Stress and Health

We all experience stress at some point in our lives. The kind of stress and how we handle it is the biggest challenge. I am not a doctor and everyone’s stress is different. Today’s blog is going to talk about my stress, how it is affecting my health, and ways I am trying to correct it. I have had stress almost my entire life. It has caused me to have ulcers, eye twitching, high blood pressure, along with various other health issues.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I was pushing myself so much to get good grades that I developed an ulcer. Our family doctor prescribed eating small meals throughout the day. Before my one science class in the mid-morning I had to go to the nurse’s office and eat a banana or apple because you could not eat in the classrooms or hallways. That helped for short time but since I was embarrassed to be late to class and having to be in the nurse’s office every day I quit doing it. I just dealt with the pains in my stomach. The ulcer kept plaguing me throughout high school and college. Although college it was easier to eat smaller meals more often. The stress in school was all from my own expectations. I was always pushing myself to get A’s, anything else was not acceptable to me. I did not do well taking tests, especially pop quizzes. No matter how much I knew the material, because I always did the homework and I always studied, I would end up struggling because of the tests. It ended up being a vicious cycle through high school and college where I would push myself harder and have stomach issues because of it.

The next phase of stress occurred the years right after college. I got married, moved to a townhouse, did not having a lot of money, and trying to just stay afloat while enjoying life. It was rough and I was constantly worried about finances. I kept pushing myself with my career in order to provide better for us. The stress of being the main bread winner weighed heavily on me, more than I told anyone. I let it affect a lot of my health and it did affect the marriage some throughout the years. My focus was on the money and not on the relationship or my health. In 2000, I had my gall bladder removed, the doctor told me it was due to stress. The stress I was putting on myself had shut down the gall bladder completely.

I forgot to mention that I was a stress eater. While some people stop eating when they get stressed, I eat and I eat sweets, a lot of sweets. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s I was putting on weight because I kept eating to reduce the stress. Eating did not reduce the stress, it just curved it for the time while I was eating. The stress always came back. I put on weight which was not good for my health.

In 2005, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I will go into that experience in a future post. But the stress of going through cancer treatments was astronomical. I worked the whole time too. Remember I have issues with financial stability and felt like I needed to work, plus I wanted to work to keep my mind off what I was going through. Once I was in remission from the cancer, a family member passed away, and we moved another family member to be closer to us. Oh, and I went back to school for a Master’s Degree. That put us into stress overload.

Through all the above stressors, I felt that our marriage was not working. We just wanted different things so in 2012 I left my husband. The stress of ending a twenty-year-old marriage, trying to figure out what all I wanted in life, and dealing with family members who were not well, set me into another stress attack. I kept eating, there were days I would go to the grocery store and get a store made cake or bag of cookies and eat the whole thing that night. It was not pretty, nor was it effective. In 2014, I lost two very dear family members within a month of each other. Ultimately, that would be what put my stress over the edge and caused me to pick up and relocate.

With all the things above going on in my personal life, I was pushing myself professionally. I had to be the best at any of the jobs I was working at the time. I had a tough time saying no, which caused me to be put on many projects at one time. I had a job between 2000-2005 that I was working consistently 13 hour days, then during the month-end, quarter-end or year-end financial closes I would work 15+ hours a day. I finally got burnt out from that job and went to something that was supposed to give me more of a work life balance. It did for a while, then I got cancer and had personal issues that took precedence. Eventually when layoffs came up in 2009, I took a voluntary layoff to hopefully help with the issues in my personal life. Two years later I started working for another company. I worked there from 2011-2014. Again, I had gotten burnt out. I was working on a project which was causing me to work 70-80 hours a week for six months, I had no life. I had lost people dear to me. I was a complete ball of stress. I had saved up money for relocating and resigned from my job in Pennsylvania and moved to North Carolina. I went six months without a job after relocating and was really starting to panic when I got the job I’m currently at. However, the stress again started affecting my health. I was working very long hours and having no social life. In December 2015, I did not go to the doctor until it was almost too late to get my thyroid prescription renewed because I did not feel I could take off for a couple hours. Fast forward to now, I am working long hours and completely stressed which is causing my blood pressure to increase, swelling to come back, a twitch in my eyes, headaches, and chest pains.

It doesn’t matter where I work or what I do, I am always going to push myself, that is what I do. I want to be the best employee, I want to build the best teams, and I want to make the company I work for the best in their industry. I have a passion for the business world and have been around various industries and sizes of companies throughout my 25 year career. I understand the good, the bad, and the ugly of it all. I like being able to see the big picture when I am working somewhere. Way too many times people in corporate finance roles are only looking at the numbers and the results. They completely miss the impact the customers, vendors, employees, or managers had to the results good or bad. I love that part of my job. Adding the human aspect into the analysis is a big factor in seeing the overall success or failure of a company. It is also a challenge because humans add emotion and are wild cards in predicting. But I used to play poker and watching people for tells was one of my strengths.

No matter how much I loved my jobs, I have to factor in the affects that the jobs have on my health. My Naturopathic Doctor told me when I saw her two weeks ago, that I needed to get my stress under control or I’d be in the hospital or dead. I probably should go to the emergency room for the chest pains and at least have things looked at, but I have not done that yet. I am trying to relax and bring some kind of normalcy to my life on my own. I had a friend who told me, I need to remind myself of what I enjoyed doing and do it. The past two weekends I have declared no work weekends. As a result, I have found out a few things about myself.

  • I love movies – I watched 3 movies last weekend.
  • I love certain TV shows – I caught up on several.
  • I love crafty things – I have an adult coloring book of cats that a friend got me and I really enjoy. I also want to go back to the place where I painted pottery, I enjoyed it. I’d like to try painting on a canvas.
  • I like to cook – I’m not the best cook, but I’m trying.
  • I like to socialize – Friday I met up with one of the Meetup groups I belong to, I hadn’t been to a meeting with the woman in months. I really enjoyed it.
  • I enjoy texting/talking to friends.
  • Essential Oils are fantastic – I have various essential oils and they help with my stress level at by diffusing them, they help add flavor to tea, and aid in my overall happiness.
  • Meditation does work – I have an app on my phone that I do 10 minutes a day with and it’s been helping.
  • I want to live – this one was the most important one because it will make sure that I continue to do the other things that make me happy and help reduce the stress.

Overall, stress can help you, for example when you are driving in a snow storm the adrenaline kicks in to keep you alert and gets you to your destination safely. However, stress can also hurt you by affecting your heart, kidneys, sight, head, and stomach just to name a few that have affected me. My adrenal glands have been on overload most of my life. These glands are the ones that are closely associated with stress. When you get that shot of adrenaline throughout your body in stressful situations it comes from the adrenal glands. When I did not go to the doctor in December 2015 until February 2016 to get my thyroid medicine renewed, it started shutting down all the organs in my body. Once I got back on the medicine, the thyroid became regulated again, but the stress on top of the organs already being weak has prevented a quicker recovery. I still have kidney issues and various other health issues because the stress is not allowing the healthier eating habits and supplements to heal my body. The stress I am going through is also causing me to have sleeping issues. I average about 4 hours of sleep a night during the week then try to “make up” for it over the weekends. Even the hours I am getting are not good solid REM sleep. I wake up several times with thoughts going through my head. I have chest pains randomly throughout the day, I know they are stress related, but I also know I should not play with fire and go get checked out. I am getting headaches a lot. Occasionally, depending on how high my stress level gets, the tick in my eyes come back which causes things to appear blurry for a little while.

While I cannot eliminate stress from my world, I will have it no matter what is going on in my personal life and no matter where I am working at the time, I need to learn to control it and not let it control me. By learning what makes me happy and actually doing what makes me happy is one way I am fixing myself. I am continuously working on realizing that you cannot control everything in life. As my friends, have told me, try to find what makes you happy. I am revisiting that part of my life now because over the past three months I have forgotten about making myself happy and taking care of me. That doesn’t mean you are selfish. You cannot take care of others if you are not healthy, so taking care of yourself helps you take care of others.

On a final note, even though I have been going through a lot of stress lately, I have not reverted back to my stress eating habits that plagued me for many years. Since I have been seeing a Naturopathic Doctor, I have been able to handle the stress eating part. It has paid off too as of this week, I am down 40 pounds since I started on the healthier path October 1st. Trust me if I can do it anyone can. It has been hard at times, but when I put on a pair of jeans I haven’t worn in 10 years, it’s well worth it.

New picture – 40 pounds lighter.

2 thoughts on “Stress and Health”

  1. It’s always easier to put others first…

    But if we kill ourselves in the process…

    Those we give so much to – would they do the same for us?

    1. That is a very good point. In my experience, it depends on the person you are putting first.

      I have some friends who would do anything for me, then others who use me. Determining the difference is the challenge. I’m getting better at that, but I still have some friends that I know used me because they knew I wouldn’t say no. I don’t blame them, it’s on me for letting myself be used. I’ll learn. I have to balance being supportive with taking care of myself. I’m starting to do that, but its a challenge.

      I have also learned that putting work first does not always help your career. That is a sting I’m dealing with right now.

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