How Ignoring Stress Ruins Your Life and Makes You Sick — and What to Do About It
Stress is a word you keep scrolling over, until one day you can’t.
It is a human condition, and one that we’ve normalized. Now, more than ever, we are perpetually stressed. What’s worse, we’re seeing the devastating affects stress has on children and youth.
Behind the eight ball. Maxed out. Stressed out. Overwhelmed.
Running late. Out of time. // Money stress. Work stress. Relationship stress. Divorce stress. Parenting stress. School stress. // Aging parent stress.
Death of a loved one stress. Kid in trouble stress. I-hate-my-job stress.
Health stress. Life or death stress.
The problem is this: unless you are totally tuned in to your body and your emotions, you likely have no clue how stressed out you really are.
You’ve (and by you, I mean we) been brainwashed into pushing through — slogging along to make things work, doing the best you can, hoping someone rescues you or gives you a break — or that something finally gives.
Guess what’s going to give first? Um, yeah… you.
First, you lose your appetite. And run on coffee. Eat in your car, from fast food drive-thrus. Ignore the knot in the pit of your stomach. Isolate yourself because you just don’t want to talk about it.
Maybe you drink to forget. Or to help you sleep. Struggle to get out of bed. Miss breakfast. Yell at your husband. Take painkillers for the tension pain in your shoulders. Push through.
Write another check to cover the last one and then Rob Peter to pay Paul. Beg, borrow and do everything not to steal. Feel sick. Have a panic attack.
High blood pressure. Ulcers. High cholesterol. Another cold. Chronic headaches. Skin conditions. Bowel troubles. Depression. I’m thinking you might be able to see a pattern here.
Stress unchecked affects your heart rate, respiration, digestion, sex drive, mood, bowels and immune system. It has been estimated that 75–90% of visits to primary care physicians are, in some way, stress related.
Stress happens, but our response to it must be carefully chosen.
As long as we continue to ignore the subtle signs and signals of stress, our bodies and our health will continue to pay the price.
Happier, healthier people are more productive and easier to be around. They get more done because they’re joyful in the task. They’re more likely to want to help others. They really are enjoying their life.
Resentful, angry, bogged-down people can struggle to keep up, are pre-occupied with repetitive, negative thoughts and have trouble staying well.
But it’s not just a matter of productivity and positivity.
You deserve to live a life you love.
So, you’re seriously stressed.
Find someone to talk to. A coach, a therapist, a friend, a pastor. Anyone you feel like you can trust to hold space for you while you verbally download. Never underestimate the power of talk therapy with someone who can listen without judgement, or offering advice.
Get clear on your personal values. What is most important to you? What do you really want? What’s missing? What in your life goes against your ethical grain? When we live in a way that is not congruent with our personal values, we can not stay well. Dr. John Demartini does leading edge work in the mind body connection and offers an excellent exercise in values assessment.
Find quiet. Meditation is a bit of a buzz word, but that’s because it works. We are constantly bombarded by signals, noises, people, motors, electronics, sirens and digital devices. Our brain is totally overstimulated — even while we are sleeping. This compounds our stress in ways that are not yet fully understood. Chris Kresser is my go-to health guy. He talks about our need for nature, that primitive part of our brain that needs to see sky, hear birds, feel the grass under our feet and be in that silence in order to stay well and reduce stress.
Decide you’re worth saving. Martyrdom is passé. Nobody gives a shit that you’re a hero sacrificing your sanity and your best years for people who don’t notice or take you totally for-granted. If you want to give, give because it feels good not because you should. You must be willing to advocate for yourself, because until you do, no one else will. We teach people how to treat us.
You can choose a different way of being. Don’t wait until it’s too late — until sick leave steals your creativity and resentment makes you cold-hearted and mean. Don’t keep saying yes, when every cell in your body screams NO. Save yourself.
Only when we choose to save ourself — to nurture our spirit, to fill our own cup, to heal our hurts, and set appropriate boundaries; only when we learn to communicate our truth and honour our feelings; only then will we be well enough to reach our capacity for doing great things in our world.
You deserve to live a life you love.
To be satisfied. And relaxed. And healthy.
Stress happens. But you can choose a new way to respond to it.
Consider this permission.