art by Julia Green
Sometimes stress shows up in your life in very apparent ways. You have a throbbing headache, tension in your shoulders, an upset stomach, no patience, no peace, that feeling that things are falling apart.
But most stress is insidious. It’s not the sudden crisis of illness or catastrophe. No, it’s the day to day things adding up — finances, fighting kids, the dog that needs a rabies vaccine, the growing pile of dirty laundry waiting to be washed, the equally expanding pile of clean laundry waiting to be folded and put away. That’s the stress that really gets you.
That’s the stress that’s so sneaky you might not even see it as stress. The problem with this kind of subtle stress is that it’s doing long-term damage to your body — you just can’t tell.
Here are some of the sneaky signs you need a hecking break:
1. You’re tired all the time.
That steady flow of stress hormones, the fight or flight response activated every time you have to pull one child off of another, takes a toll on your body. So yes, you're going to be tired all the time. No, it is not normal to be tired all the time.
I know, crazy, but true.
2. But you can’t sleep.
That doesn’t make sense because you’re exhausted — but you lie down and you can’t sleep. Well isn’t that just ridiculous? The thing is (going back to the fight or flight business) your body is keeping you awake so you don’t get eaten by a tiger.
Okay, I know you’re not actually going to get eaten by a tiger (unless you live somewhere that tigers walk around freely eating human beings), but your body doesn’t know that. So, in a way, you could thank your body for taking care of you, but in another way, you could tell your nervous system to take a chill pill.
3. You don’t have an appetite.
Hunger signals are your body’s way of telling you that it needs calories to survive. In times of stress, your body will divert all its attention to basic functions — heart, liver, lungs. It's not going to send you food signals if it's trying to save your life.
4. You are constipated.
Yes, constipation is a sign of stress.
I hear you asking why.
Here’s why: When you are subjected to repeated stressors, your body stops digesting food. Yep. While your blood is being diverted to your vital organs (heart, etc.), it is NOT hanging out in your intestines. Which means your intestines are like “COOL BREAK TIME." Which means your food (on it’s way to becoming poop) is just sitting in your gut chillin’ out having more and more fluid leeched from it and forming a big ol’ poo log that’s going to probably give you a hemorrhoid eventually which is going to cause you more stress.
5. You’re a mother.
I have never met a mother who didn’t need a break.
If you’re a mother, I bet my pinky toe (it’s really small, so I probably wouldn't miss it anyway) that you are stressed.
Not just stressed but also exhausted beyond measure.
Motherhood isn’t just the surface job of nurturing children — feeding, dressing, bathing, teaching, sitting LITERALLY ON TOP OF for vaccinations at the pediatrician, making sure their brains don’t atrophy from too much TV.
You are stressed.
Here’s the problem, you are also too busy even to notice. Take my word for it and take a break.
The end. Thanks for coming to my TedTalk.
Just kidding, what kind of jerk would I be if I told you that you were chronically stressed, but then I didn’t tell you what to do and instead I was just like, “You’re going to die of stress. KTHXFORREADINGBYE!”?
A big jerk, that’s the kind.
So, here are some things you can do (in brief):
You don’t have to be a monk; just sit. Be still for f*ck sake.
I know, I can’t be still either. BUT I promise you, if you force yourself, you will feel better.
Go to bed by 10:30 pm. Sorry. It’s science. (Here’s a WHOLE THING about sleep.)
3. Eat food that makes you feel good.
So probably not a whole bunch of sugar. SORRY AGAIN.
4. Ask for help.
I know you aren’t. Try it!
5. Move your body
Yoga is good because it’s not SUPER INTENSE (unless you want it to be).
6. Go outside and breathe.
Take off your shoes and stand in the grass. Imagine yourself as part of the earth (because you are).