How Stress Affects Your Body & Mind

Have you ever been so stressed that your body has just given up on you?

There are times when I try to push through discomfort and stress, but sometimes that ends up making me sicker in the end. Trying to pinpoint why I’ve been overly stressed is a little hard, but I think I’m angry at myself for not recovering fully from my last car accident. Due to this, I’ve been battling the flu/cold for a little over a week now, and I’m just thankful that I didn’t end up missing more work than I needed to (sometimes, I’m not that lucky!)

I forget that taking care of yourself means that you also need to look after your physical health, too.
When I went back into Physiotherapy, I was initially told that my lower back pains weren’t as bad as I thought. I was a little concerned as the pain was consistent and didn’t seem related to my pregnancy in the slightest. When I went to their Massage Therapist for a consultation weeks later, I found out that my ribs were out of place and since I was pregnant, we would have to split the treatments in two. He worked on my left-hand side first and not only did my lower back pain almost dissipate, but I was able to take deep breaths again.

I couldn’t believe it. A month of worrying and overthinking that my back pains would never subside, I was on the right track. My anxiety did not help my physical health – I need to remember how highly intertwined both our physical and mental health is.
I was feeling inadequate over not being able to do basic activities, and this caused my stress levels to skyrocket, not to mention interrupt my sleep patterns. I wish I had a button that I could switch off during these times.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, Canadians who report mental health symptoms can experience three times as many chronic physical conditions compared to the general population

signs-of-stress-on-the-body

People tend to brush stress aside, but we need to look at it more seriously. Think of it like a see-saw; if we don’t have a handle on our physical health, our mental health will suffer and vice versa.
We aren’t always aware of what we’re going through or even open up to others about our struggles. It takes a lot of strength to be open and honest that you need help or support (and arguably the most difficult step) but the sooner help can be provided, the more likely you will experience benefits of treatment (whether it be physiotherapy or therapy!)

Check out my friend's blog "Work Out, Feel Good" 

Not sure if you want kids?

I’m a firm believer that if you have already decided if you want kids (or not), you’ve already made up your mind, and it will not change in the future.

I had a recent conversation with my sister about this because years ago I was under the impression that I could not have kids naturally. Even though the weight of that news was crushing for me to hear at the age of 22, I tried to go on with my life the best way that I knew how. For years I acted selfishly without a thought of alternatives, I was with my ex-boyfriend at the time and convinced myself that if I could not have them naturally, then I did not want them at all. I already knew that I was lying to myself, but this was how I coped.
The thought of a family has always been in the back of mind, ever since I was a kid. I remember during my childhood playing “house” with my friend and talking about our futures; always with marriage and kids. Poking at my adopted family for another sibling so I could help take care of him/her. Leaving my toxic atmosphere at 18 with a repeat to myself “When you have kids, you’ll show them what love is.”
It wasn’t until I broke it off with my ex at 25 that I started to think more deeply into my need for a family.

Luckily for me, the majority of my issues stemmed from my ex-boyfriend so when I changed doctors and had a proper physical a year later, my concerns were nearly half gone. I reiterated what was told to me from my previous doctor and relayed medical history – He said that I could go through testing, but since I wasn’t planning on starting a family just yet they could wait. During these years I met my now husband, and I remember having lunch with a close friend of mine explaining how I was back in therapy and maybe starting a family wasn’t really for me. I wasn’t well mentally, and the thought of bringing a little one into this world started to frighten me. I will never forget her question; “Well, do you WANT to want kids?” Without a pause, I immediately said yes. I’ve always known that I wanted kids; I just kept telling myself I should not due to the obstacles that I was facing.

Working on myself was the best thing that I did, and I’m not ashamed that I was selfish for the latter years of my twenties. I needed those years to get better and confirm that I did want to be a mother. When I turned 30 and married my husband, we started the process of discussing (& testing) what our options would be. These years were gruelling and hard on the both of us, we had many discussions that almost tore us apart, but we stuck it through. When I got pregnant in November of 2018, a huge smile formed across my face. I’ve been pregnant before; this wasn’t the first test that I’ve done – the only difference was my reaction. I didn’t tell anyone immediately in fear of miscarrying again but once those weeks past, all I wanted to do was shout it from my rooftop. Even though I was still scared as I was back then, I was also hopeful, happy and excited.

So, when my sister asked how my mind has changed over the years, I tell her that it honestly didn’t; it just went on a crazy path. If you know deep down that children aren’t for you – if you’ve never fantasized about being a mother, chances are your thoughts won’t change and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Becoming a mother is going to be one of the most challenging things that I will ever go through, and I’m welcoming this crazy with open arms. Motherhood is not for everyone so don’t let others guilt you into thinking that you’re selfish for not wanting them. Stand firm in your opinion and choice.

Advice Column

I’ve been toying with the idea to start up an advice column for those that would like to reach out anonymously. I understand that there is still a huge stigma around mental health, and there are some people who are uncomfortable to reach out directly for any advice.

I would love to start this monthly, but I would love to hear from YOU!

If you’re at all interested, please don’t hesitate to contact me via my website

All Apologies

If I’ve ever apologized to you over a message, text, or email, you should know that it most likely took me longer than most people to write out exactly what’s been going on through my head. I tend to write, delete and re-word everything so I don’t sound as ridiculous as my thoughts.

The funny thing is, even though I KNOW these things are ridiculous, they still consume me. Thoughts keep me up constantly, and I tend to over-think even the simplest things. My husband laughs this off, and I wish I could, too. Trying to make logical sense out of my anxiety is time-consuming

I’ve had some friends who get angry at me for apologizing, especially if it’s something that didn’t cross their mind or just for the pure frequency of my self-doubt. There are times when I can control it, but on my bad days, you can find me apologizing for talking too much, for not talking enough, for being reclusive or apologizing for apologizing – my signature.

What people don’t know is that the reason my apologies come out so frequently is that I feel guilty for being myself. I grew up in a toxic environment that made me think I would never be good enough and that no one would ever care for me, so I tend to believe it. Even though I’ve gone through therapy and know that this isn’t true, there is always that little sliver of guilt that likes to bombard itself to the front when my anxiety flares up.  I can drown in self-critical thought, what if scenarios and genuinely believe that everyone will take me the wrong way.

Internal battles are so hard to overcome, especially when you desperately want to control it. I hate that these thoughts are intrusive, keep me up at night and continually makes me worry. I despise worrying what people think of me when I’m honestly trying my best not to care. Years of therapy have brought me a long way, but, I don’t believe that my apologizing will ever truly go away.

I’ll be sorry for the things that happen and for things that don’t.
I’ll be sorry for not being there for you when I’m struggling with my problems
I’ll be sorry for constantly apologizing, thinking that I’m annoying you to the point where you do not want to be my friend anymore.

I’m trying my best to not struggle with this, but please know that these apologies come from a place of love. A weird anxious love that I’m still trying to understand

Grief and Anxiety

Last week was one of the hardest weeks that I’ve ever dealt with, both physically and emotionally. I’ll start chronologically on this one, with the beginning of February when my grandmother, Evelyn, was admitted to the hospital. I kept in close contact with my Aunt and Uncle during this time, we all knew that she would not be going home. We sat on the edge for weeks, wondering when the fateful day will arrive; my aunt & uncle were swarmed in her final arrangements while I held myself back in Toronto, tending to my little bump. My grandmother has always been a strong person, so it was no surprise to us all that she held on for as long as she could. On March 5th, two days after her 94th birthday, she passed away.

Even though I knew that this was coming, it was still a gut-retching thought to know that I will no longer hear her voice twice a week. Losing someone so close to you changes your day-to-day life, leaving you in an extremely vulnerable place which causes anxiety to surface in profound ways. Since I’m no longer on medication due to my pregnancy, it’s difficult dealing with my grief symptoms on top of everything else. Everyone deals with their anxiety differently, but I know that the best thing to do in these situations is to talk it out.

When I lost my mother at the age of 11, I did not manage my grief well during this time, and I bottled everything up. Most adults in this time frame just assumed that I would ‘get over it’ since I was still in school and would have a good distraction. To some degree, they were right, but not talking about it made my grief and anxiety worse. This time around, I was lucky enough to have a huge support system that kept checking up on me and making sure that I did talk about it. Even though this was overwhelming to a certain degree, having this sense of community was lovely.

I took four days off of work for bereavement before I have to go back to “normal.” Funerals and burials can be considered closure for most people, but due to circumstances out of my control, I was unable to attend both. Even though I was in a severe car accident, and worrying about my baby, I kept saying over and over to myself “I can’t believe I’m missing this.” I was unsure if I would get the closure that most people would get and my worrying started to snowball into my anxiety. I became reclusive and blamed it on the back pain from the accident.

I am thankful that my aunt decided to have a Shiva day in Toronto so that I would be able to immerse myself with family and say goodbye in my way. I figured out that anxiety was a normal response to loss, especially when you lose someone so incredibly close to you. Even though I suffer from G.A.D., my feelings were normal and valid. I just needed to remember what I learned in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and continue with my breathing exercises to know that soon enough it won’t hurt as much.

It still does, though, and that’s OK.
I will never ‘get over’ this, but I can learn to live, heal and re-build.

Standing Up

I live in a townhouse complex that generally gets quarterly newsletters in regards to issues and updates within our community. Yesterday, we received such a newsletter, and I was quite alarmed to see the language that they used within.

Newsletter Snip

Generally, I don’t stand up to these things and would let it slide, but after they discussed mental health previous to the secondary issue, I knew that I had to say something.

This morning, I sent the following letter to not only our on-site manager but to the president, vice-president and executive assistant to the company:

To Whom it May Concern

This is in regards to the Cooksville Mews Newsletter that was issued on February 27th, 2019

I am an advocate for mental health and was quite elated with your “Caring Community” spot on etiquette between our residents.
However, I was quite taken aback with your next section on “Rezoning of the Commerical Truck Parking Lot” where you used improper and inconsiderate language (e.g., “What’s wrong with you?”) to relate how upset you are at 1/5th of our residents.

Now, I don’t speak for everyone else, but the reason why I was unable to attend or even put a vote in for this matter was due to a short-term illness and not being fully abreast on the subject. I will never feel comfortable voting for something that I am not fully knowledgeable on, and due to my short-term illness, I know that I was unable to make any valid decisions.

You have to take into consideration that life happens to a lot of people and issues will arise that are even worse than mine. Trying to instill fear in us by discussing exhaust sickness and kids being hit by a truck is going over the line. These issues are prevalent not only to our little nook but in fact to our whole city as a whole.

As well, after a mindful paragraph on how to address mental health within our community, the language used within this section is unacceptable. If you would like to understand why our units were not able to attend or sign a petition, the correct response is to contact us directly instead of bullying us within a newsletter. The fact that 60 units were able to attend and vote on our behalf speaks volumes and should consider this beyond successful, especially in correlation to our low-attendance to our annual general meetings.

I do not doubt that I am the only resident who was flabbergasted when I read this newsletter and expect a formal apology to all those who were affected within the next issue.

I hope that I made a difference today and that the office will reply within a timely manner to not only me but to my fellow neighbours

5 Red Flags for Anxiety

I’ve lived with anxiety for the majority of my life, yet, I still get surprised when it hits me unexpectedly in my daily routine.

A lot of time it feels as if my anxiety is in control of everything until it just isn’t. I wish I could explain that sentence a little better, but those who are blessed with this ‘curse’ can understand. If we aren’t mindful of how it manifests it’s easier for it to consume our whole being and live in the spotlight.

I’m lucky enough to know what my red-flags are and I try to catch these things early on as I can – when I was talking to a friend the other day about this, I realized that these red-flags, although accustomed to some, can be quite challenging.

I’ve compiled a short list of 5 red flags that anxiety might be controlling your life:

  1. Avoidance

Avoiding too many things that you know you shouldn’t is the number one indication that anxiety is front and center. It’s one of the many coping mechanisms that I use to welcome; “freezing” causes us to run from a situation that could potentially cause something worse for that individual.  You start to avoid that coffee shop that you and your ex frequented, you avoid calling back a family member in fear of judgement over a situation, or you avoid checking your e-mail, so you don’t have to subject yourself to whatever is happening at work. Once you realize that you’re avoiding a lot of things you can tell that your anxiety is taking control over what you can and cannot do. I’m still navigating this one, but I always tend to push myself no matter how uncomfortable it may seem.

2. Worrying

Worrying comes hand in hand with anxiety, but it’s important to know that worrying needs to be within a controlled limit. Anxiety has a mind of its own and once your worrying run wilds, it will become out of control. The proper thing to do here is focus – know when the worrying shifts from something normal to something out of reach, the best thing to do is block your thoughts. Easier said than done, but here’s an example: You start to doubt yourself if you’re capable of something or whether you deserve love – stop. These thoughts are not you, they are your anxiety, and they’re trying to control the way you worry. Daily affirmations have been key sometimes for me in this situation – know that everyone is capable; everyone deserves love.

3. Stuck in the Future

The worst part about our anxious thoughts is that it takes us out of our present situation and sets up shop in our future what-ifs. When you cannot enjoy and be present in what’s happening at the moment, consider this a red flag. This is exhausting and will continue, making us more anxious about focusing what WILL happen instead of what is currently happening. It’s hard to get back into the present moment, but I have found that breathing exercises, along with yoga or mindful meditation can bring you back at peace and start living in the present again

4. You stop chasing your wants

This marries with the previous flag of being stuck in the future when your mind throws you a bunch of “what ifs” and you get so consumed by them that you stop chasing what you want in life. Let’s use this example: You want to quit your job and become a full-time freelance writer…
What if you can’t make enough to pay your rent? What if this means you can never take a vacation again? What if something health-wise were to happen, you now have no benefits! What if you can’t handle all of this and become a shell of a person that you once were?
Do you see where I’m going with this?
You’re self-sabotaging and preventing yourself from the life that you want deep down inside of you. I’m not saying to go and quit your job tomorrow, but you need to start recognizing these intrusive thoughts as a part of your anxiety.

5. You’re no longer you

This is probably the most important one because your anxiety is starting to make you feel like “less” than you are. Once your self-esteem takes a hit, you start to doubt everything and accept that you’re not capable of handling anything that comes your way. You start to feel inadequate with those surrounding you, making their everyday struggles seem so easy to yours. Its normal for self-doubt to come out once in a blue moon, but when it starts to appear and happen more frequently, this is a major sign that anxiety has not only taken over your life but your perception of it as well.

When we start to feel that anxiety defines us as a person – that’s when you know it’s too dominant in your life.

Do you have any other flags that you would like to add to this list? Feel free to comment below!