I have never been one to handle stress particularly well. In fact, all extreme emotions or feeling that I have end in tears. When I am extremely happy… Tears. Extremely sad…Tears. Extremely angry… tears. It is actually really inconvenient when I am furiously angry and all I am capable of doing is sobbing uncontrollably.
I am convinced that I feel emotions differently than most people. It wasn’t until I reached adulthood that I realized there is a word for people like me. I am an empath. I feel very intensely, and I do not just feel my own emotions I feel for all those around me too. It is very difficult for me to watch the news, I just feel drained after seeing all the horrible things going on in the world. It’s like the news becomes a part of me and I have to carry it around indefinitely. So, you can imagine that the same is true with stress. I get stressed out very easily and basically absorb the stress of those around me. Not exactly an ideal situation.
Building UP Stress
A few years ago, I was working a very stressful job. I was working ungodly amounts of overtime- constantly feeling overwhelmed. All of my co-workers were miserable too, so the whole environment was just very toxic- especially for someone who feels so intensely for those around me. Don’t get me wrong, I love the people I worked with and always will. They are the equivalent of war buddies, we have been in the trenches together. It was just that the job was literally killing me. My anxiety was getting out of control. I started experiencing night terrors. If you have ever experienced night terrors, you know how absolutely vivid and horrible they are. I got to the point where I was afraid to go to sleep.
Making matters worse, I started gaining even more weight, to my already obese frame. My doctor had to prescribe medicine to control my skyrocketing blood pressure. I was becoming someone that I didn’t recognize. My patience became not existent. You know how you always take our frustrations on the ones you love the most? Well, all I can say, is I am thankful that my husband stuck by my side- even though I was constantly snapping at him and yelling for no reason. The stress was affecting every part of my life. And to be honest, I really did not have a life outside of my stress bubble. I would work from 7:30 am – 7:30 pm most days, then come home eat and sleep.
As I have said previously, I am a repeat offender when it comes to weight loss and weight watchers. I am a little embarrassed to admit that I has a monthly pass subscription that I was paying for over 3 years, before I became truly serious about my weight loss. I would go to a few meetings, lose 10-20 pound then give up and gain it all back, and repeat about once a year. Meanwhile I was paying monthly for the subscription, because I keep promising myself that I would go back.
Cut to November of 2016. I finally decided that no job was worth killing myself over. I quit my super stressful job and managed to find a much less stressful job. Quitting that job, changed my life. No, it saved my life. With so much of the stress gone, I finally had the strength and will to change other aspect of my life. I started my new job on November 1, 2016 and re-joined weight watchers on November 8. Since then, I have rarely missed a meeting.
Stress. Stress was the barrier that was holding me back for so long. I am not saying that my life was or is stress free. But quitting that job lifted such a heavy weight off my shoulders. It helped me stand up straight- Giving me a fighting chance to handle other stressful situation that came into my life. I am still bombarded with stress, as I am sure everyone is, I am now able to develop strategies to deal with it in a healthy way, without letting it completely cripple me.
I have never been particularly athletic and would typically avoid exercise if I could. I did it because I thought I had to. The more I exercised the better I felt. It started out small, I would simply walk my dogs for 30 min a day. As I started losing weight, I started excising more and more. The more I would exercise the better I would feel and the more energy I would have.
I now run about 3-4 miles 4-5 days a week. Some people may even call me a runner (It still feels wrong calling myself that) – I’m one of those people that go on runs to clear their head. I never ever in a million years thought I would become one of those people. Exercise truly is the best stress reliever. And its not me just saying that, there is scientific study, after study that proves that exercise reduces stress.
My husband is a big advocate for mediation and has taught me a lot about the art. When he was a kid, he had difficulties in school and in concentrating. He was diagnosed with ADD and also struggled with anger issues. Meditation was able to help him control his anger and focus. He has since passed on meditation as a tool to his daughter, who is on the autism spectrum and struggles with ADHD. They call it peace and quiet time. It’s something that she looks forward to, and will ask, “Daddy can we have peace and quiet time tonight?” It is amazing how it transforms her- from someone bouncing off the wall to a Zen master in just a few moments.
Mediation does not have to be complicated. You don’t need to be sitting cross legged on the floor, burning incense while “ommmmm”-ing (but it can be if you want it to be!). It can be as simple as closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths. You don’t even have to be sitting, I often find myself mediating while walking through the woods. Nature is a big stress reliever for me and brings me such joy and peace.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
I needed help. I needed help long before I had the courage to ask for it. Once I did, all I kept thinking was, “why did it take me this long to do it.” It was really the night terrors that pushed me to get help. Night terrors are not the same as having a bad dream, they are so much worse. I would not wish them on my worst enemy. My husband can tell you stories- it is not pretty. It is sad that it took something so dramatic to push me to seek professional help.
My doctor prescribed me medication for my anxiety and depression and I am still on that medication today. I am not weak because I had to get medical help, I think I am strong for acknowledging that I could not do it on my own. My doctor also encouraged me to see a therapist, which has made all the difference.
Know when to say enough is enough
You cannot do everything. You cannot please everyone. If you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. I have a habit of never saying no. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy helping others when I can, but I have learned that it cannot be at the expense of my sanity.
The same is true for work. My therapist told me something that really helped me. He told me to imagine a door in your mind. When you walk out of work, close that door in your mind and do not open it again until you return to work. This helps keep work stress contained at work, and not let it affect your personal life. This also made me discover that working tons of overtime when you are super stressed does not really accomplish anything. The more stressed I get, the less productive I get. If I leave work on time, go home, get refreshed and come back the next day, I will be much more productive (and happy) than if I work through the night. I learned to say enough is enough.
Unfortunately, stress is just a part of life. We all have it, and will continue to deal with it for the rest of our lives. I am just glad that I now have some tools to stop stress from taking over my life. I’ve worked really hard for this life and I am not about to have stress come and take it from me again!
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Lean more about how I got here and other lessons learned through my weight loss journey: