This is a little embarrassing to say, but I think I used to be proud of my stress. Like many of us, I knew stress was bad for me, but I think I associated it with productivity. The more stressed I was, the more valuable I felt as I was in that constant state of “doing.” It was almost as if I was wearing it like a badge of honor.
But my cancer journey invited me to that place of pause where self-care was paramount. I began to have an understanding of how stress can inhibit the free flow of energy and prevent healing and optimal health. As a result, I have become very keen to what stress feels like in my body. I’ve learned to detect some of the physical signs (i.e.: not sleeping well, shallow breath, blood sugar spike/emotional eating, elevated blood pressure). But more importantly I’ve learned to detect some of the emotional signs (i.e.sarcasm, shutting down, impatience/reactivity, unclear thinking, feeling overwhelmed, surges of anxiety). And I’ve also learned that sleep and meditation are two of the top ways that the body recovers from stress.
Because of this awareness, I now use these signs as cues to amp up my self-care practice. For instance, every time I have a follow-up doctor’s appointment, I find myself very restless and anxious. While my meditation continues to be a daily non-negotiable that helps me be present for these moments, I now can anticipate these stressful peaks and plan accordingly. I try to not schedule to many meetings leading up to and following each appointment, I’ll take time for acupuncture, and I make sure I’m getting enough sleep.
While I can’t necessarily prevent stressful life situations, my meditation and self-care practice provides me the tools to manage those situations in a much more meaningful and mindful manner. But I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate the importance of these tools if I didn’t have the understanding of stress in my body – which will be different for everyone. Which is why I’m so excited to share this awesome video featured at TedEd that provides a very accessible understanding of stress. So check out the video below as simply a way to bring some more awareness to understanding how stress may feel for you. Once you have that awareness, you will be better equipped to anticipate and take care of yourself when stressful moments arise.