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Why stress made my hair fall out (a vulnerable share)

I stepped out of a long overdue, hot and luxurious shower, feeling refreshed and human again after a brutal two-week stint with sick kids and little sleep.  There is something about water that cleanses you from the inside out, making you believe – if only for a minute – that you CAN remain upright until bedtime.

As I combed out my tangly, wet and wavy hair, I stopped dead in my tracks. I wiped off the steamy mirror to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating.

I actually gasped out loud and tears sprang to my eyes as I saw my entire scalp (where I normally part my hair) aggressively staring back at me. Having come from a long line of descendants with an abundance of hair, my scalp was a stranger to me and I wasn’t used to seeing it in all its all glory.

But I won’t lie. I hadn’t spent much time looking in the mirror that month, and for all I knew, my scalp could’ve been poking out for weeks without my having noticed.

It was a perfect reflection of how little time I’d been taking care of me lately.

The insane irony of it all? 

The very thing my beloved clients paid me to help them with and what I happened to be crazy passionate about – empowering moms to reclaim their health so they could focus on chasing their dreams – was precisely where I was failing in my own life. Don’t get me wrong. I was drinking lots of water, my eating was still on point, and I was getting plenty of movement in on the days I had gotten at least *some* sleep.

But, my own self-care (read: down time, rest, relaxation) was in the toilet. Along with a lot of my hair in the drain.

After four years of pursuing a traditional coaching practice where I saw clients 1:1 in my local community (which I loved), in 2016, I had decided to expand my reach and ability to help others by taking my practice online and offering my services virtually. It was a brand new world to me, and I was determined to go hard or go home. I didn’t realize losing my hair and burning myself out were also unsavory options on the entrepreneurship menu.

Are you Empowered or Impressed?

Before I share why I think know my hair fell out and how it’s doing today (thick and lovely, thank you!), first a quick disclosure so you know where my heart is in this post.

I debated long and hard about sharing this article, primarily because, well…my ego.

The conversation in my head went something like this:

“Oh my God. If I share this, I will lose all credibility with women who look to me for advice and support. No one will ever hire me again, and the membership site that I dream of launching this year will lose all momentum because everyone will think I’m a failure. I can’t even take care of myself.” (Like yours, my inner mean girl is a real B).

Also, this.

“All the business experts out there say I must establish my leadership and authority. How is sharing that my hair fell out going to accomplish that? Those who have followed me since day 1 will certainly read this and say, “Wow, I thought she had something to offer. I guess not. I’m outta here.”

This internal soundtrack went on for days.

Then, I thought about all the bloggers, diet experts, and authors out there who NEVER share any of their struggles; who leave me feeling like I could *never* meet their impossible standards. You know the ones. They only eat 100% organic produce, haven’t touched sugar since 1997, and would never dream of using a microwave (if that’s you, more love + power to you!) 😉

But, then God whispered something to me that I couldn’t ignore…Are you here to impress women or empower them?

OUCH. Daaaaaaaaaang, God. Good point. As usual.

My heart said empower, my ego said impress. As it usually goes.

And at that moment, I decided I was done trying to impress you or anyone else who came to my site to be amazed. Because if you cross my path, my goal isn’t to amaze you. It is to empower you, transform you, and help you to unleash the infinite potential you have inside of you to make this world a brighter place for our children. #thatsmywhy

Of course, it is still my mission to share all of my knowledge, resources, and strategies for how to become a healthier and happier version of yourself.

But guess what? I’m going to do that in conjunction with keeping it real and reminding you that it’s OKAY to have hard days on your wellness journey.

It’s part of the deal – just like in motherhood.

For instance, just because your sweet little peanut had an epic blowout in the minivan, or kept you up the entire night before your big presentation doesn’t mean you stop trying to be the best mom you can be.

And sure, there are hard health days where you will say, “will my pants EVER be looser?” “will my metabolism EVER speed up?” “will I EVER love my body?”

But let me assure you of this: those days in the valley are NOT a signal to throw in the towel – on your health, on your family, or on your business. Those days – as cliche’ as it may sound – truly do make us stronger if we allow them to. Remember: a diamond is just a piece of charcoal that handled stress exceptionally well. 

But What About My Hair? 

Okay, now back to my thinning locks.

First a quick lesson on how and why stress makes your hair fall out.

According to dermatologist Kurt Stenn, author of the new book Hair: A Human History, stress is thought to disrupt the hair’s natural regrowth process, prematurely kicking hairs out of the growth period. This has been shown in mice, when the stress of being exposed to loud noises led their hairs to go into catagen prematurely.

“Stress does affect the human hair follicle as well, and we assume that what we see in the mouse is the same thing we see in the human—the same transition occurs,” Stenn says.

What exactly kicks the hairs into resting isn’t totally clear, but a review of the literature suggests neurotransmitters or hormones produced under stressful situations may be the cause.

I find this to be incredibly fascinating – that our bodies graciously communicate with us when we are putting them under undue stress. While one person’s body may communicate something is awry through a sluggish thyroid, the flu, neck pain, constant headaches, or even a heart attack, mine informed me that my stress levels were WAY too high by allowing my hair to fall out.

After denying this new development in my health (or lack thereof), I was on a mission to find out WHY my hair was falling out (and I was determined to confirm that it had nothing to do with my behavior).

So, I made multiple visits to my traditional MD; an endocrinologist, my OB; and a dermatologist to get to the bottom of this mystery. Blood was drawn, tests were run, and everything looked great – my hormones were balanced, my iron stores were sufficient, and my blood counts all checked out perfectly. No real medical reason my hair would be falling out, everyone said.

Guess what every single doctor said (all of them conventional by the way) was the most likely culprit for my hair loss. STRESS. After running their standard medical tests, they all asked if I’d had any particularly stressful events come up in my life over the last year. Oh you know…having another baby and launching my new online business. No bigs.

That’s not to say you can’t do those things and still thrive. I just embarked upon this journey having forgotten to walk my talk.

While I certainly wouldn’t wish this experience upon myself again (cuz I kind of would like to keep my hair), I am grateful and humbled by having gone through this. I believe God allowed me to walk through this difficult time in my life to offer even more empathy and understanding to the moms who struggle to strike the right balance of how to raise a family, nurture a business and do so without losing your health along the way.

And I’m happy to share there is a happy ending to this hair story. As soon as I recognized the error of my ways, I pulled out all the self-care stops. I took the advice I gave other moms, went to bed at a reasonable hour, gave myself a chance to recharge my batteries, and slowly but surely, my hair stopped falling out and is currently in the process of growing back, sprouty little bangs and all. 😉

So, remember. Sacrificing your health to chase your dreams won’t get you very far. If you want your family and business to thrive, you’ve GOT to take care of you.

 

8 COMMENTS

  1. Dakota | 9th Jan 17

    Shelly, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for sharing this and being vulnerable. I hear those same voices (only show your success!) and they’re hard to ignore.

    My “medical” situation (in that I’ve felt terrible, but it’s hard to pin down *why*) is more than likely due to stress as well, and even though I “know” that, I don’t really know that, if you know what I mean. Thank you for the reminder to prioritize self care. <3

    • Shelly Robinson | 9th Jan 17

      Thank you so much for the kind feedback, Dakota. I know *exactly* what you mean, truly. Just keep listening to those wise voices – they know exactly what you need. I’m cheering you on every step of the way. <3

  2. Cristin | 9th Jan 17

    You’re such a gem of a human, Shelly! Beautiful story, and you’ve certainly empowered me!

    • Shelly Robinson | 9th Jan 17

      You are too kind, Cristin! Thank you for the kind words. It is SO appreciated! xoxo

  3. erin | 11th Jan 17

    “Are you there to impress or empower?” PERFECT. You nailed it with that question, and it will be on my mind as I work on relaunching my site.

    • Shelly Robinson | 11th Jan 17

      Thank you, Erin! I cannot WAIT to see the light you put out in the world with your new site. Please keep me posted! I so appreciate your kind words & support! xoxo

  4. britney | 19th Jan 17

    I live hearing the raw and real. There’s nothing more refreshing in a world of virtual ‘perfection’.

    • Shelly Robinson | 19th Jan 17

      Thank you so much, Britney! I really appreciate that feedback. <3

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