This past week has been quite a whirlwind for me. I have noticed that everyday it gets harder and harder to get up and get going in the morning. I found myself repeatedly late for work because I was turning my alarm off in my sleep or when I was up, I just couldn’t slide into my morning routine without major blunders. I completely lost my groove and was no longer in the sweet spot of co-existing with my painful diagnosis. Even if you don’t have a life altering diagnosis or chronic health issues you may think “well this is everyday for me”, “I am constantly overworked, overtired and overstressed” and then there is the scariest response of all “doesn’t everyone feel this way?”.
I for one hope that not everyone treads through their days feeling like they are drowning. But I recognize with the expectations that we place on ourselves at home, in the workplace and our relationships, it is no wonder that many of us feel overwhelmed and overworked.
One of the silver-linings of living with a Chronic Illness/Pain (diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and Fibromyalgia) is that I had to start listening to my body. My survival now depended on rationing energy, taking much needed breaks and knowing when I had to tag out of an activity or plans with friends. Of course this is not all roses and rainbows. Those decisions are often made knowing that I am missing out on something, letting someone down or drastically being thrown off a deadline and expectations that I have of myself. However, once I put my big girl pants on and do what my body is begging me to do, I often times come out ahead and can end the week on a good note instead of being summoned to the bed by pain and misery.
Today is one of those days. It is Monday, my least favorite day of the week. I have a tough time transitioning from the long hours of sleep on the weekend (and adventures as well) to a very strict schedule. Last night as I got home from spending the weekend in the City, every inch of my body was trying to tell me to slow it down. I caught a glimpse of the “old me” immediately lining up my “to do lists” in my head. I couldn’t slow down. I had to prepare for the week. Sunday was the day that I used to cook most of my meals for the week and pack my lunch. Sunday was the day I sat down to write my “Mindful Monday” blog post. The day that I ran the vacuum, washed clothes and cleaned the bathroom…
“Not this Sunday,” my body responded. This Sunday I would rest. I would lay down on my new biomat (it’s incredible!) and I would give my body what it needed. Around 7:30 pm although my body was grateful for the rest I knew I should stay in tune with my nervous system. Reluctantly, I texted my boss and let her know how I was feeling and that I would probably take Monday off to try to get ahead of my body’s flare up.
I am lucky. I have co-workers and a boss who understand these things. They have seen me get knocked down by my CRPS so many times that they know if I say I need to rest and it doesn’t happen, I may lose a week from work. It may even spiral into a full force attack on my body and manifest into a war.
Today as I sit here on my sick day off, there is a part of me that is sad that I did not make it to work today as I planned. I want so badly to be like everyone else and not worry about “feeling a little stressed” but after fighting with this illness I know that these days of rest are so important to my overall health.
And then I realized… our society is so blind to stress! We have normalized high levels of stress, horrible eating, sedentary life styles and sleepless nights. We brag about how stressed we are as if it is a badge of our importance!
So no matter what diagnosis you live with or even if you don’t have any experience with chronic illness or pain, here are 5 little ways you can reduce unwanted stress…
5 Ways to Finding Balance When You Are Stressed
- Get Moving! This has been the biggest little change I have made this year. My fitbit reminds me to move every hour. When the device vibrates, I know I have to put down what I am doing and take a walk. You don’t need to walk a significant difference. Just getting up for 5 minutes and talking a walk outside for a few minutes or down the hallway has improved my concentration, productivity, pain has been decreased and the stress naturally melts away
- Fuel Your Body with Natural Snacks! sounds silly but consuming that soda or candy as a means to fight off drowsiness can make you feel worse. Reach for an apple, banana, yogurt of nuts. When you are tired, this is your body telling you that it needs fuel, rest or even a glass of water
- Breathe. Can you feel your shoulders tense up while you are staring at your computer screen? or while you are going through your routine of errands.When feeling anxious or stressed our breathing can turn shallow. Take 60 seconds and take some deep breaths. This increases much needed oxygen which your body is craving.
- Have You Time. You may spend all day working to please everyone else around you. Your boss, your spouse, your kids, your roommates. You may be dedicating all of your energy to your homework, trying to make your blog successful or getting through that to-do list. At the end of the day, put down your phone. Sit quietly by yourself and reflect on the day in a none judgmental way. Do not judge the events of the day and scrutinize how you can do better next time. Try to be grateful for events of the day, conversations with friends, moments with pets and laughter with family. Reflecting on the day helps us let go of the events of the day so our quality of rest improves at night
- Take a Day. When things get to overwhelming, take a personal day. Use the day to relax, pamper yourself, read, go for a walk, catch up on a tv show. Even if you don’t work, add the intention to the day that you are going to focus on you and be kind to yourself. Don’t take the day off to get more stuff done. Try doing nothing.
As Always, Much Metta (loving-kindness)