Been a long time, baby! What I’ve learned about stress and wellness since I’ve been gone…Dec 31, 2018
Well, hello there!! You may have wondered if I’m still blogging. Truth is, I wondered, too.
I’ve had one of the most challenging stretches I can remember. At the risk of “bleeding all over you” my dear reader, I’ll summarize by saying illness caused by stress, injury and the death of a beloved dog have been an invitation to look at my life in a new way. It isn’t being dramatic to say that the past 12 months have provided a lot of important lessons regarding stress and the importantance or rest….and the critical role recreation plays into our lives.
I have to admit I lost my way. I maintained my 18 year old meditation practice, but I sidelined my daily journaling practice. Why? I simply didn’t have the time. If you know me well, you know that’s a big deal! You are wondering how.
Can there be too much of what you love? In a word, yes.
Well, it’s surprisingly simple. I indulged in too much of a good thing. I love choirs. I love directing choirs. So when an offer to take on a third job and three more choirs, I told myself that because it was something I loved it would be ok. All that music was to be food for my soul. I completely discounted the role that rest, relaxation and recreation play in our wellness and stress reduction. Maybe you can relate? Have you ever talked yourself into doing something you really wanted to do even if you weren’t totally sure you had the time? This topic warrants more discussion but I’ll save that for a later blog post.
Perhaps you’ve used busy-ness to avoid feeling. If you stay busy you don’t have to feel lonely, experience grief or recognize that your life is changing. That’s one thing that was behind my decision to take on a third job. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was easier for me to be busy at work than home feeling the loss of our dog. And like so many jobs, this one wasn’t confined to the agreed-upon hours and quickly grew.
Hidden costs of stress
My stress grew as my weekly work schedule grew to more than 70 hours weekly. I knew I was tired, but I didn’t realize was the cost the stress was having on me physically, emotionally and spiritually. That really surprised me! Have you ever been surprised like this? Bitten off more than you can chew?
I’m self-reflective, aware, have well-honed spiritual practices and have healthy habits and coping mechanisms developed. I didn’t think I was impervious to stress, but I did think I could manage. Until it became glaringly obvious I couldn’t continue on the path I was on.
I’ve recently had a health episode in regard to my asthma that become impossible to ignore. Too much stress and too little rest have me on a dangerous trajectory. My asthma doctor, physical therapist and other medical professionals are telling me I have to make some changes. I’m embracing those changes and making them immediately, beginning with a resignation from the third job. I’ll talk more about that experience in a different post. Doing something because it’s best for our health isn’t easy when it means breaking our word, that’s a topic for another blog post. Suffice to say, I’m going to slow down. But before I tell you what I’m doing to heal my body, let’s talk about how I go into this place.
Subtle signs the stress is too much
At the beginning of a stressful experience the signs are often very subtle. Our bodies (both physical and emotional) show very discreet signs that we might miss if we aren’t paying attention. I dismissed them. It’s more accurate to say I totally ignored them. Here is a partial list of the more subtle signs our bodies are under stress. (Source)
Many of the things on the lists below were things I experienced. Have you experienced anything on this list?
Emotional or Cognitive Symptoms of stress include:
- You might be easily irritated, agitated, frustrated, and moody
- You could feel like you are losing control or need to take control; maybe you feel overwhelmed
- You have monkey mind…your mind races and you can’t seem to relax
- Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem), lonely, worthless, and depressed
- Avoiding others
- You might become unusually negative
- Worrying becomes part of your daily experience
Physical symptoms of stress include:
- Low energy
- Digestive challenges like nausea, constipation, diarrhea….or maybe your stomach is just upset
- You get achy for no reason, you have tension in your muscles and pains you don’t have explanation for
- Your blood pressure rises, your heart rate increases and maybe your chest even hurts (DON’T ignore this, call your doctor RIGHT away)
- You have trouble sleeping or staying asleep
- Sick often
- Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
- Nervousness and shaking, your ears ring, or you have cold or sweaty hands and feet
- Your mouth is dry and/or you have difficulty swallowing
- Clenched jaw and grinding teeth…hello headaches!!
- Weight loss or weight gain – the unintentional kind
All of these are easy to dismiss in isolation. But when you start to have 2 or more from either category, there could be a problem.
Signs of long-term stress
Maybe you’ve been under so much stress or for stressed for so long all of those subtle signs describe you every day. That was me. In that case, there are harder-to-ignore signs your body is trying to show you. Those might include:
- Significant (more than 20 pounds) and unintentional weight loss or weight gain in less than a year
- Cardiovascular disease and/or respiratory issues
- Skin problems
- Sexual and/or menstrual problems
- Digestive trouble
How can we lower stress?
Stress is something we all experience. It’s part of daily living. But when it builds up to unhealthy levels and is constant, we have an opportunity to practice stress reduction.
We know that yoga and meditation help. If you are looking for some meditations, check these out!! Exercise in general is great for stress reduction. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of vigorous exercise at least 5 times per week.
Journaling helps. Talk therapy is known to help. Massages, warm baths, walks, time with friends or family, and spending time with pets all help. More on this topic next post.
The role rest plays in stress reduction
I’ve never been one to rest, so this is really hard for me. That said, this is the most important change I’m making. I am carving out time every day to rest. I’m researching the role rest, recreation and relaxation play in our wellness. For the next several blog posts, I’ll be looking into the ways we can be truly well. And I have a special gift coming soon to all my subscribers: an e-book tha includes a way to make sure your schedule and life stay balanced…free! Make sure you are on the mailing list if you aren’t already!
Wishing you a truly well 2019! My commitment to you is to support you in mind, body and spiritual wellness in 2019 as I make that journey with you. It’s been said that we teach what we most need to learn and this is where I’m being lead…to teaching and learning about total wellness. Thank you for coming along in this journey toward total wellness with me!
Here is something I’m personally working on and perhaps this affirmation can be useful to you as well. “When I’m tired, I rest.”
All my love,