Monday, December 15, 2008

Stress Sucks

Stress is the sneakiest thing, isn’t it? It disguises itself in all kinds of ways – pain, doubt, hunger, lack of hunger, the shakes, the sweats, the mood swings. I know we can’t escape it, but damn, doesn’t it knock you for a loop sometimes?

I think what makes stress so sneaky is that the cause isn’t always apparent. It’s usually not one big thing but a million little things. Here’s what I mean. Christmas shopping? Not a problem. Write a blog? Not a problem. Write another blog? Fine. Write a book? Sure. Cook, clean, take dogs to the vet, prepare for a visit by the stepsons, balance food and exercise, and keep up with emails, research, friends, my kids and extended family? I can do those things with my eyes shut. But this past week, when everything needed (and still needs) my attention, I feel like I’m cooking pudding with avocados and bran muffins. I like pudding, avocados and bran muffins, but separately. Together, they’re disastrous.

Unfortunately, stress welcomes my old nemesis: anxiety disorder. I’ve been prone to it since my first anxiety attack in 1986. And while I’ve learned a lot about it over the years and have learned ways to manage this disorder, when it plops itself in the middle of my busy life, it seems to take over everything and I forget how to say, “No! I’m in charge, not you!”

Thus, I’m not feeling real in charge right now. I have to remind myself to breathe, to not run away from the feelings, to prioritize and do what I can, all the while not beating myself up for this “flaw.” Everyone gets stressed out, I tell myself. Why can’t you handle it? Then, for the millionth time in 22 years, I remind myself that I’m not “everybody” and that I am merely a person who has issues with anxiety disorder. I didn’t ask for it. I don’t do anything to cause it. It’s just a part of who I am.

99 percent of the time, anxiety doesn’t control my life. I control it. But when I’m smack dab in the middle of huge stressors that trigger the heart skips, the shallow breathing, the anticipation of dread and fear, it’s not easy to just drop to the mat and start meditating. I have to slowly wade through my thought processes, decide what’s important and what’s not, and to remember that I can’t do everything and that it’s OK to say no or ask for help. This takes the kind of patience isn’t readily available in the middle of the shakes and what feels like knives in my stomach. I have to step outside the physical sensations and realize they are manifestations of too much work and too much emphasis on perfection (like you didn’t know I’m an anal retentive perfectionist who posts to-do lists in my office, kitchen and bedroom).

I’d like to wish it all away, but wishing isn’t action. And sometimes taking action is the most painful part of reducing stress. One thing that helps me to step outside and think is, as I mentioned, meditation, but also writing. Just in the time it’s taken to write this blog my head has calmed a bit. I’ve cleared some space in there so I can actually work through the list of things and people who “need” me. Hmmm…there seems to be one less knife in my gut right now. One less twitch in my eye. I’m not shaking. I’ll take it.

Stress is sneaky. It’s a pain in the ass. Stress is knocking me for a loop right now and I’m not going to feel completely on my game for awhile. However….and I say this taking a deep breath…. that’s OK. I don’t have to be.

12 comments:

  1. (((hugs))) and calming thoughts to you...I'm sorry to hear that you're having a tough time with the stress. I love your blog and am always happy to see a new post, but I think we your blog audience would rather you take care of *you* first. :-)

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  2. You are not alone at all. I think many type A suffer from this. Especially throw in the wanting to be perfect on program and stay at the perfect weight. Especially if you lost alot of weight. Does not mesh well sometimes for us who drive, drive ourselves. I have learned to not drive myself without taking a rest stop and just slowing down. And just be forgiving of myself and saying no to others who are "needy" Its so hard. But so important. Good luck with breathing and calmness. The rest can wait.

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  3. Hey Lynn,

    Just wanted to send you big {{{{hugs}}}. For real.

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  4. In all seriousness - we make our chocolate pudding with avocados (not bran, but yes avocados). It is in Deceptively Delicious by Jessican Seinfeld (Jerry's wife). The baked recipes in her book all seem to have something wrong with them (it's like they were tested in a confectioners oven and we all cook on regular or something - they are just off). But the regular recipes are great. We make many of them all the time. And the chocolate pudding - REALLY rich - we just have a couple bites each - which is teaching kids a valuable lesson that more isn't always better.

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  5. And - often when I
    read a blogger talking about falling in the food and she doesn't know why
    OR
    read a blogger feeling like a bottomless pit wanting more and more food and she doesn't know why

    I am actually glad for my anxiety.

    I think that I NEED being hit over the head.

    I think that I NEED an unmistakeable flashing light with a loud siren that says
    TAKE HEED ALL IS NOT WELL.

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  6. Hugs to you and lots of deep breaths!~

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  7. Thanks, everyone. I feel much better today. Vickie, I was wondering if someone would tell me they made pudding with avocados! LOL

    Anxiety can be a good thing when I can get past the physical sensations. As you said, it is usually there to tell us all is not well. Well, I'm going to MAKE things well :)

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  8. This time of year is always stressful. This year my husband's sister is lying in a hospital brain dead from an overdose, and we wait for the phone call telling us that we must go to her funeral. My mother is coming out for the holidays and would not entertain the thought that she may have to postpone her trip. My very kind doctor gave me a dozen or so xanax to help me survive my mothers visit (she stresses me out to the point that my blood pressure reaches dangerous levels). And if we must leave I've told my mom, she'll be having Christmas alone by her choice.

    And now I think I'll go ride the exercise bike....(remember deep breaths!)

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  9. Hi Lynn, I read your blog all the time and just thought I'd comment on your blog here, as I can relate! I too feel the effects of stress, and anxiety-and know that this directly relates to my emotional eating. For years I have stuffed my face, (literally) because of how powerless and out of control I felt to my anxiety-and can see how it has contributed (BIG TIME!) to my weight gain. I am reading a terrific book right now: Shrink yourself, break free from emotional eating, written by a psychologist. Page for page, I can relate to this book, and realize just how much my emotions have been stuffed with food. Anxiety deffinately prevokes my binges I've noticed. Anxiety is very uncomforable, and eating has been my coping technique for dealing with stress and anxiety for so long now!. There is no way to elminate stress out of our lives, because we can not control events that unfold. What we can control is how we respond to life's events, and that in itself is POWERFUL!

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  10. Cheri, I'm really sorry about your SIL (and mother, too, since it stresses you out). I hope the bike helped a little.

    Sarah, you're right, we can't control life, but we can control our responses. Taking time to just think and breathe rather than merely stuffing something in our mouths is a huge step in realizing peace.

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  11. trite.
    said already.
    bears repeating.

    SO GET ALL THIS. SO LIVING ALL THIS.

    youre not alone. all we can control is US.

    hugs,

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  12. You're a good writer. I wish I didn't understand so much of what you wrote in this post, though!

    Dixie

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