After weeks of deliberating on the many topics that fascinate me, that I would like to share my thoughts on, today I was inspired to write about the many facets of stress.

I feel like this word is used a lot. Usually in a negative context, and often linked to the demise of our physical or mental health.

TRUE- stress is not always great for the body, and certainly not the mind: but stress is also part of an adaptive response that can make you stronger and MORE resilient. To understand this concept I like to use the analogy of a ‘glass of water being half full’. Where water is likened to the amount of ‘stress’ or perceived stress in the mind or body, and the air is our capacity to deal with a stressor.

If our glass is already full, a seemingly small problem, or physical load can just tip us over the edge and cause a complete breakdown of the nervous system (our control center for the mind and body). That same problem or load when applied to a glass half full, ie someone who is not already working at the end of their capacity to cope, can pass us by (ie add water to the glass) seemingly unaffected.

SO why is it that my glass can be FULL when your glass is half empty?

The reality is what is stressful to one person may not be stressful to another. Why is it that when I do certain things with my body that load my lower back for instance my back can be in a world of pain for weeks, completely dis-proportionally to the actual injury- or lack of injury that has occurred.

This same analogy can be used in the context of mental stress where the perception of a seemingly non-stressful event can trigger a cascade of mental health struggles. Whilst mental health has far more complex layers to it psychologically and neurologically (within the brain and nervous system) it can often be the culmination of a number of events and experiences that can be the tipping point for many people rather than one specific event itself.

SO WHAT ARE THE POSITIVE EFFECTS OF STRESS? And how do we get to enjoy these benefits?

When the body is in a state of ‘ease’ ie the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems are in balance, activities such a strength training, endurance training, and training the mind can create positive stress on the nervous system causing it to adapt and improve, further increasing the size of the cup- the amount of stress your body can handle.

Having spent 5 years studying full time with two small children and attempting to continue running a small business I can tell you now that there was not many points during that time where my nervous system was balanced! Whilst I wouldn’t change a thing I do recognize the almost irreparable damage that period had on my physical and mental health and consequently I lived with my glass on the brink of overflow.

If this sounds like you…. These are some of the effects that I experienced that were clear signals to me that I was not in a place where I could take on any positive stressors.

- Waking up after 8 hours sleep feeling more exhausted

- Being unable to ‘wind down’

- Feeling sore after all forms of exercise and not feeling like it got any easier the more I did

- Craving sugary foods

- Feeling really foggy mentally and forgetting things often

- Feeling like I was constantly ‘coming down with something’ and not recovering quickly if I did eventually get sick.

So why do we put ourselves through this mental and physical overload? Some of you may be laughing right now and thinking: I would NEVER take on that much. I can safely say that I would not do it again that’s for sure.

However in reality you may be still feeling all of these effects and have a much smaller work load.


If I had all the answers to this I would probably write a book about it, however for now these are some of the things that I have learnt that have helped me to have a better nervous system balance:

* DON’T compare yourself to others. You have no idea how full their cup is and the struggles they are dealing with. Most physical and mental health challenges are not visible to others. Expectations that you put on yourself WILL magnify any stress that you are dealing with.

* PAIN doesn’t always equal injury. It is actually scientifically proven that pain is a poor predictor of disability. Stress AMPLIFIES pain. Try to look at the causes of the stressors rather than the cause of the pain. If I have had a bad night’s sleep or have eaten poorly all week (yes this does occasionally happen to us all!) then guess what I am 100x more likely to have a lower back injury from something trivial.

* Say NO more! If you know that you have overloaded your week then don’t be afraid to cancel or re arrange plans or simply just say NO. We are all guilty of over committing but as a society we need to accept and support each other in these times and be OK with saying no.

* Practice GRATITUDE. Positive affirmations and gratitude actually change your brain. Your physiology changes if you are having positive thoughts as opposed to negative thoughts, and this can be enough to change your stress levels. If that doesn’t blow your mind I don’t know what will. Say it out LOUD. Even just one thing per day that you are grateful for. If you have kids try it at dinner with them, it is a skill that they will benefit from forever.

* Get a better TEAM. I don’t mean a football team – get a HEALTH team. This doesn’t mean you are weak, or becoming reliant on others, it means that you are being PROACTIVE in maintaining your health. If you were a professional sports person you would have a health team. Think of yourself as an athlete, even if you don’t play any sports. This will look different for everyone however it’s essential that your team have a HOLISTIC view on health and can work with others with the unified goal of helping YOU.

  • For me my team has changed over the years but I have consistently used yoga, strength trainers, acupuncture, kinesiology, breath work, naturopaths and of course CHIROPRACTIC. This has been so instrumental to my journey that I re trained to be one!

* Start SLOW and build up. Build your strength and endurance slowly. If you feel completely burnt out from one training session or if your calves and forearm muscles feel like a rock you have pushed your nervous system too far. Don’t get me wrong we need to push ourselves to build strength and endurance but heavy training is for the systems that are robust enough to deal with it. And here RECOVERY is key.

* Go back to BASICS. We all know the things that don’t support a healthy mind and body. You need to FUEL your mind and body if you want it to support you.

NUTRITION, SLEEP, MOVEMENT, MINDSET. These are the four pillars that you need to support a healthy system.

  • Write a diary for the week so that you can see it on paper – it will likely surprise you.

  • Ditch the sugar and caffeine that you will crave if it’s propping you up. Fruit and vegetables help to reduce inflammation along with good fats to fuel your brain and protein to support your cell growth and repair.

  • Sleep is VITAL. It affects not only your body’s ability to heal and repair but also your hormone systems that can wreak havoc with your nervous system.

  • SUPPLEMENT where you need to. Even the best of diets don’t provide everything you need.

  • MOVEMENT- start slow, be consistent and move your body in all planes as many times a day as you can. One hour of fitness is nowhere near as good as constantly moving your body in the right way.

* Don’t be afraid to ask for HELP. We all need it. Find your tribe that you can share your health goals with. Seek professional help if you are struggling. We are designed to live in tribes and communities for exactly that reason- SUPPORT.

When the stars align and the body and mind are in flow, every stress you CHOOSE to add to your life, will energize and inspire you to move forward.

IL leave you with one of my favorite quotes by the Dalai Lama- this really drives the message home for me and is my constant reminder to slow down.

The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, he said:

“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

Yours in health

Dr Hayley

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As I sit here on a Wednesday night (way past my bedtime) gluhwein in hand, it’s a little ironic that I am writing about my journey to health… but it’s all about balance right?

It’s only taken me 35 years to do a complete 360 on my health. One of the most common things I hear in practice is people reflecting on their health challenges or injuries as a normal part of aging. Common yes but normal NO.

At 36 I can honestly say that I am the best version of myself to date… I sleep better, I have far less illness and injuries, and my body is stronger than it’s ever been. Not perfect by far – but I’m working on it. Boy was it a journey……

As a child in the 80’s and 90’s I imagine my experience was pretty common. Lots of anti-biotics for various minor colds and ear infections. Tonsils out, grommets in. However I don’t remember eating a lot of packaged food. I think we were the last generation of kids to mostly eat home cooked ‘real food’, and play for hours in the fields and forests unsupervised. Life was good! I played sports every day and had a metabolism I could only dream of today.

Throughout my teens, whilst my activity remained high I was addicted to sugar and all the convenience of frozen food, two minute noodles and all the alcopops I could get my hands on.

My stress increased… study, work, loss of loved ones, my sickness went through the roof. I had tonsillitis (now called pharyngitis as technically my tonsils were no more) three times a year for a good week at a time, I felt exhausted, bloated ALL the time, and I was plagued with injuries in sport – The worst of which being crippling back pain. I was in my early 20’s how was this happening? Must be getting “older”

Add on a move to Australia (solo), 5 years of corporate life and a high stress job and voila you have a physical and emotional concoction of adrenal fatigue, gut problems and a ton of anxiety.

It took getting pregnant with my first child to take a huge step back and realise….. This can’t be a great lifestyle I don’t want my unborn child to step into this world of depletion and complete lack of presence that I had been whipped up in.

It’s amazing what growing a child inside you can do for your philosophy of life……….

9 YEARS LATER……… and this is what I have learnt so far (and still compulsively learning)


  • This is so ingrained in my being these days. I’ve seen it, I’ve witnessed it, I have helped drive it, and I have felt it! Pain is a symptom, a message- LISTEN. Your body is trying to tell you something. It’s never too late to move better, to think better, and to feel better. This isn’t a task to be taken lightly and involves a journey to find what has brought you to this place of pain. Because pain doesn’t appear overnight (usually), it’s the culmination of often years or decades of dysfunction, compensations and maladaptation’s in both the body and mind.


  • Don’t feel guilty, we all do – especially when we have a family to look after. Sleep is THE most essential part of healing. There is a reason this was used as a form of torture in the war. We all know it but why is it so hard to do well? Go to bed early… at least 4 nights a week. Why? Because the more regenerative part of sleep happens early in the night- this is where the magic happens. Go on try it – you won’t go back. If you can’t sleep or struggle to get to sleep LISTEN, this is a HUGE sign that your whole system is stressed and some big lifestyle changes need to happen.


  • I have met a handful of people, friends, bodyworkers, healers, who have been transformational in my journey to health. You know that person that you look at and say I WANT WHAT THEY HAVE. Listen to your gut instinct, think of it as a piece in the jigsaw puzzle. They can’t do this for you but they might just have that corner piece you have been looking for to get you a leap closer to where you want to be. Don’t be disheartened, health is a mine field and we are all different. What may be transformational for you may not be for someone else. Take it with both hands, embrace it and move forward. For every failed interaction and dollar wasted you are a step closer to your next corner piece. DON’T GIVE UP.


  • This is not news to anyone… but how the hell do you juggle time and convenience, a family, a nine till 5 job, a caffeine and sugar addiction, and the effort of resourcing sustainable and healthy produce. I GET IT – I have been here (more than once)

  • SIMPLE is key. Rather than read every packet for numbers and additives, AVOID the packets. Find a simple recipe using fresh produce – meat/fish/vege, whatever floats your boat, and put it on rotation. We try to be strict in the week – no packaged food, and on the weekend we just roll with whatever we fancy. You will crave less rubbish if you eat less rubbish.

  • Set an example for your kids. If they don’t jump on board straight away you will have planted the seed. Better still plant the seed WITH them – in the garden. Watch it grow and eat it. These are the life lessons they will remember forever.


  • If you take away one thing from this blog this is it. We KNOW stress causes disease. There is no lack of research linking stress to every form of physical and mental disorder under the sun. You can CHOOSE to change this any time. It all starts with perception.

  • Negative thoughts and feelings create stronger wiring in our brains than positive ones. Have you ever thought how easy it is to let your mind get carried away with negativity? STOP

  • The first step is observation. Observe the stress, the negativity, the feeling of dis-ease. Make a conscious decision to change that thought for a positive one. This will feel like you really have to force it at the beginning- because it IS hard. Our brains are wired to run with all the drama and stress and the good stuff is really short lived (often)


  • SERIOUSLY! We spend all day taking these shallow breaths, 12-20 per minute to be precise. What if you stopped 5x a day to take 5 BIG inhales and 5 SLOW exhales. You would probably feel dizzy at first, but once you program that conscious breath into your day you won’t need that second cup of coffee you will be buzzing.

  • Pain, emotions, posture, and stress ALL affect our breath in a negative way. We can go for days without food and water but breath for only minutes. There is a good reason for that your body NEEDS oxygen to function. More oxygen = better function.


  • This was HUGE for me! I had no idea how many chemical concoctions I had used before I had even left the house for work in the morning. Facewash, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, perfume, hair product – the list goes on for us ladies. This 100% made my system sluggish and toxic. If I brush my teeth with commercial toothpaste now my whole mouth goes numb.

  • Most synthetic chemicals are endocrine disruptors, which means they mess with your hormones , AVOID at all costs

  • Don’t trust labels, natural doesn’t mean NATURAL – which makes my head spin. Find a good brand that you can trust and slowly transition all your home products, OR even better make your own its easy I promise.

  • Did you know some essential oils are as effective as chemical cleaning products? YES and they smell amazing.

  • Check these guys out for all you replacement ideas….

  • I no longer wear makeup – even to work! And I LOVE IT! (you don’t need to be that drastic to see huge changes.. just ditch the main stuff)

And last but NOT least………….


  • That drive or passion that makes your heart sing! Don’t live life for an end goal, take a hold of the reins and steer that sleigh in the direction you want to head.

  • I wholeheartedly believe that it’s never too late to chase a dream. When you live life in congruency with your values you will beam excitement and energy for every single day.

For me this has culminated in a dream to help others walk the path to create their own healing journey. Chiropractic and movement have been my vessels for change. My ability to be grounded and really feel what my body is communicating.

For those of you who are on your journey I salute you for taking the courage to take those tough first steps forward.

For those of you whom I am privileged to be a part of your journey please know that you are just as much a part of mine x

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