Is my brain broken? Are the wires that connect it to my body's internal stress sensors, faulty? Stress seems to unexpectedly shove its way into my being out of nowhere. Like the gas bill you swear you just paid a week ago, popping up in your mailbox unannounced and seeking immediate payment. In. Full.
Many a time, my stress has caught me completely off-guard. I can completely relate to Tina Fey's quote above, in that I tend to subconsciously push my stress down and/or ignore it until it completely side-swipes me with no "apparent" warning. One minute, things are chill and manageable...
... And then all of a sudden, I realize that I've been all but usurped by this uninvited house guest called "stress": It's an odd and unfair feeling because, just when I think I've got shit under control, and that I can't really be phased... I get hit with the reality that: not only do I NOT have my shit under control, but that my shit is taking control of ME. And by that, I mean I now recognize that for me, stress usually manifests itself in a familiar handful of ways: FOOD, DEBT and BREAKOUTS or BREAKDOWNS.
As much as I dislike the term "stress-eater", I think it applies in my case. For some people, when stress presents itself, loss of appetite is often one of the first symptoms or manifestations. For me, it seems to be the opposite. Whenever I get overwhelmed, I tend to reward my stress with food; and of course, not the healthy kind. Up until a few years ago, I never had much of a sweet tooth, but I've noticed that nowadays, whenever I surrender to my stress, I'm quick to run out and get a cookie, a chocolate bar, or fast food that comes with a super sugary drink. Like, I'll go out of my way for it if need be.
My favourite stress-reliever though (and I'm sure not alone here) would have to be spending. Spending money I don't have on things that certainly I don't need. But oh.... I am ever good at convincing myself in the moment that I do need the things. All of the things. Bank account says: "Girl, you broke! Stop playin." Brain says: "Hello credit card, my only friend! TIME TO SWIPE!" It is The. Worst. Not because of buyer's remorse but because once the spending "high" wears off, I sadly realize that not only is my stress still ever-present, but now I'm also broker than before. More debt. More stress. Like: How, Sway?
Perhaps, the most recent and weird revelation I've had is that my stress seems to enjoy a subcutaneous hiding place. Translation: stress can LITERALLY get under my skin, and not in a one-off pimple on the forehead kind of way (though, that's happened to me too). Cholinergic urticaria (a type of hives) is a real thing, and I'm inclined to believe that it's a thing that I've been prone to for far longer than I realized. Ever since I can remember, I experience random episodes where during a run or a workout, random parts of my skin might start to feel like they're on fire (usually the leg/thigh, or arm areas), to the point where I have to stop exercising right away. Once I cool down or put some water on the area, the burning sensation goes away pretty fast. Because these episodes don't always happen, up until now I just assumed that I was mildly sensitive to either my own sweat, or to something I wear to the gym. But very recently, I woke up to a small but noticeable outbreak of hives on my upper arm, and there seemed to be no valid explanation for it (checked for bed bugs or other bites, found nothing). Within an hour of waking up and cooling myself down a little, the hives started to go away almost instantaneously. That's what lead me to look up "heat-related hives", and thus I discovered the below:
The above Google find, coupled with the fact that I have been feeling different types of stress in my life lately, was enough proof to convince me that my stress levels are indeed starting to have a physical effect on me. The question now becomes: what do I do about it???
I suppose one of the simplest things I can do is make sure that I acknowledge my stress as soon as I begin to feel off my game. As an introvert, it's not first-nature for me to react openly or noticeably to stressful situations. Calling immediate attention to myself or my problems is not easy for me; but I definitely think I'll need to find a way to push past this hurdle, especially if the alternative is to keep unnecessary or toxic energy in my body.
Another helpful tool will be to continue to stay active (despite possible random flare-ups of hives or itchy skin). Exercising has to remain somewhat of a constant because the endorphins that are released from physical activity help to lighten my mood and lower my stress levels.
Massages might be another avenue of stress-relief for me. Whether it's deep-tissue or purely for relaxation purposes, massages are a great way to get your body to immediately 'calm down' and rid itself of the tension caused by stressful situations.
I'd like to know: What are your favourite go-to's for stress-relief? I'm open to suggestions, because the Buddha in my entry way just isn't cutting it at the moment;)