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.
Image courtesy: https://allevents.in/blog/international-yoga-day/
I realized the importance of treating my body with respect when I hit forty. It's not like I really abused it before - I did pay attention to what I ate etc. The issue was stress got the better of me and I was plagued with a host of inconvenient symptoms like insomnia, anxiety, racing heart, pain in my joints that would come and go at will etc. For the longest time, I could not accept that these physical symptoms were caused by my state of mind rather than some physiological condition. I went through a battery of tests and nothing was wrong. My doctor sat with me for an hour and gently explained that stress is the number one reason for doctor visits and can manifest in any random physical way imaginable. I still didn't believe him. Then one day, I called our family medical consultant and explained what I was going through. He heard me patiently, asked questions and then said something that finally made me understand:
1) If you have a pathological condition causing some issue, it will get worse with time
2) All my symptoms occurred randomly - there was no noticeable pattern to when, how, and what I felt. One day it was pain, another it was a feeling of lightheadedness, another it was a racing heart. The only thing that was consistent was the insomnia. This indicated, he said, a feeling of not having my life under control.
Finally a light bulb went on - that was it!!!
And that's how I began my journey to heal my mind. Little did I realize that that would lead to a pleasant side effect.
I want to make it clear that this journey has neither been easy nor short. It started in early 2015 and it took dedication. If you feel suboptimal in your body, are stressed out, or are just plain unhappy, you can turn things around - but only if you are wholly committed to it. That's the only rule. In my case, I was desperate to feel good in my body again. I had begun to accept that the aches and pains I was feeling was a sign of advancing age, hormonal issues or some such. The fact is we're living much longer today - so the more we take care of ourselves, the better our enjoyment of our longevity. Below are the steps I took to get my life back.
1) I started with reading. I read all kinds of positive, uplifting books on philosophy, spirituality, and healthy living. Reading helped me feel better.
2) I talked about my fears with close friends. I remember a conversation I had with one of them who was also going through tough times health wise. She said "What's the worst thing that can happen?" I replied "I will die". And somehow that helped. Speaking out my irrational fear helped me feel lighter.
3) I started going on long walks almost daily. These helped calm me down and have a slice of joy that comes with being out in nature every day.
4) I looked deep and hard inside myself. I made some decisions - found a new job, started a skin care line. Those gave me renewed confidence and added a freshness to my life that was enjoyable.
5) I was beginning to feel a lot better after a year of this. What took it to the next level was a Surya Namaskar or sun salutation challenge I accepted with a couple of coworkers. The challenge was to complete 108 cycles of these yogic poses in six months. I started slowly and built up to 60 cycles I'm still not at 108 but that's less important for me now). I do these stretches almost daily at 36 cycles. I have realized unbelievable benefits from this.
A few things to keep in mind when you are experimenting with weight loss. Your body weight fluctuates within a day. Use a good digital scale and an app like this to keep track easily. The green line indicated where I want to get to - that's the lightest I've ever been in my adult life!
Dont try too hard - like yourself no matter what your weight is. Being thin and shapely is something you mostly want to do for others, not yourself. Your goal must be to feel good about yourself - trust your instincts.