disease or ailment on any of you. And, the way many of us eat, live on autopilot and lack in sleep and time to chill, is certainly a great way for our bodies to say ‘F’ you and shut down. In my case, my thyroid (shaped like a butterfly, located over your throat) shut the heck down.

I was diagnosed with a fancy-schmancy disease called Hashimoto’s (I like to call it a ‘condition’, sounds more user-friendly) — which in essence is underactive thyroid disease. Thyroid disease, like diabetes, Crohn’s, Arthritis and many others are considered an Autoimmune condition. For more info on Autoimmune disease, click here.

If you’re a gal, you’ll want to check out this quick read on Huffington Post Health, on Women and Autoimmune conditions.

Like me, you might have zero ideas of how important our thyroid is. Well, best to explain it this way. Your metabolism, body temperature (think thermostat) and usage of energy (uptake and integration of calories, nutrients, vitamins, minerals) are all regulated by your thyroid.

When I found out my thyroid took a nose dive, I knew intuitively that it was in conjunction with feeling like I didn’t have a voice — in my former marriage (not his fault, I created that), my past job and in my life. I wasn’t surprised to hear that it took a hit.

Now, for those who know anything about energetic medicine (also known as your Qi — pronounced ‘chee’), your throat chakra (note — there are 7 chakras in our energetic body system, chakra meaning ‘light or wheel of light’) represents your voice and is connected to your thyroid.

What did hit me hard was the realization that in addition to needing medicine for the rest of my life (I’ve come to love Cinthroid and T3), I’d need to make some major lifestyle changes. One of which was learning to speak up and honor my voice.

Before I get into how Hashimoto’s ended up being my biggest gift and what that looks like today, I want to share my thoughts on health and wellbeing.

In my humble opinion, both from my personal health experience and getting a Master’s degree in Health & Wellness Coaching and Nutrition, I believe well-being and ailing conditions are directly related to lifestyle choices, thoughts, actions and self-connection, otherwise known as epigenetics.

I almost fell off my chair when I learned about epigenetics & disease. Seriously. My butt was off the edge of my seat about to hit the floor.

Here’s the secret and hopeful special sauce about epigenetics.

Epigenetics, it is the study of human disease and genetic factors that contribute to these diseases. What scientists have found out is that 90% of our health is connected to our lifestyle. This means only 10% is related to our genetic predisposition.

I don’t know about you, but I think these are phenomenal statistics. It was super empowering to learn this. You have a choice to create a life full of radiance, wellbeing and good health unconnected to your genetic history. I’ll take a 90–10 split any day.

So, you’re probably still wondering — what the heck are the 5 reasons thyroid disease is a gift. I’m thrilled to share more. These mind shifts have changed my life. For the better!

The 5 Reasons Why Thyroid Disease Is My Biggest Gift:

  1. I Found My Voice

I believe we all have an inner wisdom, some call it intuition while others might think of it as your connection to the divine. What I know is that I created a situation in most areas of my life where I pushed my voice down with extra sugary foods and negative beliefs. Learning I had thyroid disease meant looking at every nook and cranny of life to see where I was playing small. The biggest learning was around listening to my inner voice and speaking up. For me, that looked like leaving a cushy day job to create my own business and career and ending a marriage to a great guy whom I knew wasn’t my best fit for a more authentic life path. Today, I check in. I pause. I meditate (fancy word for breathing with intention) and ask for wisdom and guidance. I act and speak from that place and trust that my voice (and your voice too) has meaning, purpose and validity. When I don’t listen to my voice, I can feel the heat around my throat and I thank my lovely thyroid for the gift of remembering my voice.

2. I’ve Learned To Slow The Heck Down

For those who know me, you know that my tendency is to go, go, go. Sound like you? Ever feel like you are running in hamster wheel without much progress? Or, wondering if there’s a point at which you’ll be able to pause to actually enjoy the late moments with your children finishing their homework? Here’s the thing. With an autoimmune condition, ya can’t get away with burning the midnight oil and running on empty. Been there, done that. What it looked like two years ago was my feeling like I was about to faint — all the time. Everything seemed to dim around me and I couldn’t focus nor did I feel grounded. Slowing down has become a necessity. I’m still working on this one daily — and — I’ll share that learning to slow down has been one of my biggest gifts and struggles. I have literally trained myself to sit myself down, pause for more than 6 seconds, breathe from my belly (helps get more O2 to your organs, blood and body) and quiet my mind. I started with 1 minute every morning of sitting still. I baby-stepped my way to 2, 3 then 10 minutes. Today I aim for 12–20 minutes each morning but some days it’s a miracle to make 1 minute happen. I have learned that any time spent on quieting my chattering mind makes a difference and in physical terms, my dimming, fainting and feeling of being off has subsided. Read more about how slowing down can change your brain and health here.

3. Sleep Is My New Miracle Drug

I used to pull all-nighters in college and frankly I am one of those annoying ones who gets a second wind at 10 pm, sharp. Just ask my hubby, Heath. The truth is, our bodies are guided by our circadian rhythms and ideally we’d be waking up at the crack of dawn and going to bed when it starts to get dark. Think farm life in the early 1900’s. If you’re like me, that rarely (read — never) happens. When you have any kind of autoimmune disease, your body is much more receptive to catching germs, being run down and getting sick. One of my favorite people of all time, Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post and author of Thrive, shares her massive breakdown around the lack of sleep. I won’t give it away, but I do highly recommend reading Thrive and The Sleep Revolution. I had a similar wake-up call in waking up to feeling awful and lethargic beyond comprehension.

Since most of our body regeneration happens in our sleep, it’s crucial to get enough of it (recommended — minimum 7.5–8 hours a night) and to be sleeping during the hours of maximum healing and REM sleep (11 pm — 4 am). Dive in deeper here about sleep health. I now know that sleep has to be my #1 priority. No matter what. As one who loves life — talking, eating, sharing, working on my business, hangin’ with my kiddos or hubby — it can be tough to shut it down by 10 pm. Whether or not you have a thyroid condition, getting enough zzz’s can make all the difference. When I don’t honor my sleep (which just happened and ended in being flat on my back for 2 days), my body lets me know. The good news is that I now sleep a heck of a lot more and am a lot nicer to my fellow humans in the morning. And, my thyroid is so much happier.

4. My Gut Is Happy & Healing

There is a lot of information these days about gut health. We are learning more and more about the connection between what we eat and our health. Our gut is considered our ‘second brain’ and contains over 100 million neurons, which is more than the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system. Holy wow! You might want to read that again. Our gut is loaded with sensory neurons. Gives a whole new meaning to ‘gut instincts’. In learning to hear my inner voice, I’ve also reaped the rewards of tuning into my intuition (aka, gut feelings). This has helped me beyond measure in building my career, raising my children and being in tune with my body and wellbeing. Another key aspect to a happier gut has been taking out foods that are inflammatory. Here’s a great article to learn more on healing your gut.

Unfortunately, this gut health info wasn’t shared with me during regular check-ups. It was in feeling super crappy after taking my prescribed meds (which I still take, and thankfully at a low dose) and blood tests all coming back normal that I looked at my diet through a magnifying glass. Luckily, a dear friend mentioned the autoimmune protocol. This is a way of eating that takes out all inflammatory foods. The Paleo and Whole-30 diet are similar to this type of eating. The book and lady who changed my eating habits and life, who also has Hashimoto’s, is Dr Sarah Ballantyne of Paleo Mom. I highly recommend Sarah’s website chock full of info, recipes and ideas. What could have felt like a food prison (trust me, I gasped when I read what I can and can’t eat) has turned into an act of super self-love for my body.

My tip to you, should you choose to embark on the path of anti-inflammatory eating, is to highlight (in your fave color) what you CAN eat. This leads me to my 5th reason…changing your mindset. See below.

5. I Get To Choose A Growth Mindset

One of my favorite quotes is: Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking. — Marcus Aurelius. If you are like me and you have a health condition that requires your daily attention, intention and care, I invite you to sit still and ask your body what it needs and how this can be a gift. As I’ve done that over the past 5 years with Hashimoto’s, I’ve learned that my body likes to be still, my voice needs to be shared, my gut is happier with spinach and coconut oil than processed packaged bars and that living an incredible life — in spite of having a disease — is up to me, one thought, belief and action at a time.

Cultivating a growth mindset where I can see having Hashimoto’s as a way to love myself more — mind, body and soul — is something I wouldn’t change for the world. A great book on this is Mindset, by Carol Dweck, the founder and researcher of the science behind mindset change.

I invite you to look at your own life — be it a condition, ailment, disease, negative belief or situation — and see what might be possible when you choose to take ownership of you and sift for the gifts. For me, this process has changed my life. I hope it will do the same for you.

Author and Life Designer™ Julie Reisler has a master’s degree in coaching and more than twelve certifications around health and well-being. She is a mama of two, happily remarried, and in love with her very imperfect life. In her book, Get a PhD in YOU, Julie authentically shares the extensive personal growth wisdom that came from her own struggles with body image, relationships and feeling “not enough”. For more info on Julie, go to juliereisler.com

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Originally published at medium.com