You have heard being stressed out isn’t healthy, but you didn’t think that was YOUR problem.
You have been feeling off, but you aren’t sure why. You might feel physically ill, tired, or “out of it”. Maybe you find yourself avoiding people or wanting to be alone. Or maybe you aren’t even sure what you are experiencing, but you just feel “not yourself”.
Maybe you’ve been to doctors, tried home remedies, or talked it out with your loved ones. Still, you brush it off because you don’t know if it is even worth dwelling on. You tell yourself you’ll get over it or things will get better. But it’s still nagging at you…
What could it be?
The Mind-Body Connection: My Stress Story
My symptoms became reality when I was standing in the Minneapolis airport about to board a plane to Ohio for a work event. The airport has never really been my favorite place, so I chalked up my nervousness to airport security, strange people, traveling alone, and my introverted nature.
But this was beyond nervousness…
Mental Health Symptoms
I was running in and out of the bathroom with digestive issues. My palms were sweaty. I felt dizzy and out of my own head. I wanted to throw up.
Then agoraphobia struck.
If you don’t know what that is, imagine being at the store or the bank and suddenly feeling like you are suffocating or having fear overcome you, but there is no threat nearby. You start to have a panic attack or feel like you will and you must escape. That’s exactly how I felt–and it was something I never experienced before.
There was no way I was going to board that plane. I needed air so I ran to the bathroom, in tears, and in a complete panic. I called my husband and told him I couldn’t board the plane. It was humiliating!
He managed to talk me off the ledge enough to get on the plane. I held it together. I stepped one foot into the aisle and thought “Oh my God, I’m going to die!”. The plane was one of the smaller ones I’ve been on. In my rush to sit down, I got in the wrong seat and the stewardess had to ask me to move. I wanted to just be at home, not on an airplane surrounded by faces that just looked at me like I was stupid.
Thankfully I made it to my destination and my trip home was a lot less eventful. But I still found myself panicking in the middle of Target, or the grocery store, or for no reason whatsoever.
From Bad to Worse
I spent several months feeling this way. On the surface, I had a decent job, I was working hard, going to school at night, managing my mom duties. From the outside, I appeared to have things “together”. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as together as I thought.
I was trying to convince myself that I was fine and I pushed aside any negative feelings and blamed myself. Then I started breaking out in random rashes and became allergic to things I never was before. My hair was falling out, my skin looked awful, my eyes looked sad.
I continued to push through the hard stuff, even losing 40 pounds and attending therapy 2x a month. But I was still a hot mess.
My family wondered if I was ok, was concerned with my overall health, and suggested I eat more food or see a doctor. I went on anxiety meds, visited several doctors, and continued with therapy.
But I wasn’t getting better. In fact, I was getting worse.
Does any of this sound familiar?
I knew I had to make a complete change and stop shoving aside my feelings for the sake of pleasing others, but I was completely scared of the unknown. If that sounds like you, I want to help.
Sometimes we need someone to help us recognize the symptoms. Symptoms can range from physical to spiritual to mental. And all of it relates to stress.
Yes, stress! If you have experienced strange symptoms that doctors can’t figure out and isn’t being helped in normal ways, then you might need to look very closely at your stress levels.
I’m including a checklist down below to check your own symptoms. Let’s dive into stress first so we aren’t misinformed.
What is stress?
Our body responds with stress to situations and events that occur every day. Although there is such a thing as “good stress”, what I’m referring to in this post is the negative stress that impacts us physically, emotionally, and mentally. Our stress can become worse due to conflicts, money issues, relationship problems, a toxic workplace, or other areas that negatively impact us. Women seem to struggle with stress in other ways due to being mothers and caregivers.
Cleveland Clinic notes six areas of stress:
You might experience this as headaches or migraines, stomach issues, digestive problems, or feeling unwell and tired. If you’ve been to the doctor and they can’t find anything wrong with you physically, it might be stress-related.
Unexplainable pains or symptoms can often be relieved by creating healthier habits. It’s important to get a medical check-up and rule out any diagnosis that may be causing these issues. But more often than not, stress certainly can make us feel terrible and sick.
Some solutions might include:
- Getting more sleep
- Taking vitamins
- Going for daily walks
- Eating a healthier diet
- Taking a yoga class
- Getting enough sunshine each day
This might be the big, red flag if you are struggling with stress. Anxiety, depression, and mental health issues are usually a huge sign of stress. Again, don’t skip therapy or an evaluation from a medical professional to rule out big issues. But if you are usually a happy or easy-going person and you find yourself down in the dumps, unable to focus, or having anxiety symptoms, take a look at the stressors you might have in your life. It never hurts to ruthlessly weed out things that cause you to feel bad.
Try these ideas for help:
- Find a good therapist
- Talk to friends or loved ones about your feelings
- Practice self-compassion
- Take yourself on a date – plan more leisure time
- Cuddle with your fur baby
- Use a gratitude journal
Do you make time for things that are enjoyable? Or do you find yourself always thinking about serious matters? Symptoms of mental stress could look like forgetfulness, brain fog, feeling unmotivated, or being bored a lot of the time. It might look like someone who escapes by watching TV or sitting on the computer for hours each day instead of being productive.
Stress has a way of diminishing our spirits. It can cause us to become small because it makes us feel insignificant and powerless. To overcome mental stress, try setting small goals that help you take back your space little-by-little. Here are a few ideas:
- Learn a new skill
- Learn more about your personality (16personalities.com is great!)
- Practice self-kindness
- Read a book that stimulates your mind
- Learn relaxation techniques
Working with difficult or unhealthy people who chronically complain, gossip, or tear others down is challenging, to say the least. On top of it, you have corporate politics, toxic culture, and feeling stuck in your job role. The lack of creativity or not having any say in workplace matters can cause a lot of stress.
Take a look at this breakdown from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS):
When we spend a lot of our time at work, it’s obvious to see why stress can make us feel sick, tired, and dreading going to work.
Some ways you can combat workplace burnout is:
- Use your vacation days and take a real vacation
- Speak to your boss about areas you can grow and be challenged
- If you have too many tasks, ask your boss for help or seek assistance from another co-worker
- Set realistic goals that you can work towards achieving
- Take a new course or class to update your skillset
- Consider looking for a new job
- Update your resume
Sometimes our relationships just aren’t what they should be. They can bring us joy, sadness, and pain. We can be surrounded by many people, but not have many of them are supportive or loving. You can feel overwhelmed and avoidant when this happens. You’d rather be alone than with others and don’t want to exert effort in trying to be around people.
If this is you, take time to really evaluate who is in your inner circle. Not everyone should be there. And if you have people in your circle that aren’t supportive, you need to kick them out. They don’t belong and are bringing you down and making you sick. If you want to remove stress, you need to be brazen and bold and stand up for yourself. That means giving the boot to people who are doing nothing but causing you stress. Be patient with yourself if this is you. It’s ok to not want to be around people for a while. That’s normal.
Here’s what to do instead:
- Love who you are and practice self-compassion
- Do things you enjoy for yourself
- Set boundaries with other people
- Find a hobby that you are passionate about and go all in
- Join an online support group, if that’s less taxing
- Confide in a friend or loved one that does support you
- Find a therapist to help you work through boundaries and relationship
If you have a belief system in a higher power, then you might be feeling disconnected and disenchanted. This is a sign of stress too. You might be experiencing guilt, sadness, or disappointment in the things you once believed. You might even be indifferent or apathetic.
What can be done when your faith feels so far away?
First of all, accept that you are in a transition. It won’t always be this way. Then when you feel able and ready, try this:
- Pick up a book on spirituality
- Journal your doubts and feelings. Turn them into a prayer.
- Practice meditation
- Find things to be thankful for
- Observe the natural world and its beauty
- Talk to a safe person in your faith community, or join a group online
Free Stress Checklist
Does any of this cause you to concern?
Get the Am I Stressed? checklist (even if you don’t feel stressed out) and find out what areas you are the most stressed in less than 10 minutes.