Living with stress

A good friend said to me tonight “ You need to write another blog post”. He’s right. It’s been so long my blog has practically gathered dust. My reasoning is that something has been happening in my life which has put everything else on hold. Those who know me will know exactly what I am talking about, but suffice it to say it’s a game changer.

I didn’t feel that it was something I should write about as it concerns people close to me and I don’t think it’s right to use their situation as fodder for a blog. But it occurred to me that one of the main reasons I have been so unable to focus my thoughts on anything else is the stress factor.

I’ve read countless articles on the effects of stress, how to combat stress, and causes of stress. But rarely do you read about what it’s actually like living with chronic stress. I don’t mean the symptoms. I mean the sense that someone has plucked you from your life, set you to fast forward and dropped you back in the middle of it. You never feel quite in sync with the world around you, no-one is on your wavelength any more (because your wavelength has now surpassed the speed of light), and you feel completely out of control.

I myself have all the fun joys of prolonged stress and its knock on effects; sudden weight gain, poor immune system, lack of sleep, rollercoaster emotions etc etc. No-one told me about the hair loss though. Yup. And sudden greying. I think I could give Rogue a run for her money. Minus the gloves.

The sad thing is, I have felt ashamed of how I look right now and guilty for being sensitive and off my game. Take work for example. Somehow sitting in the office attempting to channel my energies into admin suddenly seemed like the most ridiculous thing to be doing. I have felt guilty that I’m not as on the ball as I would usually be, and if I miss something I immediately punish myself mentally for it. Either that or I feel like ‘so the fuck what – it’s hardly life and death. Priorities.’

And when I’ve met with one of my dates, or my partner has met with his, I have felt ashamed that I don’t look my best and I haven’t had time to look after myself how I usually would. I feel ‘less than’ almost every girl around me because I gained a few pounds and my hair is a bit unruly. It’s amazing how, when put in these situations, the surface level stuff that has fallen by the wayside suddenly becomes paramount again and you feel like that kid in school with the shit trainers when all the other kids have got new Nikes. I am hit by a wave of feeling utterly sorry for myself. I think ‘it’s not fair – she has time and energy to go to the gym/salon/clothes shop.’

When we’re under stress, why is it that we so often jump straight for the negative? I automatically think ‘I don’t look good’ or ‘I’m not doing my job perfectly’. Everyone around me who knows me and loves me has been nothing but supportive and encouraging. Why do we struggle to say those kind, encouraging words to ourselves? Maybe because the stress clouds our judgement. And maybe there’s an element of lack of self esteem in there too. But right at the moment you need compassion for yourself, it completely deserts you.

My ex’s ex said to me once – ‘I wouldn’t want to be 18 again. Sure I have imperfections, but every line, wrinkle and mark’s like a badge of experience. I earned them’. She was so right. I wouldn’t mind the body I had when I was 18 that’s for sure, but I’m reasonably happy with who I am now. And that is born of the years of experience I have amassed so far.

So I guess next time I feel bad that I’m not completely perfect and am being a little nutty, I should give myself a break, realise I might be physically weak right now but I have the inner strength of a Fortress Woman (you know who you are ladies) and that my life is rich with people who love and support me no matter what. And that is really all that matters. The stress will wane eventually and I will have earned some new badges of honour to wear with pride. Move over Brownies – there’s a new Sixer in town.

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