Tag Archives: stress

On Letting it Out

I cried yesterday. Hard. In public. I have been putting this off for a long time, afraid that if I started I would lose my grip and let all my balls drop. Well, you know what? My balls all dropped, for about 15 minutes. Then I wiped away the tears, picked them all up and moved on feeling much better. The world in fact did not end. I think the last straw was my GPS. I was running late to an appointment at a restaurant I had never visited. I knew within a few blocks where it was but had never actually seen it. So, I get to a place I know is very close and my GPS says “Make a legal U turn when possible”. So, I get to a very large intersection and wait to make my U turn. I wait and wait and wait. It seems as if the light cycled 3 or 4 times before it finally got to me. So I make my U turn and the GPS immediately responds by saying “Make a legal U turn when possible”. Really? Circles? I couldn’t help to think what an apt metaphor that was for the way I was feeling. I was literally circling my own drain. I have allowed my stress level to reach such a frenzy that I could not see a path forward. This was literally the last straw.

When I finally reached the restaurant and the very kind, understanding person I was meeting, the seal broke and I began to cry. She very patiently listened to me while I kept apologizing saying that I never do this and her response was “Well maybe that’s your problem.” She had a point. I guess crying to me carries a certain stigma these days. Like I’m in over my head, I can’t handle it, that if I start I won’t stop. What if this means I’m in a depression or something? Well odds are, any normal person would be stressed out in my situation. So I need to understand that even though I am bipolar, I am entitled to the normal range of human emotion. Utter detachment is not the goal. In fact, I would dare to assume it’s pretty unhealthy. I guess the goal should be to have appropriate or proportional reactions to life’s challenges. Seems a fuzzy target I know, but I guess I will know it when I see it. I elected to view yesterday as a proportional reaction to the last 2-3 months of life experience I’ve had. Actually, I’ll take it one step further and say I have chosen to see yesterday as the turning point. I hit my bottom, I cried, I released some steam, I picked up all my balls and I’m moving forward with new energy, focus and resolve. Not too shabby for a Saturday.

On the Mind-Body Connection, Part Two

I’m on the plane home from the spa and in a foul mood. The trip was perfect and I guess I’m just pissed that I have to leave. I didn’t even enjoy yesterday fully because I knew I had to leave today. The stress was pre-emptive. Reflux is back, muscles tightened, anxiety high. The difference this time around though is that I now have my evidence. Stress is evil and it has a direct line to my body.

Wednesday and Thursday were the sweet spot of this trip. I had jokingly told the spa front desk manager on Monday that it would take 3 treatments to “break through” and I was exactly right. That third treatment (the hot stone massage previously mentioned) was the key to enlightenment. The result was short-lived but memorable. I can’t remember ever feeling that good, physically or mentally. So, the question is how can I get that feeling back at will? The easy answer is constant massages I guess but that’s not practical financially or from a time-management standpoint. Also, I think that’s a reactive approach. So, what can I take away from this to incorporate into my life moving forward?

I have to manage my stress. I keep a bottle of Xanax in my purse at all times. I take one when I need one…and it helps. But, it’s also a reactive approach. I need to find strategies for proactive stress management (other than popping pills). Some say exercise is the key and I plead guilty on that one. I have been leading a very sedentary lifestyle the last year and a half since I started traveling. This, plus that food-soothing I mentioned earlier has let me to gain a whopping 70 pounds in that year and a half. That is unacceptable and is a major red flag. I’m in emergency warning mode and hopefully this week was the beginning of my turnaround. A diet isn’t going to fix this. Yes, I need to watch what I eat and exercise more of course..but I think there’s more to it than that.

Therapy is good of course but I am often resistant to it. I will go but deflect the hard stuff. I always have. Sort of a waste of money and time but it’s a reflex for me. I don’t even notice until it’s pointed out to me that I am evading. I will throw 90% of myself in your face willingly as long as you don’t go poking at that 10% that’s hiding in the corner. Maybe the relative anonymity of this blog will get me into that 10% but I doubt it. I don’t even know what lurks there most of the time. I’m not sure I want to. I have a good friend who is experiencing a lot of stress at the moment. He has had a horrid headache for weeks and I have been trying to help him with ideas to help. He has been to the doctor and cleared of anything medical but still has the relentless pain. I spoke with him about my trip and my thoughts on the mind-body stress connection and he jokingly made a comment about “being held together by stress”. I related to this. Maybe my 10% is the glue that’s holding me together. Maybe I’m afraid of what abyss I might slip into if I let go of my grip on it. That one needs more examination.

So for now I will consider my little experiment a success. As the plane wings its way closer to home (home=where my stuff lives, I don’t see it very often) and I reluctantly reemerge into my daily life, I go back into the fray a little smarter. I now know the powerful relationship between my mind and my body. I will respect this and use this knowledge as a stepping stone to a better and healthier life. Hold me to it please.

On the Mind-Body Connection, Part One

So, I finally took a vacation this week (hence all the free time to get this blog rolling). I rescheduled it 5 times because of work “conflicts” and I am a bit resentful of them and of myself for letting them do this. But at this moment all is fine and good and  I am at a luxury spa. I am not wealthy but I travel so much for work that I have enough points and miles to really indulge myself for a week. Self-indulgence in a superficial sense is not new to me. I will admit, I tend to self-soothe with things like food (dramatic recent weight gain to be addressed in future posts), and shopping. That immediate gratification is comforting but short-lived. It’s like the high I imagine people get when they do drugs. It’s an escape, but an unhealthy one. On the flip side, I am one of those people who doesn’t “vent” very effectively at times. I may complain to my friends but I mean vent in the literal term. I don’t release my stress and anxieties very well. So I get headaches, acid reflux, knotted muscles, etc. I internalize because I don’t know how to ask for what I need.

The recent mass accumulation of these ailments led me to decide to indulge this time around in spa treatments. This on the surface sounds just as superficial as the food and the shopping but I’m telling you, now that I’m 3 days in I know it’s something different. I am physiologically changed. 3 days, 3 treatments.

Day 1. Mud Wrap/exfoliation/massage. 120 minutes. Excellent first step. Not sure what good the mud wrap really did other than the scalp massage I got while I was wrapped like a giant chocolate burrito. The massage was lovely. I may have overcorrected her when I said my muscles were tight and tender and to go easy on me. It felt good though and after I was done I felt more relaxed than when I started.

Day 2. Botanical Bliss Facial. 80 minutes. This one was good for my ego. She said I had “gorgeous skin”. Even though this was labeled a facial, there was still head, shoulder, arm and hand massage. I came out of this one even more refreshed and relaxed. Lovely.

Day 3. Hot Stone Massage 50 minutes. This, my friends, is where my life changed. I don’t know if the first two treatments just loosened the lid for me or if she was just THAT good, but oh my holy god. That 50 minutes I had this afternoon may have changed me forever. Each pass of that heated, oily stone stripped me away like old rotten varnish on an antique dresser. The tightness, the pain, the mental resistance, all gone. I almost cried on the table. It was transformative.

This leaves me wondering about the mind-body connection for real–like medically. Is my mind poisoning my body? Does stress literally kill? Will my mood-management shortcomings cause me to die early? Will a massage a month help me to live a healthier life or is it just a band-aid like that old-fashioned cake doughnut at Starbucks? So many questions arising from some slippery hot rocks. Luckily my feet get to weigh in on the topic on Friday during my 80 minute spa pedicure. I’ll keep you posted.