5 pillars of optimal health and wellness


By Jessamine Sothard

Functional Medicine Nurse Practitioner

Five pillars are the very foundation of health and wellness. They empower people to take control of their lives. They include: stress, sleep, activity, nutrition and positive social connections. These five pillars can impact your health in either positive or negative ways.

In this article, we will first discuss the significance of stress. Stress is a normal part of life and our bodies were designed to handle a certain level of stress. The primary stress hormones are cortisol and adrenaline. When we experience a threat in any way, the body releases cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones increase heart rate, blood pressure, circulating blood sugar, focus and perceptual awareness to prepare us for the threat we are about to face. This threat is a stress on the body. The stress response system is designed beautifully to prepare us for short term defenses. However, chronic exposure to stress can impact our health in a negative way.

When your body is under stress for too long, hormones become dysregulated, blood sugars can fluctuate, immunity decreases, alters the production of neurotransmitters, increases inflammation, and changes the energy production systems. This can lead to symptoms such as sleep disturbances, recurrent illnesses, hormonal imbalances, mood disorders, chronic fatigue, brain fog and more.

Ensuring you have proper stress management is pivotal to health. Stress is unavoidable but learning to adapt to stress is not. Stress reduction techniques include the practice of the brain telling your body that you are safe and not under attack. These actions decrease the signaling to the stress response system, deactivating the fight or flight response. This can be in the form of yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises. Meditation has been proven to provide the body with rest that is five times deeper than sleep.

This practice, over time, creates mental resilience. Mental resilience is the ability for the brain to stay calm while the body is under stress. Engaging in these practices 5-10 minutes a day, every day, will help enhance your mental resilience, and improve your overall health.


Sothard will cover the remaining pillars of health and wellness in future articles and during a presentation at the Champaign Family YMCA on Feb. 9 at 11:30 a.m.

Triad High School alumna Jessamine Sothard, APRN, is a board certified nurse practitioner and owner of Thrive Integrative Medicine in downtown Urbana. She specializes in chronic disease and functional medicine. Sothard has been invited by the Champaign Family YMCA to speak about the five pillars of optimal health and wellness. Her presentation will be held at the Y on Feb. 9 at 11:30 a.m. Members of the community are welcome to attend.

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