To say I don’t handle stress well is putting it mildly. I used to thrive on stress, juggling children, activities, career, all the while balancing a calendar and house atop my head. I looked for stress the way Winnie the Pooh searches for honey. The more I had, the happier I was.
But brain injuries have a way of changing a person. I can no longer handle stress. I push it away, eliminating situations I know I can’t handle. Unfortunately, sometimes the old me tries to sneak back into my life, tries to fool me into thinking I can do anything. Kind of like it did the last few weeks.
Plans and Changes
It began with summer and fall plans my husband and I were making. Things weren’t falling into place as easily as we had imagined. We had to make changes to our calendar, and leave a few things in the air. Not a big deal, if that had been all there was.
My body is tired. My mind is worn. I do not hear.
My family, both close and extended, are experiencing many changes in their lives. They are all adults, and the changes are good, but I couldn’t help but be a little worried, because, after all, they are my family.
My back twinges, my neck begins to ache. I will not listen.
My husband has seen a lot of changes in his company lately, and his job has become a bit precarious. When your spouse is stressed, so are you.
My body cries, my muscles tighten. “Sit, relax,” it says to me. I refuse.
My husband and I have designated Memorial Day weekend as “Catch-Up Weekend,” a time to complete forgotten and abandoned chores. This year, we should have gone away, if only for day. Instead, we opted to paint the office. The only place we would go would be Home Depot.
We stripped the walls of pictures, emptied closets, removed furniture. We washed walls, taped bright blue strips around the trim, and painted. Halfway through, I felt it.
Stop! Tense muscles. Pain. I close my ears.
I barely made it through the first coat. But by then, my body had rebelled. It screamed things I had never heard, shooting pains from my lower and middle back into my stomach, making it difficult to eat or breathe. My only relief was bending over or lying down.
Stop and Listen
If only I had listened the first time. If only I had paid attention when my body told me to rest.
Back pain is, well, such a pain. Back pain costs employers 7.4 billion dollars a year in missed days of work (based on ages 40-65, per www.painmed.org), it will affect about 80 percent of adults at some point in their lives (per ninds.nih.gov) and is the number one reason Americans visit a doctor (per Johns Hopkins University study – www.disabled-world.com)
Back pain can truly ruin your day, or even your life. I knew I couldn’t live with this kind of pain for long, and I knew the exact reasons for why I felt this way.
The first thing I did was lay on a heating pad, rest, and enjoy a movie, letting my mind wander away from that sometimes stressful thing called life.
Then I did something else. I thought about what I was dwelling on –family, house, unsolved vacations. I thought how I had turned a simple life into something difficult. And then I knew what I needed to do. I needed to let it go.
Let it go
*Don’t try to do so much. Some things, like painting, can wait. Some things just aren’t that important.
*Don’t try to live other’s lives. If they are happy and okay, let it go.
*Accept situations. Do what you can to change it, but if you can’t change it, learn to live with it.
*Most importantly, don’t gather stress like it’s an honor to carry around.
We all incur stress at some point in our lives. It’s the way life is. And sometimes, when we have stress, our body rebels. If this happens to you, here are a few simple remedies I found to be helpful:
1. Heating pad. (Follow directions, don’t leave on too long, or turn on too high of a heat.)
2. Mild yoga (This is not the time for head stands or balancing on one hand.)
3. Hot shower. Or better yet, a hot bath with Epsom salts.
4. Topricin. Use like Icy Hot. (I love Topricin. It doesn’t smell like Grandma’s muscle cream, isn’t greasy, and it works.)
5. Massage. (Light massage.) With oil.
7. Relax. Breathe.
8. Remember, life is simple. We just make it difficult.
9. Mostly, learn to let it go.
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