Stress, baby – it’s a killer

I had planned to post about books next (today or otherwise soon-ish). There’s a books post coming – because I really do need some ideas for what to read next – but before I could write that post I got sick and I’m pretty sure the major culprit is stress.

I’m not a doctor or a nurse, but I can tell you that I firmly believe that overall emotional health can affect physical health. Obviously, when someone is stressed they can do things that negatively affect their health – binge eating, drinking, drugs, and other unhealthy decisions. But I also think stress can just slowly eat away at your overall health like a gigantic, parasitic leech.

Nom nom nom = die die die.

According to the American Psychological Association’s “Stress in America” report (2010) the common effects of stress are:

Body: headache, muscle tension or pain, chest pain, fatigue, change in sex drive, stomach upset, sleep problems.

Mood: anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation or focus, irritability or anger, sadness or depression.

Behavior: Overeating or undereating, angry outbursts, drug or alcohol abuse, tobacco use, social withdrawal.

So let me see here – headache: check, muscle tension or pain: check, fatigue: check, stomach upset: check, anxiety: check, lack of motivation: check, irritability, sadness, anger: check, check, check.

Under behavior I would say social withdrawal simply because I’ve been less than social lately- less FB, less Twitter, less blog, and less social, in-person chitchat – but that could be due to time constraints more than anything. Or not. What do I know?

So what is the freaking dealio here?

Well, in a word, WORK. The entire month of September I worked some crazy long hours due to a staffing shortage (freaking people and their honeymoons) and, at the same time, an increase in workload. Then I was given even more work. Then I went on a short vacation last week in an effort to take a FREAKING BREAK but my first day back I worked a 12 hour day because I’m so behind from the 2 DAYS I took off. So how does that help? NOT AT ALL.

Now I could really go into quite the violent rant right now about my job, but this isn’t the place for it and if I did it could potentially get me fired (hmmm) so I won’t do that. Suffice it to say – I’m perpetually short-staffed and I do the job of about 3 different positions so I’m always pulled in 15 different directions at one time.

Monday – first day back from vacation and a 12 hour work day. Seriously didn’t get up from my desk to pee and grab some lunch until 3 pm.  Ridiculous. Came home at 8 pm, made dinner, promptly developed a headache – a headache that has not abated since Monday night.

Tuesday – headache all day. General feeling of malaise. Slammed at work, but determined to not work a 12 hour day again so I worked a typical day – 9-6. Felt marginally better at home when I was making dinner, but after dinner I sad down for bit and began to feel an overall ick. A little achy and shaky but not full-on FLU ick. WTF?

Wednesday morning – woke up with the headache, still have the ick. Stayed home with the intention of working just a little and then resting but, instead, I can’t catch a break and I’ve been working ALL DAMN DAY. At least I’m in my yoga pants, yo. (On a conference call as I type this).

Allergies are an issue, for sure. But this is MORE, and I’m pretty sure it’s stress.

So what’s the answer? I don’t know, but I think working more towards a healthy work/life balance is the best first step. I try to do this a lot but sometimes I execute it better than others. Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a lot of control over it.

I can’t slack off on my job otherwise I’ll lose it. I can’t request to do the “mommy schedule” without it negatively impacting perception of my work ethic/goals. (I know this. Just trust me on this one. LAME.)

I’m the primary breadwinner at my house (my husband works freelance and is the primary at-home parent) but I have to be mommy too. I sacrifice going on the field trips, being room mom, working on most of the homework, etc., but I try to be there for them when they need me and I take time off as needed. But as my work demands it I’m there for them LESS than I wish I could be. Yesterday my little dude called me when he got home from school and asked if I was going to work late again. I hate that.

Guilt and stress? Check.

My husband put his arms around me this morning and said, “I just want you to be healthy.” Me too, dear, me too.

Does it come down to working less and possibly sacrificing the security of my job at the same time?  Is there a happy medium?  Sometimes I think I find it and then it all goes woefully wrong.

I’m trying to get my work/life balance figured out so that I don’t have more health issues. I’ve been putting off going to the doc knowing that I’ll have to face that reality of a few things I need to change or start on some meds. I started working-out this summer to get healthier – but with the increase in work that has fallen by the wayside as well.

Sometimes the idea of working on my health just seems like so much WORK and it’s easier to just push it to the back of my mind. Please tell me I’m not alone in this feeling.

The whirlwind of life at it’s finest.

So do you all have any bright insight into how to manage life and stress more effectively? I would love to hear it. What do you do to keep yourself healthy? How do you deal with stress?

Yours,

Stef

The best you that you can be

Every day when I drop my oldest at school I tell him, “Remember, be the best Poohbear you can be today, ok?”

To his credit he doesn’t sigh or roll his eyes (maybe 8 (almost 9) is too young for that), but he says, “Okay Mom! Love you!” and bounds out of the car with nary another thought for me or the message I’m trying to impart.

As I drive away, I often think about all the good things I want for him (to be honest, I often think of Starbucks and how conveniently located it is to his school as well).

What does that mean – be the best you that you can be? Let’s think about that for a minute.

Does it mean to be kind, understanding and attentive to others? Yes, obviously.

Does it mean to listen and learn and be present (in all senses of the word) to what happens during the course of the day? Yes, absolutely.

That’s what I want for him – my clever, cute, quirky son.

If I turn that around and put the focus on myself – what does that mean for me? My expectations for myself extend far beyond the expectations I have for my son.

Am I being the best Stef – mom, wife, woman – that I can be? The answer is a resounding NO.

These are the steps I think I need to take to get there. Bear in mind this list may be revised. Often.

  1. Health. I need to work on my health. I don’t know if I am brave enough to go into more detail than that, here – yet – but I need the strength, the confidence, the determination, support and encouragement to do it. Please. I’m starting already – baby steps.
  2. Outlook. Positivity. Glass half full-ness. Looking on the bright side. Finding the silver lining. Because, when it comes down to it, does bitching about something help? At all? The negativity weighs me down and I’m not having it anymore. Dunzo.
  3. Self-awareness and positive personal growth. Focusing on the me-ness. Really knowing who I am – what makes me tick, sets me off, calms me down, etc. What I excel at and what I suck at. Then embracing the me-ness and the stuff I love about me. This blog is going a long way towards that goal.
  4. Love. Give it all, to everyone, in abundant boundless bundles. To my family, to my friends, to strangers. I don’t know anything, any situation, any problem – ANYTHING – that isn’t improved with a little love and a big, open heart.

So that’s it. For now. That’s my challenge to myself.

Tomorrow, when you check your face in the mirror – at home, driving to work, or in a passing car window reflection – just pause for a second and ask yourself, “Am I being the best me that I can be?” I hope the answer is yes; if not, make your own list and get on with it, sister!

Sickness update

Youngest boy – home sick. Cough, snot – check. Not lethargic though but kept him home to be on the safe side. 
Oldest boy – not sick. Yet. What’s the incubation time for Strep? The hubby reports that he has a snotty attitude though, if that counts. He’s home on his 3 week track break so he’s happy as a clam. Except for the chores his dad is making him do – hence the ‘tude. What’s the darn incubation for Strep?
The hubby – good. He slept in since both boys are home and he appears to be quite chipper. He has one of those voices that you can instantly tell his mood as soon as he says hello. Or maybe *I* can – because I’m his wife and I know these things. When his voice is happy we’re all happy.
Me – achy, warm skin and really feeling the need to lay down. But I’m at work. Laying down is frowned upon. (Writing in my blog at work is probably frowned upon too – but I’m not asking. Moving on.) 3rd of 3 meetings today in 45 minutes. Heating up my lunch shortly, then the meeting (which will be all sorts of fun – NOT), then going to the Chiropractor. I may or may not return to work. Let’s hope not.

There’s the sickness update. I knew you were waiting for it.

Sickness is invading. Craptastic.

My little one has been snotty all weekend and was running a low temp Saturday night before bed. He refuses most medicines, no matter what form, so it’s always fun and bath-requiring tp administer liquid meds. (I exaggerate a little – we’ve got it down to a science now with two of us tag-teaming him, but if it’s just one of us then it’s gonna get messy. And frustrating). 
First, though, the good of the weekend:
I had a great day on Saturday. I dropped my oldest off to stay the night with a cousin, and then picked up a girlfriend to go to an afternoon get-together at another friend’s house. I had a yummy skinny-girl margarita (does that mean I’m skinny? No? Darn.) at the party and hung out with four other women. Fun. Then we did a little shopping and went to a pub for dinner, just my friend and I. Later when I got home I hung out with the little snuffily man that evening and then watched a movie (Inception) with the hubby when he got done with his work for the day. (He works freelance and it’s definitely not an 8-5, M-F gig).
The bad:
We were supposed to go to a birthday party at my in-law’s house on Sunday but little snuffily man was too snuffily and I was afraid of getting the other kiddos sick so I stayed home with him and sent the hubby without me. That’s not so bad. But I was unmotivated to do laundry, clean the kitchen, or otherwise work on any meaningful project at my house. I just lounged on the sofa snuggling with the little guy and we watched a Disney movie together. Again – not so bad, but I feel guilty for not being more motivated. 
I also feel guilty for neglecting the blog these past few days. Apologies. 
(Side note: I don’t know why I always feel such enormous amounts of guilt. It’s built into my very nature and no matter what I do I can’t get rid of it. Ugh. I’m not even Catholic!)
Now the worst: 
We just found out that the cousin our oldest stayed the night with on Saturday went to urgent care on Sunday evening and tested positive for strep. Fan-effing-tastic.
Now I have started to feel run down. My skin feels hot and tingly. Maybe it’s the power of suggestion. Maybe it’s hanging out with snuffily man all weekend.
On the bright side – I did do a load of dishes and two loads of laundry. I made lasagna for dinner and some chocolate chip cookies too. I also beat Plants vs. Zombies again. Oh, wait, that’s counter-productive to the other items on the list, isn’t it? Oh well. Everything in moderation, right? Balance work with fun and all that. 
I do have some blog thoughts percolating but none have really sunk in and grabbed hold yet. It’s coming, I promise. 

Thank you for letting me spew, my dear friends. Apologies. Pray, chant, light a candle, whatever, that Strep doesn’t invade my house. Please and thank you.

On being busy

Started before Christmas:

Lucille Ball said:

If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more things you do, the more you can do.

But I think she MUST have been talking about women only. Not that I don’t appreciate men, because I do – I really, really do (especially that cleft between their hip and groin area – swoon) – but I know very few that are good multi-taskers. Now that we are 4 days away from Christmas this multi-tasking deficiency is painfully obvious.

Christmas is CRAZY. Super-duper, going nuts, spending money, shopping, wrapping, picture-taking, printing, Christmas card mailing, party-attending crazy.

Finished after Christmas:

See what I mean about being busy? I couldn’t even finish my blog about being busy! How ridiculous. Anyway, we got through Christmas fairly intact – though, to be honest, I totally crashed on day 4 of the festivities. It was after the last get together – the big one with the hubby’s family in which I made cupcakes, cookies, deviled eggs, candied yams and mashed potatoes and took it all over to the in-laws’ house for a 7 hour preparation, eating, gift-opening THING – that I came home and just nearly passed out. I laid on the sofa in my comfy clothes like a log. The next day was a work day and I started getting sick. The following day one of my lymph nodes was so swollen I couldn’t swallow without significant pain. I went to the doctor – which goes to show how freaked out I was (OMG! What if it’s cancer??) – and she said virus. That was two days ago and I’m definitely better today.

But that brings me to a very good point. My doctor lectured me because, she said, “I only see you when you’re sick! How about coming in for a physical?” Ugh, who has time, or inclination, for that? Seriously, I’m too busy . . . right? Well, the right answer is no, I’m NOT too busy to work on my health. I just don’t want to deal with it. It’s not a simple thing – zip in and out – because there’s the lab work first and the fasting with that, and then, inevitably, there is something more that needs to be done – like medicine to treat certain things or follow-up appointments and, perhaps the most dreaded, the conversation about a “healthy weight”. Well, yes, I know perfectly well what a healthy weight is and I know that I am not in that range. I really don’t need the lecture and the guilt that follows. I swear, the guilt will kill me one of these days. (Side note: one time Poohbear’s teacher asked me if I was Catholic because I had the guilt thing down pat). It’s so unfair. I actually eat fairly healthy; by that I mean that I’m not a fast food person. We cook good food from scratch here. We eat lots of veggies and get our protein. We eat good carbs. BUT, chocolate is my Achilles heel. I have a relationship with chocolate, and with all GOOD food. I want MORE.

Which would all be okay if I balanced my food with exercise. I don’t mind exercise when I do it; I actually feel really good afterward. I just can’t seem to do it much. I’m so, so tired at the end of the day, and there’s so much to do, I have trouble fitting it into my day. I want to relax and escape after a hard work day – not get my tennies on and get up on the elliptical. I already don’t get enough sleep and I’m decidely NOT a morning person.

Yes, yes, excuse central – I know. One of these days I will suck it up and do it. Hopefully soon. For my health. Plus – ugh – my 20 year class reunion is in less than 3 years. I will ONLY go if I’m under 140 lbs. *sigh*

To sign off, though, I will add something positive – when I went to the doctor it was Dec 28 and she said the last time I was there was the previous January. I actually weighed 3 lbs less on this visit, 3 days after Christmas, than I weighed a year ago in January. That’s something, right?

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year to all. May we ALL have a prosperous 2011!! (Oh please, oh please, oh please!!) Mwah!