It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like STRESS-mas!!

Last night I couldn’t breathe. Enough oxygen was getting to my lungs to keep me conscious, but I really could not catch my breath. I don’t have asthma, I’m not sick and I certainly wasn’t coming off the treadmill. It is no coincidence I had just finished making yet another list and checking it twice. Additionally, I have noticed an unusual amount of hair clogging the drain, I am periodically nauseated and cannot seem to remember the names I gave my children. My lower back is a pulled muscle waiting to happen and, as you may know from previous entries, my TMJ is cranking and I am one Snickers away from a heart attack. A wise friend recently texted me Merry Painintheassmas! Exactly! Remember the days when your only stress was whether to draw a tree or a candy cane on your mother’s Christmas Card? Me neither. The holidays are wonderful, but let’s face it, they are stressful! I started YesFive with a few entries on stress and what it can do to your body. In an effort to reduce my own workload and because most of you were not reading my blog at that time, I am cutting and pasting this week — only after some original complaining! Funny how I never seem to get writer’s block when it comes to the stuff that’s bugging me.

1.  Eye Twitching (blepharospasm) – an extremely annoying but almost always benign and subtle movement of the eye muscle.  It can last for seconds or weeks.  You may notice that it goes away with alcohol (had to slide that in) or relaxing situations.  Be grateful if your body uses this as a signal that you need to chill.  It is the perfect alarm system … annoying enough for you to have to take notice but not painful or embarrassing.

2. Hair Loss – I almost went bald during my first few months of medical school which was not a good look for me since I was still packing on an extra 20 pounds from senior week and I couldn’t find any of my nice clothes, since it turns out, they were all my roommate’s.  Hair loss can certainly signal a more serious condition but if you are going through more Drain-o than shampoo, take a step back and consider your anxiety level.

3.  Difficulty Breathing – this is a tricky one to discuss in 100 words or less, but if you are relatively young and healthy, don’t smoke (yes, pot counts) and you are having moments at rest where you can’t “catch your breath” or feel like you can’t get enough air into your lungs, think about stress.  If you are more short of breath during exercise or have any chest pain at all, get to a doctor because you may really have something to be stressed about.

4. Gas (frequent burping from above and below…) – the GI (gastrointestinal) system is like the teenager living in your house.  Too much attention; it shuts down.  Too little; it over-reacts.  Just like an adolescent, the answer may not be as simple as it seems.  That is, it may not just be something you ate. It may in fact, be something you are worrying about.

5.  Back Pain – why does everyone know that back pain is caused by stress but so few will accept that explanation when they are suffering themselves?  I could write a book about … actually, it has already been written.  If you have back pain (statistically, at least 50% of you do) and you can open your mind a bit, check out Dr. John Sarno’s “Healing Back Pain” before you call a surgeon.

Physical symptoms obviously can signal serious illness so please, use your head and get to a health provider if you think you need to.  But, if you have nagging, mild symptoms or are generally fatigued and unwell, consider stress and anxiety as the cause.  Stress is not exactly “curable” and ultimately, you may be better off with a slipped disc or a bad sinus infection.  Sometimes though, just acknowledging the strong mind/body connection can alleviate some concern and discomfort allowing you to focus on what is really important … red or white?

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