Do You Want to Thrive, or Just Survive?
Do You Want to Thrive, or Just Survive?
“Ah my knee always hurts…;” “I’m constantly tired, regardless of how much I sleep…;” “I have a stomach ache every day.”
Some of these statements may seem peculiar, but for many people in today’s culture, this is their “normal.” If your knee always hurts, you’re constantly tired, you have endless GI (gastrointestinal) distress, chronic headaches, skin irritations, and/or something similar, frankly, you’re just surviving. Going through life experiencing the aforementioned or something similar is NOT normal. Living with symptoms like the above becomes “normalized” – people get used to managing their symptoms and it becomes part of their daily life. Over time, living this way becomes commonplace along with a desensitization to the body’s response. For example, it’s like that leaky sink. Initially that ‘drip-drip’ sound can be annoying, but if you ignore it long enough it doesn’t seem like such a big deal. You might even forget about it – but, eventually it needs to be dealt with and it can become a bigger issue (corroded or busted pipes, water damage, particle blockages, etc). The hard truth is, most individuals in this day and age really don’t know what healthy feels like because they've never experienced it. Or, perhaps it’s been a slow decline over years to where they don’t notice that they are living with chronic pain or symptoms associated with inflammation, degeneration (decadence, decline, deterioration), or disease.
We discussed the topic of thriving in life, and not simply surviving in The Iron Sights Podcast Episode #73 when Scott, CeCe, and Jeff conversed about What Healthy Actually Feels Like: Digestion, Brain Fog & Low Energy. In this article, I want to expand on this topic and how quality of life can be improved by focusing on three main areas of distress; chronic pain, low energy, and leaky gut.
The first offender in simply surviving is dealing with “that nagging pain.” Whether your knee, back, neck, or whatever you’ve tied your discomfort to, this doesn’t need to be the case. This is not to take away from the fact that countless people live with chronic pain. It can be debilitating, lead to depression, and/or general loss of hope, but the issue becomes compounded when pain is accepted. Pain is extremely complex, highly individual, subjective, and it can be manifested from countless causes. Indirectly through poor sleep, stress, nutrition, or general inactivity, or more directly from injury, low muscle/joint health, and poor movement quality. Pain, complex and often multifaceted, should not be accepted. Think of it like this, when something isn’t right with your car, you get a ‘check engine light’ or some other signal that something is off. Similarly, when your body signals pain, it’s your body’s way of letting you know something isn’t right. Don’t ignore this and don’t settle for the excuse of “oh, I’m getting older” – pain is not normal.
Improving indirect causes of pain is a great place to start. Managing and lowering stress markers (cortisol), reducing chronic inflammation, and general cardiovascular and musculoskeletal strengthening with more activity and better nutrition, in some cases can remedy that ‘achy knee.’ If you improve in all of these categories and still struggle with that ‘achy knee,’ then seeking support from a knowledgeable and experienced personal trainer or physical therapist may help address the issue. But most importantly, pain can almost always be improved to some degree, so don’t give up.
The average age of death is roughly seventy-seven in the US, yet countless people in their 20s or 30s complain of having low energy to get through their day, let alone participate in things they enjoy. So we only have the energy to fully enjoy life for less than half of our life?? That’s bullshit. Not getting through work without an afternoon nap or that 4 pm coffee is not normal. And, the answer may not simply be deduced to sleep. Yes, sleep is extremely important; however, it’s not the sole source of energy. Sleep does play a large role in the upkeep and maintenance of countless systems (especially the endocrine system) in our body, but there’s more to it. Energy is directly affected by the food (quality and type) we eat, the caloric/macro value, and the body’s ability to utilize these calories. Low energy can also be attributed to poor food choices, eating too little or too much and inactivity. When you combine all of the above, you’re left with an ‘run-down car with shitty fuel.’ Meaning the immediate fix may not just be to add more gas (food), but to upgrade the fuel (quality and type) and provide the mechanics/systems of the car with support (less stress, exercise, rest) it needs to run efficiently.
The more we learn about the gut, the more we realize how complex and impactful this system truly is. It’s now considered to be the “2nd brain” of the body, and it influences how people experience the first two topics (chronic pain & low energy) discussed. Poor intestinal health, often known as “leaky gut” (when large unwanted protein molecules escape into the bloodstream via the gut and cause a negative response) can be caused by overuse of antibiotics, birth control, NSAIDs, highly-processed foods/grains, and low fiber quality/content (explained here). This health status can affect our endocrine system, immune system, nervous system, and countless other areas of the body which can lead to autoimmune responses (such as chronic inflammation), poor mental health (depression/anxiety), low energy, slowed cognitive function (brain fog), and survival-like quality of life. Dealing with constant GI distress is a much bigger deal than most give credit to, and it doesn’t just drain time and energy, but it bleeds into every area of your life. Leaky gut can be improved through higher quality food sources, increased fiber content, and the inclusion of pre/probiotic foods/supplements, just to name a few.
Poor gut health (leaky gut) is highly complex but extremely important, so we dedicated an entire free guide titled “6 Steps to Achieving Optimal Health.”
So, if all of these factors embody simply surviving in life, what does thriving look like? Thriving is not just coasting through key moments in life, but conquering these moments. Not only being able to play with your kids, but your grandkids. Maintaining independence, continuing that hobby you loved growing up, and participating in all aspects of life with durability and strength. Thriving is possible, but the biggest obstacle in your way is yourself. When you take the role of the victim, you’ll always find an excuse or reason you cannot succeed, and you’ll never get there. Only YOU have the power to take ownership of your life, and change.
So the question is, do you want to thrive, or just survive?