Without weed :) :)
There was a time when I did not realize the symptoms of stress. That might have been due to a variety of reasons: lack of awareness, age (you bounce back faster when younger), ... The first clear memory I have of the awareness of being stressed was in late 2014. I was driving to work when I suddenly felt physically ill at ease and thought I was going to pass out. I took the nearest exit, parked and waited for the feeling to pass. Then drove back home and took the day off. I remember a clear sense of feeling overwhelmed, feeling utterly unfulfilled, and a sense that I had lost all control over my life. For the past several months, I had been suffering from chronic pain in my right hand which I self diagnosed as a form of Carpel-Tunnel. The only problem was that the pain seemed to randomly come and go. There were also neglected bills (did not have a system for automating payment for all my monthly bills), a sense of not not being there enough for my little kids, a lack of purpose, and a feeling of exhaustion. I had had no major health issues and the feeling of being about to pass out unnerved me, and combined with the pain in my hand, I decided it was high time I went for a complete physical check up.
That was the beginning of a year long phase of my body breaking down. My doctor said that it was stress. I didn't believe him. I had always assumed that stress was all "mental". Don't ask - I just had not paid enough attention. How can you say the very real and physical pain in my hand, the shortness of breath I sometimes experienced, the chest palpitations were due to stress? There must be a physiological issue behind this, I insisted. My doctor was very patient with me - he explained that 75% of patients visit doctors due to stress related issues. He also said that stress can manifest in any physical form. He encouraged me to explore mindfulness to help.
Soon after, things got worse for me - I developed insomnia. I was once a deep sleeper that would pass out and not wake up until the next morning. Now I was up all night with aches, burning sensations in my body, and worse, if by some stroke of luck, I began to nod off, my body would simply jerk itself awake. It was horrible. I went back to my doctor and begged for sleeping pills. He reluctantly prescribed a 90 day supply. Anyways, I became desperate to get better. It was a long journey - I read A LOT! I experimented and I want to share what worked for me. Standard disclaimer: do your own research and consult your doctor before you decide to follow my path.
- The first step towards recovery is realization. It took me a while to accept that I was stressed.
- Once I accepted that, I took some near term steps to manage it. I cut back on work responsibilities. I asked for a change in work scope and was able to eliminate many work stressors that had led me to this state.
- I was uncomfortable in my skin for nearly a year - meaning I would feel sensations of wobbliness, burning sensations in my chest and back, shortness of breath, tingling sensations etc. These were SUPER uncomfortable and I was not used to them. I wanted them to go away and never come back - which stressed me out further when I felt the next tingle or burn. I really had to work work work on accepting these uncomfortable sensations. One thing that helped was talking about them with close family and friends. They helped me realize that I was not dying! And that really helped. So the lesson is go to your trusted network for support.
- I took a three month yoga class. Obviously there were no instantaneous benefits, but it was calming to stretch, breathe, and be still.
- I read a lot of positive books and blogs on mindfulness, finding your purpose, finding meaning, supporting your body, health etc. These were also a huge support and helped me immensely in staying motivated to healing myself. I found the following very helpful:
- Vitamin C: I am convinced this is a miracle vitamin. I travel a lot and get exposed to god knows what in my travels. I drink a glass of warm lemon water - a method renowned in Ayurveda - for my daily dose of vitamin C. If you have a lemon tree at home, juice your lemons and drink a glass everyday. Just a teaspoon of lemon juice diluted with water will do.
- Meditation: I use an app called Oak. I love to sit and do guided meditation. Definitely helps.
- Breathing: When stressed, I find it very helpful to breathe consciously. I use this technique that I read in a book by Dr. Andrew Weil.
- Fresh herbal teas: Since I embarked on this wonderful journey of discovering the magic of plants, a whole new world has opened up to me. My research led me to herbs I'd never heard of before. Like Lemon balm. This is a stress busting herb also known to help with hormonal imbalance. I bought a lemon balm plant (it is a member of the mint family and grows readily in California). I usually combine it with a few leaves of sage and drink a tea when I feel like it. It is amazing!
- Ginger - this is an amazing root that helps with inflammation. I incorporate a lot of fresh ginger every day. There are studies that show that pre-menstrual syndrome is linked with inflammation and also that there is a correlation to decreased magnesium levels. I do suffer from some hormonal issues just before and just after my period. So I load up on ginger and magnesium to help with this.
I think that's about it. I hope you find these resources helpful. I strongly believe there is a natural and safe way to managing stress. I didn't mention exercise - I am not an exercise person. I like to walk but that's about it. Maybe there is a whole new way to deal with stress with exercise. Do share your story of how you manage stress.