DO ANY OF THESE DESCRIPTIONS SOUND LIKE YOUR LIFE?
Your ‘to-do’ list looks like a telephone book and you wonder how you can ever get everything done. But you can’t say no when someone asks you to do something, so your list grows ever longer.
You have developed physical symptoms, such as weight gain—especially around your midsection. Your skin has begun to look especially wrinkled or maybe begun to break out –only thing is, adolescence was a long time ago! Or you have frequent abdominal cramps, diarrhea or bloating or respiratory infections such as sinusitis or sore throat, one after the other.
You find yourself becoming increasingly irritable and short-tempered with your family, co-workers, and just about everyone you come in contact with in your day-to-day activities. Or perhaps you don’t notice this irritability but others are starting to point it out to you!
You find it difficult to fall asleep at night. You’re definitely ‘tired’ but you feel ‘wired’ and unable to relax and drift off. Or you fall asleep easily but awake in the middle of the night with thoughts racing, worrying about something that has happened or something that might happen in the future.
You’ve missed appointments. Forgotten things. You have difficulty concentrating or focusing on something to completion. You feel like the hamster on the wheel, constantly spinning but never getting anywhere.
When others talk about what they do to relax, your eyes glaze over and roll back in your head…. Relax, what does that even mean?
You just don’t feel like yourself anymore and you see no end in sight.
If you recognize your life in any of these descriptions…(or maybe they all apply!), then read on: You are not alone. These are classic symptoms of a person under stress. Stress that has built up chronically over a long period of time. Ours is certainly a stress-filled society. Stress, however, is not something that you can completely eliminate from your life.
A certain amount of stress is good for you. It gives you a boost of energy and the stamina to get things done. The chemicals that are produced under a stressful situation are the same ones that our bodies produce when survival is threatened. It’s called the ‘fight or flight’ response. Intended for a short burst of acute focus, strength, energy and clarity to ensure survival, the normal body response is to remove theses hormones and chemicals from your body after the threat to survival disappears. Your body doesn’t distinguish between a truly life threatening situation and the long-term stress of a demanding, quick changing work environment or repeated commuter traffic jams day in and day out…twice a day. When stress never decreases, your cells are constantly awash in stress chemicals and instead of aiding your survival, these very chemical reactions and cellular changes are actually now threatening your survival.
Managing your response to stress is not something that you should do something about ‘some day’. Now is the time for you to learn to turn off the stress switch and manage stress. This is the number one self-care priority and will make a tremendous difference in your long-term health.
It has been estimated that unchecked stress is at the root cause of as much as 90% of all doctor visits in the US. Some of the health consequences of chronic stress include cardiovascular disease, recurrent infections and a lowered immune system, premature aging, depression & anxiety, brain changes, gastrointestinal problems such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and predisposition to peptic ulcers and even cancer and cancer survival.
If you are ready to:
Make your health and well being your number one priority
Stop going through the motions of life unconsciously and start enjoying your life more NOW, not some day
Recognize that investing in yourself is an investment in your future as well as the future of your family and is one of the most important investments that you can make
Realize that in order to nurture and care for others in your life (spouse, children, aging adults) you must nurture and care for yourself first. “You must put on your own oxygen mask first before helping those around you with their oxygen masks.”
If NOW is your time and you are ready for the next step, check out the SOLUTIONS page to see how you can get started with a life that allows you to stress less and live more NOW.
Melissa Brown, MD