You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘stress’ tag.

In my July post, I talked about my struggle with anxiety/panic attacks, and what I had done to address the problem. At the time of that post, I was feeling much better and have been since then…until about three weeks ago.

I was coming home from TN with my mom, and we got caught in a HUGE amount of fog and some rain on a curvy mountain road. All of a sudden, WHAM! I couldn’t breathe, I felt like I was being choked, I got dizzy. Between then and now, I’ve had them quite a bit, though most are not horrible…but I have had a couple more doozies during that time.

Panic(This is what I think I must look like when I’m having an attack…it’s certainly how I feel on the inside.)

The difference between before and now is that THIS time, I know I am not having a heart attack. I’m not dying. And even though I feel like I’m going to pass out, it’s physically impossible to pass out when having a panic/anxiety attack (the EMT who helped me back in May told me that amazing factoid).

As you can imagine, I’ve been frustrated during these past few weeks. Why the sudden backslide? I was doing so good, so what gives?

Well, like I always do, I had to analyze the situation and try to find some answers. And I realized something. Something very important. Something I’ve always known, but apparently needed to be reminded of. And that is, if you want to stay healthy and happy, YOU GOTTA WORK at it!

At first, I told myself that I had been working at it, so what the heck? But when I really dug into my analysis, I knew I had been slacking off. I haven’t been doing the practices I’d established on a regular basis (meditating, gentle yoga, dog park, reading for fun). Though my work stress is fine, I realized I’ve been overcommitting to other things.

You know, when someone asks you to do something, and it’s something you really enjoy, it’s so easy to say “YES! Of course I’ll do it!” But saying yes to too many things – even things you love – can be detrimental to some people. Especially people like me, who are dealing with a chronic illness.

Thankfully, I’ve got some people out there who really care about my well-being, and they’ve offered me some wonderful advice over this past week. I want them to know that I am listening, and I’ve been working this week on getting back to my regular practices, as well as incorporating some new ones that I think will help me with my stress.

One of those things is yoga nidra. If you’ve never tried a yoga nidra, I highly recommend it! Sometimes referred to as “yogic sleep”, it is a conscious relaxation practice that is intended to induce total physical, mental, and emotional relaxation….you literally just lay there and let the voice guide you through the total body relaxation…it’s amazing! I really love these versions, by James Jewell. Since yoga nidra involves you simply laying there and really listening to the guided relaxation, it’s critical for me to like the voice I’m listening to. James Jewell has a wonderful British accent, and a tone to his voice that just simply relaxes me through and through. You can choose the short one (which is about 20 minutes), or a longer one.

If you’ve never tried a yoga nidra before, I encourage you to do so. There are a variety of them out there for free…you can search on iTunes or Spotify, or any other place where podcasts and music can be found. A variety of yoga studios also offer yoga nidra, though I find that I can’t find them being offered on a regular basis here in my area of the world (local peeps, if you know of a place in the greater Charlotte, NC area that offers this regularly, let me know…I wanna go!).

Along with my other go-to tools and techniques, I’ll get this anxiety/panic back under control. I just have to remember that even when I’m feeling good, I’ve gotta keep working at it. I need to ensure that I do whatever I have to in order for yoga and meditation to become something I never push to the side and ignore.

How do you deal with stress in YOUR life? I’d love to hear the things that work for you. If you already have a regular yoga practice, what style do you practice? Do you practice for stress management or for the workout?

If you are local to me (I am in Fort Mill, SC), come practice with me. My classes focus more on relaxation and flexibility and are practiced at a soothing pace…perfect for stress management. Come join me! I’ll be teaching two sample classes this Sunday (10/29) at Body By Brady, located at 2132 Carolina Place Drive. One will be from 2:00 – 2:30 p.m. (this will be focused on strength and flexibility) and the other will be from 4:00 – 4:30 p.m. (this will be focused on stretching and breathing). Each are $10, and the proceeds go to the Fort Mill Fitness Initiative, a local charity.

I hope to see you Sunday. But above all else, I hope you are doing the things you need to do in order to stay happy and healthy. If you fall off the wagon, don’t beat yourself up. Remember…you gotta WORK to have the life you deserve! Let’s do this together!

Namaste,

Melanie

Advertisements

“With integrity, you have nothing to fear, since you have nothing to hide. With integrity, you will do the right thing, so you will have no guilt.” ~~ Zig Ziglar

2016-02-24-1456290659-2571997-blessings-thumb
(Photo courtesy of Huffington Post)

Let me begin this post with the acknowledgement that I did not post anything during the month of June. Some of you who have followed me for some time know that I am pretty regular, and it is unlike me to go this long without something to say.

Believe me, I tried. Every time I thought about what I wanted to post for June, I came up blank. I had nothing. I was totally and utterly devoid of anything meaningful to say. And so…I decided to take some time off. It was desperately needed, and this post will explain what’s been going on with me. Get ready, because this one might get a bit deep, but my heart is telling me it’s important to share this. So here goes.

For years now, I’ve been moving up the ladder in the world of Healthcare IT. I began as a programmer, moved into being a Systems/Business Analyst, then into my current role of Technical Product Manager. And on the side, I have been teaching yoga and indoor cycling classes, which you all know how much I love. Being in the IT industry is what enables me to pay the bills and help support my family. Being on the Healthcare side of IT is a super bonus, because healthcare is so much a part of my life. Between my illness, illness with family members, and embracing alternative healthcare to achieve overall wellness, I want to do my part to make everything a little bit better for people out there whose health is suffering in any way. What I do in my full-time job is helping to improve the lives of patients. What I do on the side helps prevent people from BECOMING patients. This means I should be happy and fulfilled, right?

I didn’t realize it, but for over two years now, I’ve been on a downward spiral. I was going through the motions, getting through the day, convincing myself everything was perfectly fine. During this time, I’ve gotten sick quite a bit, and have had several spans of times where my Lyme symptoms have flared back up. I’ve had to call in sick more than I ever have before. I chalked it up to the nature of this chronic illness because…well…I am chronically ill, after all!

Then, on May 11th, it happened. I was at work and by mid-morning, I was NOT feeling well. I had some pain on the left side of my chest, and my left arm was kind of tingly. Then I started to feel really dizzy, so I called my husband and told him that once the dizziness passed, I was going to leave and head over to Urgent Care. On my way to Urgent Care, the dizziness returned. While waiting at a stop light, in the rush hour traffic, all of a sudden I felt like I was passing out. I couldn’t catch my breath, I broke out in a sweat, my fingers went completely numb. I thought, “Oh my God! I am having a heart attack!” But I couldn’t get my fingers to dial 911. So I got out of the car and knocked on the window of the car in front of me, and the driver was an angel from above…she called 911 for me, and she sat with me and held my hand until the ambulance came, and she didn’t leave me until she felt like I was in good hands.

So what happened? Long story short…I had suffered a massive panic attack. And I have been suffering from them most every single day since then, up until about 8 days ago.

They’ve been debilitating, as they always happened in my car, any time my car stopped moving. My doctor talked with me at length about this, and she pointed out that though I have some great tools available that help control stress and anxiety (i.e., yoga, meditation), I was not using those tools. Teaching isn’t the same as doing, after all, is it? She stressed to me that if I didn’t get this under control, then I probably WOULD end up having a heart attack at some point. Hearing her say that so bluntly definitely got my attention.

I said to myself, “So now what?” Well, I relented to doing two things I didn’t think I would do:

  1. I started seeing a professional who specializes in panic and anxiety
  2. I agreed that, at least for now, taking a prescription to manage these attacks was necessary

At first, I felt like the most complete and utter failure, because I thought doing these two things meant that I was a fraud. I mean, I help other people manage their stress and anxiety as a yoga teacher and a wellness coach. If I am having to get help from someone and take prescription meds, then I must be a fraud, right? Wrong!

During this time, I have learned that it’s ok to ask for help. I’ve rediscovered my meditation practice, and have FINALLY pared back on anything non-essential so that I can focus on ME. It hasn’t been easy, as I’ve given up teaching any regular classes. I am strictly subbing or offering special classes as I feel up to it. It’s been hard, because…well, it’s hard giving up something you enjoy. But it was necessary…I can see that now.

The help I’ve received during this time has allowed me to dig in to what was truly causing all this stress for me. Which brings me back to how I started this post.

This time of reflection helped me to realize that the role I’ve been in for the past two years (at two separate companies) was simply not the right role for me. The main responsibilities of my role don’t jive with my innate personality. I can DO the job, sure…but it caused me stress because it just wasn’t who I am. When I really thought about it, I realized that I missed being a business analyst, and an opportunity came my way shortly after that.

Pursuing this role caused a whole new slew of emotions. It is a pretty significant pay cut from where I’m at now, and it’s a “step down” in terms of the career ladder. Does this make me a failure?

My husband and I talked at length…would we be OK with me making so much less money? Would I be considered “less than” because I couldn’t hack it in my current role? My husband told me, “Mel, don’t worry about the money. Is this what you enjoy doing?” I told him, “Yes…I love helping customers solve their problems and then working with a team to make it happen.” And he said, “Then you should go for it. Who cares what anyone else thinks? If it makes you happy, then you probably won’t be sick as much.”

My husband’s a pretty smart guy, and having his support gave me the courage to go for it.

As I was preparing to turn in my resignation at my current job, I was initially scared. I’ve enjoyed working there, and I especially have loved working with my boss. She has taught me SO much, and I also love what this company does for the world of healthcare. More than anything, I didn’t want to seem like a quitter, or come across as a failure.

Integrity is defined as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” I decided in the end that no matter what, I was going to be honest about my reasons for leaving. And I felt at peace with it as soon as I decided that. I wouldn’t feel right if I gave a reason that was a lie.

When we talked, I simply told her what was in my heart. That I appreciated the opportunity to have been here, but that the role just wasn’t the right fit for me. Every word I said was completely and 100% honest. And you know what? She totally understood and wished me well.

You see, I approached the situation with integrity. First, with myself…I got really honest with myself about what was making me unhappy and causing me stress to the point where I started having debilitating anxiety/panic attacks. Once I did, an opportunity came my way…an opportunity I think is a true blessing for a variety of reasons. Finally, I resigned from my current job with integrity…this is a company I do truly believe in, but the role I was in simply wasn’t my calling. And that’s OK. There is no guilt that I feel, because I followed my heart and spoke my truth.

Friends, I know many of you struggle with something. Don’t ignore it like I did for so long. Sit with it for a bit. It may be uncomfortable at first, but I promise you…if you meditate on it and really dig in to WHY whatever it is bothers you so much, then you will find the answer. And once you understand what you’re meant to do, go for it and don’t look back! Embrace it, and watch the blessings pour in!

Namaste,

Melanie

Yesterday, I gave my 5th Toastmasters speech. This one was to satisfy the requirements for Speech #4 in the Competent Communicator’s manual (I gave speech #8 already, so that’s why this one was my 5th speech). The purpose of the speech was to work on the skill “How you say it”, and I already knew I wanted to talk about the topic of stress. I struggled for awhile, trying to figure out how I could be creative with this one to satisfy the requirements of the project, and I had only 5-7 minutes for the speech. While preparing, I kept getting that song from Salt N’ Pepa stuck in my head…you know the one from 1991, called “Let’s Talk About Sex”? Well, I kept singing it in my head while thinking about this speech, but kept replacing the word “sex” with the word “stress”. Then it hit me…rewrite the chorus to be about stress and start off my speech with it.

I spoke with my Toastmasters mentor to see what she thought, and she loved it. But she also gave me the wonderful idea to have a few other Toastmasters join in with me on the singing. So I hit up three of my fellow Toastmasters that I felt would be game for something like this, and they willingly agreed to help a sista out!

The end result? I think it went really well, and I accomplished my purpose. I was able to creatively talk about the topic of stress, and was able to inject a bit of humor into it, which is kind of my signature in my speeches. Ultimately, I want people to walk away from my speeches happier and motivated to do something to make their lives better. Some of you mentioned you wanted to be at the speech but couldn’t, so here’s the gist of what I said. I wish I would have recorded it, but I completely forgot…maybe I will just have to give it again someday!

I started off by asking everyone to clap along with me, and once everyone got going on that, I launched into singing the first line of my rewritten chorus…the three people I had doing this with me then each sang a line, and I wrapped up by singing the last two lines. Here’s the rewritten chorus:

Let’s talk about stress baby,
Let’s talk about you and me,
Let’s talk about all the good kinds and the bad kinds,
there may be,
Let’s talk about stress,
Let’s talk about stress,

Madame Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and guests,

Let’s talk about stress!

We’ve all heard of stress. Throughout childhood and adulthood, the word stress is thrown around quite a lot. You may have said or heard such phrases as:

“My job causes me so much stress!”

“Studying for exams is so stressful!”

Or, if you’re where I was just a few years ago:

“O.M.G.!!! My daughter just got her learner’s permit, and just thinking about her driving STRESSES ME OUT!”

Sound familiar? Merriam-Webster defines stress as a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work, etc., OR something that causes strong feelings of worry or anxiety. When you’re under stress of any kind, you undergo a multitude of physical and emotional symptoms that, if left unchecked, can be detrimental to your health. So what do you do?

Let’s talk about…the types of stress. There are two types of stress a person can experience: acute stress and chronic stress.

Acute stress, also known as the “fight or flight response”, is the most common form of stress. It is your body’s immediate reaction to a perceived threat, scare or challenge. Acute stress can be quite thrilling and exciting in small doses, but too much is exhausting. Because it is short term, it doesn’t do extensive damage, and is highly manageable.

A single episode generally doesn’t cause problems for healthy people. However, severe acute stress can cause mental health problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, and even physical difficulties such as a heart attack.

Some examples of acute stress would be getting a promotion, getting a speeding ticket…or giving a Toastmasters speech!

AcuteStress

Chronic stress is the grinding stress that wears away at you day after day, year after year. Chronic stress comes when a person never sees a way out of a miserable situation. Some examples of stressors that could cause chronic stress for a person are an unhappy marriage, traumatic experiences, unwanted career or job, poverty, chronic illnesses, relationship conflicts, and dysfunctional families.

chronicstress

Sometimes, it’s difficult to know when you’re experiencing stress. So what are the signs?

Let’s talk about…the symptoms of stress. According to Web MD, common symptoms of stress include:

  • A fast heartbeat.
  • A headache.
  • A stiff neck and/or tight shoulders.
  • Back pain.
  • Fast breathing.
  • Sweating, and sweaty palms.
  • An upset stomach, nausea, or diarrhea.

These symptoms can occur whether the stress you’re experiencing is good or bad, and there are a myriad of other symptoms that can crop up as well.

Take a look at the following clip from Kindergarten Cop, which shows Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character experiencing acute stress:

Recognize any of the symptoms we just covered?

Let symptoms like this go on for too long, and it can cause permanent damage to your entire body. So how do you deal with stress and its effects?

Let’s talk about…how to manage stress. Stress is a part of life that can’t be eliminated. Even the positive changes in our lives, like buying a new house or getting that job promotion, can cause all the unpleasant symptoms we just covered. Therefore, it’s in our best interest to learn how to manage stress in our lives before it gets out of control. There are many things a person can do to manage stress, so it’s important to find what works best for you. The American Psychological Association provides the following tips to help ease stress in your life, which I’ll be giving you more info about after the presentation (here’s the link to the handout I had for everyone):

  1. Take a break from the stressor
  2. Exercise
  3. Smile and laugh
  4. Get social support
  5. Meditate

Personally, I’ve used all five of these tips for myself when experiencing stress, in various combinations, depending on what the stressor is. So now what?

Let’s talk about…next steps. Now that we’ve discussed what stress is, what the symptoms are and how to manage it, you need to do a little homework. First of all, if you suffer from any of the symptoms we covered and suspect they may be due to the effects of stress, then you need to determine exactly what the stressors in your life are. Remember, even “good” stress can wreak havoc on your health, so you really need to figure this one out.

Once you’ve identified the stressors in your life, you’ll need to come up with an action plan for how to manage them. Remember, you have to implement things that resonate with YOU, so don’t sign up for a Zumba class if dancing in front of large groups would cause you MORE stress.

Finally, remember that stress will always be part of your life. But if you can learn to identify when you’re experiencing it and find the techniques that work to help you manage it, you should notice your health doesn’t suffer. And you’ll need to revisit things from time to time, as our stressors won’t always be the same, and the management techniques that work today may not be effective tomorrow. Eventually, Arnold figured out how to deal with his stressors (the kids he was teaching)…take a look at how things changed for him once he did:

See, with a little dedication, stress can most definitely be managed and controlled so that you can lead your happiest life possible.

Thank you for listening and have a sparkling day!

Melanie

“I was a little excited but mostly blorft. “Blorft” is an adjective I just made up that means ‘Completely overwhelmed but proceeding as if everything is fine and reacting to the stress with the torpor of a possum.’ I have been blorft every day for the past seven years.” ~~ Tina Fey, Bossypantsstress-fry-futurama-300x279

Lately, I’ve been doing a weekly yoga focus, which has been receiving some great feedback. However, for December, I have decided to focus on stress reduction for the entire month. It’s so prevalent in our society at the moment that I feel it deserves to be the focus for more than just one week. As you know, the holiday season can be a time of great joy, but also of great stress. There are gifts to buy, parties to attend, family issues to deal with. All the while, we’re expected to continue doing everything else we normally do (like go to work, school, etc.). The “busyness” of everything thrown at us during this time of year can be overwhelming, and if we’re not careful, it can become detrimental to our health.

Personally, this season is proving to be quite stressful for me. I can’t exactly put my finger on why, but I’m noticing that my insomnia is back with a vengeance, I’m getting short of breath and short of temper, and generally just don’t feel like myself.

Two weeks ago in my blog post about starting over, I mentioned that I was going to make sure I get on my mat every day for at least 30 minutes. For the most part, I have been able to do this. I’ve only missed two days, and there have been a couple of days where I’ve only had time for 20 minutes. But you know what? It’s a start, right? At least I am getting more mat time than I have been lately, so I’ll take it!

Yesterday, I started wondering, “Why am I so stressed, then, when I am getting on my mat MORE? What gives?!” I’m not sure I can answer this yet, but I do know that though yoga as a whole is a great form of exercise for stress relief, it’s essential to make sure to include certain types of poses.

So for December, work on making sure to incorporate a variety of the types of poses mentioned below as a way to center yourself, and to become more mindful of the true meaning of this time of year.

  • Warrior Poses: Any of the three warrior poses (Warrior 1, Warrior 2 and Warrior 3) are great to incorporate into your practice…choosing to do all three will provide you with the maximum benefits. These standing poses encourage the building of physical strength and stamina. They are also wonderful in nurturing our internal strength, and are excellent in improving self-esteem.
  • Twists: Twists are very beneficial for the health of the spine by encouraging spinal circulation, and helping relieve blocked energy channels to the spine. Twists also detoxify organ systems. For example, digestive organs get massaged when you twist, which helps to digest, assimilate and eliminate food. Also, twisting stimulates the whole lymphatic system, which encourages it to release toxins and waste products.
  • Inversions: Inversions help our bodies in so many ways! They help detoxify and re-balance the whole body, regulate the thyroid, calm the nervous system, and improve sleep. It doesn’t have to be as complicated as a Headstand. My favorite one, that is accessible to most everyone, is Legs Up the Wall pose (Viparita Karani).
  • Backbends: Any backbend will do, but even a simple supported backbend is an antidote to our habitual posture of rounding forward, and will leave you feeling refreshed. To perform a simple supported backbend, all you need is a towel or blanket, and a bolster or firm pillow. Just lie down on your back, and place the bolster or pillow under your shoulder blades, and the towel (slightly rolled) under your neck. Bend your knees and relax your arms above the bolster or pillow on the floor. Stay in the pose for one minute.
  • Forward Bends: Again, any forward bend will do, but I love the Ragdoll version of Standard Forward Fold (Uttanasana). Use this as an opportunity to let go of all the tension in your jaws, shoulders, and head. Bend the knees if you have to, and just play with letting the back roll down and relax.
  • Centering: Always return to a pose of centering to finish your practice.  Final Relaxation (Savasana) is ideal. If you have the time, try to make time for at least 5 minutes in any pose that you find relaxing.

So what are your favorite poses to do when you’re stressed? What about other things that you do to rid yourself of stress (i.e., meditation, breathing exercises, shopping)? I love hearing what works for all of you out there in Blog Land, so please comment and share your tips and tricks. One of my hopes is that by sharing our knowledge with each other, we can truly make a difference in each other’s lives. It’s what yoga is all about!

Namaste,

Melanie

Enter your e-mail address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by e-mail.

Join 834 other followers

%d bloggers like this: