Monday, April 30, 2007


In keeping with my (so far) steadfast no diet approach to The Obsession with weight and food and eating, I am focusing this week on stress reduction. There are times I find myself throughout the day so tightly coiled I feel like Jack crammed in the box desperately waiting for someone to turn my crank and set me free.

I don't handle stress well and my life is stress, but whose isn't? So I did what I always do when faced with a challenge and bought a book. This one is a collection of short essays on methods of stress management. Breathe. Who knew? Certainly not me. I once spent hundreds of $$ going through cardiac testing because I thought my heart was giving out. Only at the end of that month long ordeal, as I was sitting on the table talking to the still puzzled doc, did I find out my symptoms had been stress all along. I took a deep upper body breath and he said "is that it?? what you've been talking about?" Well, yes. I can't breathe, ergo congestive heart failure or some other dreadful affliction. He hugged me and almost shouted "that's stress! that's stress breathing!"

I stay out of touch with my body like the little crabs that take up residence in the empty snail shells. I'm just hanging out here, unconnected. I think this is the result of constantly, always, forever, eternally trying to change my outer shell. I've done it so long and with such fervor that it's hard to believe the shell is really me. How can I be connected to something that's different from week to week, month to month, year to year. It's like trying on coats and wearing one for a season, then sending it off to Goodwill because it's too baggy or too snug.

Part of this stress reduction plan is that I will have to pay attention to my body. The writers blithely suggest that one "notices" the tension here or there, the slight ache in this arm, the pain in the lower back. As if. I am making a huge black PAY ATTENTION sign to hang over my desk at the shop because I will not just "notice" these things. I will have to stop, close my eyes, and actually do an inventory: okay, there's my arm, I feel it; leg, check; tummy, yup; shoulders of steel, neck like a pipe, okay.

I think I can do this. I'm kind of excited about it. It almost feels like homecoming. Maybe I will become the little crab who at fif . . . fif . . . after five decades adrift finds herself home at last. Wish me luck.


Anonymous Tater said...

We are very similar in nature! My stress turned into anxiety attacks, and panic disorder before I learned my stress management techniques. Breathing is at the top of the list, as is regular excerise and taking time out once or twice a week to do something just for me, that I thoroughly enjoy (poker). Breathing deeply through the diaphram, is what really worked the best, and I fought it a long time because it just seemed too simple to be effective! Stupid drunk that I am, everything has to be monumental and difficult...

April 30, 2007 8:30 AM  
Blogger hellojed said...

I also have had a number of stress related ailments that affected my life in so many ways. I got better when I took up yoga and did what I'd been wanting to do all the time - go travelling. I still have the odd problem but I feel so much better. Counselling has helped too - my main advice is to not be afraid of asking for help. Good luck.

April 30, 2007 8:43 AM  
Blogger Red7Eric said...

Great metaphor, with the crab in the seashell thing. Those of us who don't like our bodies very much deal with this a lot, I think. After my visit with a massage therapist last month, I still have to remind myself to unclench every now and then ...

April 30, 2007 9:00 AM  
Blogger evilganome said...

As a little bundle of nerves, I have to try and unwind. In the summer it's easy. A few minutes in the garden and I let everything else go. The rest of the year, I try and use my workout to clear my head, though I really have to start taking yoga classes again.

April 30, 2007 9:55 AM  
Blogger Willym said...

Oh god, been there! done that! The decal has washed off the souvenir T-shirt.

Once or twice a year I end up at emergency - chest pains, shortness of breath, dizziness. An ECG and several hours later the Doc is always gently reminding me about handling stress.

I remember one very sweet - actually very handsome, hot east-indian, which only added to the irregular heartbeat - emergency doc and the following exchange:

Him: You drink a great deal of coffe don't you Mr Hobbs?
Me: Yes
Him: And you eat your lunch at your desk don't you?
Me: Yes
Him: And you don't exercise a great deal do you?
Me: No
Him: Might I suggest cutting out the first, going out for the second and start doing the third.

Good luck - and listen to your body.

April 30, 2007 10:09 AM  
Blogger JessiferSeabs said...

Do you ever do yoga? I'm not talking about the ab-wrenching, heart-pounding trendy yoga that is popping up all over the place... I"m talking about a REAL yoga studio, no mirrors, calming yogini, focusing on the breath, on being present in the moment, aware of your body...

When I started yoga, I was so high strung that I used to sit on my mat mentally running through my to-do list... it takes practice and mental conditioning, but it will change your life from a stress perspetive.

April 30, 2007 10:49 AM  
Blogger p.alan said...

I picked up the Bob Green book Your Best Life Now two months ago in hopes of getting myself back to where I'd like. However when he spoke of 'smoking' and to go no further in the book until that habit was kicked, I did exactly that.

As of the past weekend, I've accomplished just that, and I'm ready to pick up just where I left off. I've also just been treated for sleep apnea, which I've apparently been suffering with for the past 5 years (in that time I've also gained 80 lbs.), and so hopefully I'm headed in the right direction.

I too, deal with an abundance of stress. I'm gonna try walking and weightlifting.

April 30, 2007 10:56 AM  
Blogger Beula said...

Getting those darn massages and doing the "fat thanking" are getting me out of my head and back into my body. Not an easy task if you loathe the darn thing. In fact almost impossible at times, but I persist. Learned early to leave my body because of abuse and it is taking a long time to reenter. Hang in there.

April 30, 2007 11:15 AM  
Blogger angelfish24 said...

Yeah, stress is a killer. I don't have that much now but I remember a job I had for quite a few years and the workload and the bitchy, wicked witch of a boss, had me on edge all the time. I really turned to food during that time to deal w/ the stress but it ended up hurting me as just getting more unfit. I'm glad that period of my life is over. What I use for stress now is exercise and yoga once in a while, it does wonders.

April 30, 2007 2:43 PM  
Blogger lisalgreer said...

Belle, I was getting to the point of panic attacks and crippling anxiety when I'd never been there before. I've always dealt poorly with stress. Changing my eating has helped with that sooo much. I also do things to raise my mood, etc. I think the breathing thing is good as well.


April 30, 2007 4:49 PM  
Blogger eba said...

Hi, Many years ago, I was so out of touch with myself that I didn't realize I was in chronic pain. I had a massage one night and just couldn't put my finger on what was wrong until I realized that I was pain free for a few hours. Then everything went back to normal, but it was a real wakup call.

Several years later, another key moment -- I realized that one side was on pain. Eventually I was able to pinpoint it. Then one day in therapy, I remember saying "I'm having a feeling. I don't know what it is, but I'm having a feeling."

This all took years of slow, steady, sometimes painful, sometimes joyous work. And yes, it was worth it, and yes, I'd do it again.

Keep up the good work and the good writing. With best wishes.

April 30, 2007 8:23 PM  

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