The Stress Monster

Last night I fell asleep with my face on my Kindle and the light on. The husband has grown accustomed to waking up at 3 a.m. to turn the light off now because it seems to happen every single night lately. If the main light isn’t on, the bathroom light is. I always tell myself I will turn it off in a second and then I push myself so far past exhausted I end up passing out while doing whatever I was doing (usually reading or playing a game on my Kindle to quiet my mind). I swear it is giving my husband a wrinkle on his forehead from that worried look he gets when I start to do odd things. Stress makes me do odd things. Mostly because it peaks my anxiety and my anxiety makes me do odd things.

I am one of those people that clings to their bad habits in times of high stress. I really like control and calm. I hate feeling chaotic or out of control or like I don’t know how to deal with something/someone. So when things turn chaotic, I stop sleeping and eat a ton of sugar and I stop participating in my daily chores and don’t exercise and as I always gently put it, unravel at the seams.

Why do I do these things? Well because that is how I have always dealt with tough situations I was avoiding and changing that habit now would suck. It would make me uncomfortable and I am not different from all the other human beings avoiding being uncomfortable. That is why we lie and cheat and eat bad food and cling to terrible habits.

My point is not to whine and gather together pity. Or to vent about everything going on in my life. Or to lecture. Or to say my stress is so much more important than yours. It isn’t. I am overwhelmed at work and home and with this crappy PCOS. BUT I have a job and I have a home and I am still able to get out of bed each day. Yes I am dealing with dark circles and exhaustion and a constantly messy house (I hate a messy house) and almost daily mini panic attacks as a result of stress, BUT I am not drastically sick or bed ridden. Those things right there are worth being grateful for. We all have stress. We all have problems. We shouldn’t feel ashamed to talk about them or ask for help or for feeling a bit out of control. We are human.

But my mind has been thinking a lot lately about bad habits and de-railing. I have had a really tough year and I noticed a few patterns emerging. During the moments of calm, when nothing was going on and I felt like everything was balanced,  I noticed I would work out and eat right. I didn’t have to talk myself into working out or being healthy, it all happened naturally when I was feeling good. But the minute I was stressed out, I would drop all those good habits and revert right back to old ways of dealing with stress. Suddenly I no longer wanted to work out or make the right food choices. Suddenly I had to force myself to do those things and most of the time I lost the battle. I watched it happen time and time again. My eating healthy and exercising had nothing to do with self control or being a lazy person. I simply have a habit of using bad habits as a coping mechanism during times of stress. It is just what I have always done and it became my automatic response to stress.

It has been a tough year for sure but one full of self reflection. So I have been working on facing these bad habits, taking them on, acknowledging their presence. By doing this I can actively work on alternatives to snapping and obsessing and eating and not sleeping. I am not someone who does chaotic or feeling out of control of a situation well. I know this. I know it can get ugly when I feel this way. But I recently had to ask myself, wasn’t I creating more chaos by taking on my bad habits and clinging to them? Yes. The answer is yes I am.

So what am I going to do??

I am going to stop avoiding the bad and the bad news. Avoiding it gives it immense power. But if I acknowledge it is there, acknowledge that it makes me feel crappy because it is there and give myself permission to not fix it right now but actively work on it, I think that will help a lot. I make problems bigger and badder than they are by avoiding them. Time to stop avoiding and start acknowledging.

I am going to stop letting food be my anti-depressant. Food is a way to survive, not a cheap form of therapy (or not so cheap in some cases). I am going to actively work on making better eating choices, whether I am stressed or not. I am going to ask myself when I eat, am I hungry or just wanting to stress eat? I am going to make sure to keep healthy options on the house and not bring in sugar or loads of carbs.

I am going to stop hiding behind anger. There is a huge difference between anger and stress. I don’t need to be angry just because I am feeling chaotic. 

I am going to stop sitting on the couch every night watching T.V. in my PJ’s. I am going to take the dogs for a walk and clean up the house and run those errands and knit that dog sweater for Bella Rue. Life doesn’t stop just because I am stressed. It has to keep moving forward. Plus having a clean house and getting fresh air are two things that really help me when I am over-thinking about a problem.

I am going to count my blessings and see the good in the bad. I don’t have it all but I haven’t lost it all either.

I am going to start up my bed time routine again, yoga with a little meditation, shower, cool bedroom, no electronics and lights out. I can’t keep lying in bed giving myself panic attacks over-thinking about everything going on. It doesn’t help. When I am exhausted I am less capable of coping or sticking to good habits or even fighting the panic attacks. I need sleep. It is really important.

I will stop feeling ASHAMED of my stress. It doesn’t do anything but lead to guilt. I have worked hard in my life, I am fiercely independent, I am not a victim but that doesn’t mean that every time I am stressed I deserve to feel shamed or guilt tripped about it or even silenced.

I am going to go back to yoga and train to run again. Both things made me very happy and helped a lot with the panic.

I am going to stop obsessing. Just because I am not talking about it or actively thinking about it doesn’t mean I am not working on fixing the problem.

I am going to laugh because laughter should always happen whether I am stressed or not.

I am going to remember to enjoy the small things right now. I am going to run that bubble bath and drink that glass of tea and read that book. I won’t feel guilty for enjoying things while I am stressed.

So how do you keep from de-railing during times of high stress???

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