The other morning, as I stood in my kitchen, I had to grab the countertops to balance myself. I suddenly felt dizzy. Then it happened again; this time I needed two hands to steady myself. I couldn’t finish making my breakfast, I had to sit down and recover. I hadn’t felt like myself that morning or the night before. I’d been extra panicky and short of breath, but I continued to push myself, get out of bed and go for a run thinking it would be good for me to get some exercise. This wasn’t the case though.
There’s no doubt that lately I’ve been feeling more stress than ever before in my life. My dizzy spells started a few weeks ago, went from bad to worse, and wouldn’t go away. My upper back and shoulders were so tight I was in physical pain. It wasn’t the kind of soreness you get from exercising too much or pulling a muscle; this was different, something I’d never felt before.
The job of being a single, working mother has been catching up to me. I’ve been putting extra pressure on myself to keep up with everything while painting a calm fascade. And it was starting to hurt, literally. I kept ignoring the signs thinking, I can handle this, people do it all the time. No big deal.
Only it is a big deal when you are standing in the middle of the kitchen on the verge of passing out while your kids are looking to you to take care of them and you have work responsibilities to meet.
Even though I knew I was beating myself up unnecessarily, I kept doing it anyway. Anxiety can be a bitch like that. You put unrealistic pressure on yourself, which keeps building until your body says, Listen, if you don’t stop, clear your head and give yourself a break, then I’m going to force it on you.
The physical signs of stress and anxiety show up for a reason, and it is important to recognize the signs. When everyday tasks like grocery shopping or going to the bank put us over the edge, it just might be our body telling us that we are stressed AF. When we have trouble breathing, feel dizzy, or constantly have an upset stomach, we shouldn’t ignore our body. Because if we don’t pay attention, our body is going to go down hard and fast.
An article in Harvard Health warns that stress and anxiety can take a toll on our health, and a big one at that: “Evidence suggests that people with anxiety disorders are at greater risk for developing a number of chronic medical conditions. They may also have more severe symptoms and a greater risk of death when they become ill.”
How many times have you been nervous, or tense about a life change or an uncomfortable situation and literally lost your appetite or immediately became exhausted and felt like you could sleep for hours? When we constantly feel stressed or anxious, our body reacts accordingly. It knows how to respond to stress in order to protect itself and it hurts — a lot. The body is a badass like that.
Bottom line: stress makes the body uneasy so it sends signals to increase our breathing and heart rate. Adrenaline starts pumping through us when we are stressed, anxious, nervous, or afraid. It’s actually a pretty awesome evolutionary tool that added with survival. Nowadays we don’t feel it while running from a mountain lion, but maybe before speaking to a crowd, running a race, or when a loved one is hurting. Rest assured: it is totally normal, even if it is uncomfortable.
But sometimes that stress response can get out of control. Our muscles get tense, even when we are trying to sleep or relax. We might suffer from headaches, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), dizziness, or nausea. We find ourselves unable to let go worrying all the time, we feel distracted, or overthink everything with worst case scenarios playing in our minds. If that’s the case, it might be a sign of generalized anxiety disorder. Unfortunately, many of us suffer from these symptoms without realizing that anxiety is the culprit. In fact, according to Harvard Health, “About 30% of people with anxiety disorders go through life untreated.” That’s way too many people who are suffering unnecessarily.
If you’ve got unknown aches and pains, or generally just feel physically beat, to the point where its affecting your everyday life and relationships, don’t ignore your body any longer. See a doctor to rule out any other medical problems. Stress or anxiety might be the cause, but only a doctor can confirm this.
If haven’t been evaluated or treated for anxiety, there are resources out there to help you. Reach out and ask for help, there’s no shame in it. It is treatable and anything that can keep you from hurting — emotionally and physically — is worth looking into.