Hear Me, Says My Body

Hear Me, Says My Body

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Goodbye to Stress


Hear Me, Says My Body

The effects of my husband’s job loss had kicked into overdrive. We had four growing sons with growing needs. Our budget was stretched to the limit and the only working soul in our household was me. We had to cut way back on our spending just to make ends meet. I became resentful and angry at the fact that I had to work and that my husband was at home with our sons. In my heart, that was the place I always wanted to be: at home with our kids.

My husband didn’t take the transition well either, at least during the first few years. He went through a period of depression and withdrawal. I tried my best to help pull him through that difficult time. Finally, he regained enough confidence to return to college to pursue an MBA degree online. Having an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering with a master’s in business was a combination major corporations couldn’t resist, right? Wrong. He filled out what seemed like hundreds of job applications, all to no avail.

It was a major switch for my husband, going from the left-brain-thinking engineer type to “Mr. Mom.” Being at home didn’t naturally agree with him and our home showed it. I would return from work with a smile on my face until I walked in. My home was barely recognizable because certain rooms were in such disarray. I would find myself screaming, asking why the house was such a mess and what my husband had been doing all day.

As time passed and my husband’s job hunting continued, my stress level maxed out. One morning I woke up and could barely move my neck. Sharp pains shot up and down my neck and back. I went from general practitioner, to chiropractor, to medical therapist, and to massage therapist over the course of about five years to find relief. Major muscle spasms and trigger points had built up in my neck and shoulder muscles. My trap (trapezius) muscles were literally trapped.

Even in the midst of pain I had to continue my 120-mile roundtrip commute to work. Nothing else was coming in to support our family. I even tried to start my own businesses on the side.

My body continued to send out messages that it was over-stressed, and I ignored them. But my wake-up call came when I learned my blood pressure had gone from low to borderline high. I finally began to listen to my body, and that’s where my self-discovery journey began. I was determined to find the true source of my stress.

I researched sources and triggers of high blood pressure. My goal was to control my blood pressure naturally. I learned that nutrition could play a major role in elevating blood pressure, especially if your body is sensitive to sodium. I wasn’t overweight and I exercised regularly, so I cut back on my sodium intake and increased the potassium and magnesium in my daily diet. Still, there were no major improvements in my blood pressure.

My health didn’t truly change until I became more self-aware. I began to notice how my body responded when I reacted to things that upset me or when I was under pressure to meet a deadline or expectation. My neck, shoulder, and back muscles would tense and tighten up. I learned that I needed to refocus my thoughts and attention on things I had the power to control. You can’t control people, only influence them with your own actions. I stopped focusing as much on what my husband did or did not do, and I tried my best not to focus on our income. I began to focus on what I could change, such as my mindset, my thoughts, my attitude, and my actions.

My eyes were opened once again while reading a book about stress and adrenaline. My extremely busy schedule and task-driven personality kept my adrenaline constantly going. I had been operating on high doses of adrenaline for such an extended period of time that it distressed my body. Knowing when to allow an adrenaline rush and when to switch it off is essential for stress management. And I learned I can choose whether I want the adrenaline rush to continue.

I learned that my muscle tension and blood pressure issues were all related and stemmed from the same source. The effects of too much adrenaline, in both good and bad stressful situations, had taken their toll on my body. Blood pressure screams at you if the cumulative effects of stress get out of control; your muscles lock up and cause pain to get your attention.

Over time I developed my personal health regimen. It involves weekly weight circuit training, daily breathing and relaxation techniques, daily visualization and mindset management. In doing this, I have reached my health goals. I lowered my blood pressure naturally. My muscle tightness, soreness, and pain are greatly reduced and controllable. At the time of writing this, my husband is still “Mr. Mom.” We both learned to adjust and make the best of our circumstances. During my journey, I also discovered a love for writing, teaching, and for sharing with others what helped me overcome adversity and achieve my goals.

I can say with confidence that how I managed stress was the main source of all my physical health problems. I’m glad I was able to say goodbye to stress, because now I know how to respond whenever it decides to pay me a visit.

~ Rachel L. Moore ~

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