You know how during the airplane safety instructions they always tell you to put your own mask first and then to assist those around you who need help – even if these are your loved ones. After bitter experience, I am trying to follow that credo when it comes to many other things in life. Let me explain.
A few months ago I was under extraordinary stress. Some of it was real, other parts had been piled up there due to my tendency to over think and overall issues with anxiety. I was so busy juggling between a new job, finishing my dissertation, finalizing the job I was doing on the side, language course, and personal life. I was, subconsciously or not, trying to please everyone. Whenever people would request more from me, I would not even think twice and go out of my way to do the given task. I never said no to additional work they would give me in the second job, at time-consuming (and often boring) tasks at my first one. I would try to go out of my way to accommodate the needs of my parents, my partner, and everyone else in my immediate surrounding. I was so busy and somehow so unequipped to deal with this new type of stress in my life, I was at my wit’s end.
Then I started having problems sleeping. I would fall asleep easily but 2-3 hours later, I would wake and not be able to get a wink of sleep anymore. That would make me even more tired and irritable. Everything would annoy me, I would be so alert, at times I felt I could just explode. I did not have time to do sports but even exercise would not help me to stay asleep. Then I started feeling very itchy on my arms, calves and legs. I scratched until it hurt. And it still itched some more. And the less I slept, the worse it would get.
After a consultation with a doctor, it turned out I most probably have a stress-induced (and more common among women) inflammation of the skin and urgently need to get some sleep. So I started taking supplements which are supposed to calm you down, and had to take them for the coming 4 months. At first they did help a lot. I remember I was so happy after sleeping through the night, I felt reborn. My mood improved, the irritation on my skin decreased. The short-run effect was immediate but also short-lived.
The most important change had to come from within. I had to learn to let go of worry, especially when the thing I worry about is out of my control. Sometimes when I am very anxious about something, I try to remember what my father always said to me when I was young and worried about some triviality. He would ask me, “So what if that happens? Think about it, will it really be the end of the world?.” Thinking and learning to accept the worst case scenario long before it happened is actually very helpful to me. If you calmly and rationally access these options and scenarios, you would be better prepared to act upon it, in case it happened.
These days my life is down a few sources of stress but it is long-term battle. I notice just when I get moe nervous and worried about something, my skin inflammation is back. I have also made some healthy choices in my diet in order to stress my body less. I try to find more time for myself and for the things I extract good vibes from. Most nights I sleep through the night, but sometimes I need to have a rational conversation with myself to induce it. And I am still learning and findings new ways from the sure path of a heart attack before I am 30 that I was on to. And I hope to get better at it soon because it is so empowering and such a relief just to let go and care less.