Today’s Stress Level: Ugly

I’m told our collective stress level has climbed from Way Too High to Downright Ugly. I whole-heartedly agree. It has escalated. However, thinking on my own stress level, I always come back to: it’s been worse.

Which is true. At my worst I couldn’t process the difference between two types of soup. (Yup, that bad!) Whenever I feel my stress rising, I think of soup. Stress soup.

Since then, I’ve made tangible changes for the better, decreasing my travel, adjusting work habits, setting and enforcing limits. While our collective stress is soaring, mine remains below that epic benchmark which, I tell myself, must mean I’m doing OK.

Sitting on the porch, I was thinking back on the last six weeks. They have been demanding. Like most of you, I’m juggling work, family challenges, a home, and all that is happening in the world. That’s a lot. Then I realized added to that list is a string of odd-ball health issues that have popped up during that same timeframe.

It started with a burst of migraine headaches. I haven’t had one in awhile but a few weeks back, they returned, about the same time the weather went nuts. I assumed that was the culprit – thanks Mother Nature!

Another week I was sidetracked by crushing anxiety, the kind that makes your heart race. Gratefully others weighed in and agreed they were feeling the same way, so I chalked it up to a combination of the moon’s phase and the news cycle.

About a week ago I spent the afternoon working in the yard. Three hours later I was itching like mad only to discover: hives. Not unusual after being hot and sweaty so I applied hydrocortisone and carried on.

Rocking away on the porch, the list went on: my face broke out, my hair seemed to be falling out, my ears were ringing, I got a cold sore, my heartburn kicked up. All of which I had a plausible explanation for at the time that it happened. I’d tell myself “Sure your face broke out, it was the sunscreen” or “Next time go with the mild instead of the spicy sauce on the pasta.”

I had been marveling at the run of crazy stuff I’ve addressed lately, but reflecting on all of it, collectively, it did seem excessive. Then it struck me: No. Not many different things happening. One whooper of a thing: Stress.

Seems I am actually not OK.

Yes, this time I could still very capably process the difference between two types of chicken soup, but my body was signaling it was enduring too much stress. Only I dismissed the clues it sent; rationalizing each as an isolated cause and effect. As things clicked into place I was baffled and ashamed that I had not seen the correlation before. Especially since I had dealt with overwhelming stress in the past.

But then, that is the purpose of the porch, right? To take stock, appreciate and make connections that I normally don’t have time to make. I took a moment to be thankful that 1) I finally got the message and 2) it hadn’t gotten as bad as the soup incident. Armed with that insight, I’m making changes. It’s a process.

One big one, I need to be more vigilant in monitoring my stress. Maple actually has a Stress Tracker, and it captures not only my stress level, but what triggered it and what I did to alleviate it. Which means I already have a tool at my fingertips to discover what it is that is causing my body to say That’s Way Too Much Stress. Since knowing is half the battle, I’m going to track.

I’m committing to being aware of myself. We all need to, don’t we?

We have to figure out how to lead productive, happy, engaging lives in a time of great uncertainty, fear and division. We owe it to ourselves and each other to make that effort. Let’s not wait for the stress to become too much to deal with.

I’ve mentioned before about creating a gratitude circle, why not start a Stress Circle to help each other through the chaos the world throws at us. Track your levels, share your triggers and support your circle to a lower, healthier level of stress. It only takes a few minutes and it is that important.

Take a deep breath and Maple something.

#31DaysOnTheFrontPorch #SlowingDown #TakeControlofYourStress #MeetMaple

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