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Ignoring the Signs of Stress & Anxiety

Ignoring the Signs of Stress & Anxiety
Ignoring the Signs of Stress & Anxiety

After I managed to bounce back from my first period of intense anxiety, I thought I was home free. I beat it, it’s gone, let’s all move on.

And then I had my second child. For the first six weeks after he was born, I felt great (considering the mesh underwear, 25 extra pounds, and acne). I was taking care of both kids, we were getting out of the house most days, and I felt like I could do this.

Then the little flashes began. Those moments you want to ignore because everything is going so well. Acknowledging those glimpses of imperfection would mean I’m not better, I didn’t beat it, I’ll never get rid of it.

So I ignored the signs. A few moments of feeling dizzy in a restaurant. Tingling in my head or hands or feet. Not sleeping well. Waking up slightly nauseous.

I justified each of the signals my body was giving me, and I kept right on going. I didn’t stop to evaluate or start the healthy habits that had worked before. I didn’t want to be experiencing this anxiety again, so I pretended like I wasn’t.

My breakdown didn’t come out of nowhere. I had sign posts all along the way that I chose to disregard out of fear, frustration, and stubbornness. The only place that landed me was curled up on my couch for weeks and subsequently in the chair of a psychiatrist.

A friend of mine calls these warning signs “pockets of stress.” They are the moments that surprise you, that you’re sure are flukes until they begin to happen more often. Not enough to concern you, but enough to notice. It’s easy to write them off.

I’m just having a bad day.
The kids were being extra difficult.
My husband is on my last nerve.
I didn’t eat enough.
I didn’t drink enough.
I have been doing so well there’s no reason to dwell on a few bad minutes.

Or maybe you’re experiencing symptoms that you’re refusing to call “symptoms.” Do you know all the ways that stress and anxiety can affect your body and mood? Here are a few from our friends at WebMD. (Sorry, Clayton. I know I’m not usually allowed on WebMD.)

Common effects of stress on your body
Headache
Muscle tension or pain
Chest pain
Fatigue
Change in sex drive
Stomach upset
Sleep problems

Common effects of stress on your mood
Anxiety
Restlessness
Lack of motivation or focus
Feeling overwhelmed
Irritability or anger
Sadness or depression

Common effects of stress on your behavior
Overeating or undereating
Angry outbursts
Drug or alcohol abuse
Tobacco use
Social withdrawal
Exercising less often

So yeah. Stress is more than “feeling stressed out.” It’s blowing up at your kids over something trivial. It’s picking a fight with your spouse for no reason. It’s not sleeping, it’s sleeping too much, it’s not eating, it’s eating too much, it’s nausea and hot flushes and exhaustion and irrational fears and crying about cold coffee.

If you ignore these signs, they don’t just disappear. They grow and evolve and seep into other areas of your life. Have I sufficiently terrified you yet?

Do you have these pockets of stress? Deal with them. Now. When I ignored the dizziness, the tension, the worry, it blew up. Despite wanting to forget about them to keep moving on with life, it led to my life completely halting, giving me no choice but to deal with the underlying stress.

Not sure where to start?
See a counselor.
See a psychiatrist.
Start meditating.
Start exercising.
Talk to your spouse about what you’re feeling.
Evaluate your schedule. Is it unmanageable?

It’s certainly scary to think about unpacking our stress and meeting it head on. But it’s scarier to think of wasting moments, weeks, or years of our life chained to our stress and anxiety, of letting our body and mind be controlled by it.

 

Do you notice warning signs when you begin to experience increased stress? How do you deal?

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Natalie

Hi! I am so glad you stopped by. I am a writer, wife and frequently overwhelmed momma to two young kids. This site is about my own experiences with anxiety and depression and explores ways that we can work toward finding ourselves after having children.