I Can’t Believe I Didn’t Know It Was Stress

Watch out when the stress blows in

A few months ago I started to feel sick at work with a headache. Convinced I was catching my son’s cold, I decided to go out for a run anyway. Miraculously, I felt better.

On a few other occasions this winter I’ve felt terrible. Convinced I’d be sick in bed within hours, I dragged myself out for my late-night kickboxing class then recovered. I’ve been telling everyone how my exercise must be boosting my immune system because I never wind up getting sick.

With the blizzards, I couldn’t travel to the gym. For six days my stomach was upset. I enjoyed my time with my family while trying to keep the ball rolling for a major fundraiser. With Washington DC snowed in for a full week, the hours were dwindling before the big event. Even though I had been ill for several days, I forced myself to an early-morning kickboxing class as soon as the roads were clear. When I came home I started to research my symptoms in fear of cancer. A short time later I was completely better.

When I was reading the medical book, the first cause of my symptoms was typed in bold letters: stress.

I had spent a week feeling sick because of stress. I still can’t believe I didn’t recognize it. My suffering had me worrying about a major disease. With my conscious effort to stay healthy, I can’t believe I didn’t know what was happening to me.

The realization that I was suffering from stress every time I thought I was sick floored me.

When I interviewed for my nonprofit job, I was asked how I handle stress. Fundraising under tight schedules with part-time hours and a strong desire to succeed is recognized for the stress it creates. Yoga and running on a daily basis had been a strong foundation to staying healthy but with work taking up additional hours, late-night kickboxing had to be added. Apparently, I can’t live without all these stress reducers.

But not all stress is bad. The American Institute of Stress describes it this way:

Increased stress increases productivity – up to a point, after which things rapidly deteriorate, and that level also differs for each of us. It’s much like the stress or tension on a violin string. Not enough produces a dull raspy sound and too much an irritating screech or snaps the string – but just the correct degree of stress creates a beautiful tone.

There are many signs of stress.  HelpGuide.org lists the physical ones as aches and pains, diarrhea or constipation, nausea, dizziness, and loss of sex drive. Keep a look out for these in your daily life.

Without intervention, my situation is making me physically ill. With this awareness, I need to make sure I find the ways to keep a good balance and stay healthy. Hopefully the weather or injuries won’t prevent me again.

I’m feeling a need to run right now.