How do you Deal?

This is a question worth asking since nearly all of us have some kind of stress in our lives at any given time.  As a kid my way of Dealing was by using sweets as a band-aid.    Looking back I still wonder how I made it through my adolescent years without being labeled as obese.  I was by no means skinny; I think the words ‘slightly pudgy’ and ‘a little chunky’ were used to describe my frame, but I never crossed over into obese, then morbidly obese until I hit college.

I have such sympathy for my 18 year old self.  She was so terribly insecure, scared half out of her wits at the thought of venturing into the unfamiliar, and desperate for a sense of direction. If I could go back to one moment in time it would be then, so I could step in and get that girl the help she desperately needed. 

Some twenty odd years have passed and I feel like I’ve fought and clawed my way to a place in my life where I feel happy, settled, and on track.  But then these curve balls come hurling from out of nowhere and I’m left realizing that I’ve learned nothing about how to deal with stress.  If I had, I’d still be taking time for Yoga – something that I haven’t done in ages.  Honestly speaking though, at this point I doubt if Yoga would work for me right now.  I don’t think I could slow down enough to even attempt it.  Guess I haven’t really changed much over the years after all.   

Stress is still a factor in my life that I avoid at all costs.  I’m an extremist in some ways because at times I avoid those good stressors which isn’t healthy, either.  Finding a happy medium is still a challenge. 

I’ve come to realize that I am a lot like my father.  While he tended to neglect his physical health,  I neglect my mental health. 

My dad was a man who never, ever complained about anything health-related.  Ever.  I remember one night when he showed up from work over two hours late.  He didn’t provide any explanation nor did I see any indication of what could have caused his tardiness other than the smudge of dirt on his shoulder as his only giveaway.  It wasn’t until nearly an hour later that he decided to tell my mother that he was late because he’d been mugged. Mugged, and he recounted the story as though he were recounting what he’d had for lunch. 

If my Dad were suffering from the terrible side effects of Diabetes, sometimes seeing double or triple, we might stumble across this information at the dinner table while watching him spear his napkin with his fork instead of the carrot that sat mere inches away.  Only upon bringing this to his attention would he offer any information that he was having trouble.

Although I am opposite my father in that I am dedicated to my physical health, my mental health has always pretty much taken a beating.  Instead of being proactive about stress and safeguarding myself against risks associated with it, I tend to do the opposite:  I hunker down, drag my body through disasters and ignore the heart palpitations, the sleepless nights, the extreme fatigue – until my body decides that if I’m not going to do something to reduce that stress it will.  Drudging through the muck no longer becomes an option; if I don’t release some of that stress by relying on my old stand-by (food) then I’ll either become physically sick or severely depressed.  That’s generally when I find myself in bed with the shades drawn and sleep for hours upon hours at a time, unable to talk to anyone or do anything but submerge myself in silence. 

Sometimes I wonder what will happen to me before I truly learn how to properly deal with stress. 

On the 15th it will be exactly two months since Craig woke up with pain and nausea.  Several doctors appointments, countless vials of drawn blood, numerous tests and one surgery later and we’re still no closer to finding an answer than we were when this whole thing started.  We have doctors appointments scheduled for the rest of the week and he’ll likely be scheduled for a colonoscopy next   – something he really should have had already, in my opinion – but hindsight is, after all, 20/20. 

Dealing with stress is something that I need to learn how to do now, not later. 

So, this brings me back to my original question.  How do you Deal? 

13 thoughts on “How do you Deal?

  1. vickie

    Darlin’ – you PAINT and photography and other art and that is all very good stress relief. You also garden and have your dogs – both very good stress relief. You write regularly and explore what is going on in your head and your heart and my therapist has told me for years and regular blogging is one of the best things I can do for myself. You have figured out very good boundaries for yourself and you have applied them, both things are rare and important, be proud. Your positive challenge (how I think of it) each year gives you a refocus. Your gratitude project rolled out of that this year. All very good work and much of that has been started/applied during the blogging years I have known you, so very good progress in personal growth (I think).

    My latest thing to deal with stress or acclimating to change (my nearly grown kids coming and going all summer) is to clean out something. I am not talking about tearing the whole house apart and creating a bigger mess. I am talking about picking a project that is a reasonable size and then finishing it. Might be one drawer. Might be a closet. Might be a room. Sometimes I do it by myself, sometimes I enlist a willing helper. Sometimes I just need bits of help at various points but can do most of it myself. And I take care of the project to completion on a timely basis, I do not just move piles, I do not shift stuff.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Your plan sounds like a good one – I could certainly use a little less clutter in my house. Even just more organization would be a good thing – and it does give a sense of instant gratification, doesn’t it?
      It does seem like I do a lot to get my mind off of things but it sure doesn’t feel like it. That tightening in my gut stays put.

      Reply
  2. Sharon

    Sadly, if I gave you advice about dealing with stress it would be nothing more than the pot calling the kettle black. Wish I had the answer.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      I guess I’m finding out that there is no really good way to combat stress other than to just recognize it and not let it completely take hold over you. Easier said than done, right?

      Reply
  3. Roxie

    First off, I send many virtual hugs to you. Stress and (for me) the accompanying anxiety drives me right back into my old coping mechanism – over-eating. The first thing that gets tossed aside is my self-care. FWIW, a day or so of “under the sheets” isn’t the worst thing – it’s a recharging thing. Oops, gotta run. Sending peaceful, stressfree thoughts your way. And a sincere hope for answers for Craig – the unknown is the most stressful.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Back at ya, sweetheart. This has surely been a tough year for some. It seems like everyone I know is having issues. Better days ahead, dear. Better days ahead.

      Reply
  4. Kyra

    You know, I’ve been thinking a lot about this subject. I think we imagine people who know how to deal with stress as… unstressed. The truth is that no matter how you choose to deal with stress, we’re all white-knuckling it through it, and it sucks. No matter what we choose to do, it sucks. Nothing makes it not suck.

    I think you already have all the healthy coping skills in place. It’s just that nothing results in the removal of the stress, and few things make it easier. But maybe knowing that the people who do deal with stress in a healthier manner are no happier and tempted by the wrong things (and often give in) too.

    Reply
  5. KCLAnderson (Karen)

    Big hugs, Ellen.

    It’s a process and practice (meaning I by no means have it all figured out and am not perfect at it), but more and more I am learning to deal by questioning the thoughts I choose to think and by using Emotional Freedom Technique (“tapping”) to relieve stress. And yes, sometimes I still choose to turn to food, but I try and do it in as mindfully a way as possible.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      I’m late, late with this comment but I wanted to thank you for your advice on how you relieve stress. I find that EFT to be fascinating – I am reading about tapping locations now and will be trying this. It certainly can’t hurt – if it reduces my stress and my cravings, that would be wonderful!

      Reply
  6. NewMe

    Hi Ellen,

    I really feel for you!

    Your question is a tough one and there’s no perfect answer, but here’s just a little suggestion.

    I have been doing mindfulness meditation for over a year now. The basic idea is to not try to keep the dark thoughts away, just to let them travel through your consciousness without trying to hold on to them. Just observe the thoughts, acknowledge them and then let them go.

    To get started with mindfulness meditation, I highly suggest you read a book called “Full Catastrophe Living” by John Kabat Zinn. This book is written specifically for people dealing with long-standing or chronic health issues.

    I admit, I haven’t read the whole book, but when I was in the throes of my thyroid relapse and my personality was totally out of whack, I read a bit of the book every day. I found it really helpful.

    This suggestion is not going to solve all your problems. It certainly hasn’t solved all of mine, but mindfulness meditation is an excellent tool in your anti-stress toolkit.

    I continue to send you and Craig caring thoughts. You have my deepest support.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      I am terribly late in responding with this comment but wanted to let you know how much I appreciate the book you suggested and as always, thank you for being a lifeline. Many, many thanks!

      Reply
  7. Val

    ??? Abbie-normal appendix = partial answer
    Adhesions = partial answer
    I’m sorry that pain is recurring; I just hope to hell surgeon chose a nonreactive suture material! (I cannot pull out a length of 2-0 chromic catgut anymore without inwardly marveling: it’s the exact same suture material my friend’s ob/gyn used to close her uterus after her C-section! And yes, of course I opened my big mouth: “Hey, on big dogs I use 0 gut!” ;-)

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      You are a marvel, Val. It really is amazing how so many treatments can be successful both on human and animal. And thank God for your ‘big mouth’ – I still laugh every time I think of your comment around the time of my hysterectomy about how much you thought of me whenever you spayed an animal! That just cracks me up.

      Reply

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