5 Ways My Body Told Me Today That I’m Too Stressed Out and Not Handling it Well at All

Barring a significant neuro-physiological block or detour, our minds and bodies are linked in ways we often ignore and/or take for granted.
Publish date:
May 26, 2015
stress, anxiety, taking care of yourself

As I write this, I’m having a no good, very bad day. I don’t want to whine about said Bad Day, however. In fact, I thought I had taken steps to avoid it entirely. What I had set out to do instead was to go to bed early last night (at the inception of what would become today’s Bad Day-ness), and get up early this morning. I’m not generally a morning person and I didn’t have an early appointment today, but I sold myself the lie about the early bird and the worm, so I set my alarm to ring about 4 hours from when I went to bed.

I’m a recovered insomniac who had to work really hard to teach myself to sleep, and these days I know better than to intentionally cheat sleep without an extraordinary reason or a paycheck on the line. But I was determined to have a Good Day today, and I insisted upon getting up early. I went hard at the gym and I sat down to write an entirely different post, and my body was like NOPE.

I should’ve taken Roxette’s advice and listened to my heart. It would have served me better to have slept a bit more this morning instead of doing what I thought I should do. It would behoove me to get back to listening to my body more and trying to honor and respect the connection between my head, my heart, and all the rest of this blood and bone and tissue and sinew that I inhabit.

Because, it seems, it’s gonna happen anyway. Barring a significant neuro-physiological block or detour, our minds and bodies are linked in ways we often ignore and/or take for granted. They can operate in beautiful synchronization at times, and they’re also gonna act in collusion to get our attention if need be.

What follows are the 5 things my body did today to get my attention, which it did. In a big way.

1. My hands are shaking.

Well, they’re not exactly shaking, as much as they are rapidly pivoting at the wrists. So, not exactly buzzing with tremors, but more like the silly hand shake from the old Orangina commercials done at rapid speed. (Doubling down on mentioning Roxette and really showing my age with this reference, I know.)

It’s odd and it’s unpleasant, because all day I’ve been trying to focus, and there’s this jarring, rapid movement occurring at the ends of my arms. I know that many people’s bodies are in some state of perpetual motion, like a bouncing of a leg or a tapping foot, even when sitting “still.” That has not been my experience, and I stop my hands every time I notice them. They just start up again after a bit.

I’ve had some racing heartbeat issues associated with panic and over-exercising in the past, and there’s been a bit of that today, but it feels very concentrated in my hands. Well, my hands and my jaw:

2. I’m grinding my teeth.

Apparently, I picked this charming habit up about 5 years ago. I had a patch of time when I was getting recurring migraines, and it turns out that the sleep I was finally able to get included other activities, like vivid nightmares and this occasional tooth-grinding business. I don’t do it all the time, but when I do, I wake up with a very sore jaw and a headache that radiates up and outward from it.

Today, the grinding made like Freddie Krueger and used what normally happens while I’m asleep to hurt me IRL. I’m no neuroscientist, but I know that somehow my brain has to signal my jaw to clench and grind my teeth, and I understand the concept of subconscious behavior, but what amazes me is the intensity it has to reach for me to even register it. It’s like, all of a sudden, I’ll feel a sharp shooting pain and it’ll feel like my head is in a vice.

How long has this been going on in my head while I’m attempting to do other stuff?! How long have I been scooting around ignoring this throbbing pain in my head until I suddenly and urgently have no choice but to pay attention? It’s amazing how much pain we can walk around in until we’re forced to confront it.

3. I’m nauseous and I have no appetite.

This isn’t really that out of the ordinary, unfortunately. What is out of the ordinary is my response to it. Following years of unhealthy habits and disordered eating, I trained myself to eat more and better, not unlike the work I had to put into the ability to sleep at night.

I often joke that my infancy and childhood were so traumatic that I never learned the absolute basics of babying: eating and sleeping. Once upon an unhealthier time, hunger pangs were a welcome feeling of hollow “victory.” That is no longer the case, but I was so overwhelmed and distracted today that I didn’t even immediately respond to the swirly-sickly feeling churning in my stomach that turned into growling like a tiger in the night.

I didn’t eat my Emergency Whole Wheat Crackers that I carry in my bag, nor did I even remember my Fruit Snacks Stash in case of blood sugar emergency while on the go. I got some fresh fruit that I sort of shrugged at for way too long before eating it mirthlessly.

I’ve worked too hard and come too far for this to have been today’s food experience. Gotta do better.

4. Attack of the Menses

OK, periods happen. But mine showed up and showed out less than two weeks after its cyclical predecessor had left the building. Yikes. I was really not ready to have any further uterine lining evacuating my body again so soon. Although I’m fortunate to not suffer monthly in the way that some of my sisters do with our dear Aunt Flo, I have PCOS and irregularity is my norm. Still. Two periods within two weeks is an extreme that I can only recall having happened once before.

If I’m going to be irregular, I’m more prone to be late or miss it entirely. The period itself is not extreme right now, but it’s here and it’s uninvited and I’m just trying to weather the storm with gratitude that it’s not also heavy or especially crampy. (Otherwise I’d be at the doctor’s office.)

5. Hives!

Hives are pretty much my body’s way of tripping the emergency alarm. Every few months, I break out in hives at times of high stress, in a very specific pattern on my neck and my left underarm. WTF, body? Not that I would prefer if they covered more surface area, but I marvel at this odd specificity.

Hives come on so suddenly; luckily their departure can be just as swift. I have to check my medical privilege in that A) I don’t believe I’m actually physically ill right now, and B) I have access to medical care if need be. I already have a fantastic ointment from my fantastic dermatologist that calms the extreme itchiness of the hives almost immediately upon application, and I hope to get more sleep tonight and wake up to my body being less of a battlefield.

The startling thing to me--in addition to the symptoms themselves making themselves known today—is the suddenness, the urgency. Of course I don’t mean to casually poo-poo the idea that they could be something physical or something larger, but I know I’ve been trying to manage this time of extreme stress and loss, and I think my body is telling me I’m falling short.

I’m reminded today that as much credence as there is to the old “mind over matter” chestnut, we are still served best by honoring our feelings and truly experiencing each step on our proverbial travels. Good and bad. I had made up my mind to fight through the day, and my body shouted at me to slow down.

I’m listening, corporeal Pia.