Tuesday, September 25, 2012

When to Take a Step Back

Over the past 8 years of being a massage therapist, I have seen what we, the human race, do to ourselves when we feel that we can't back down. It's not pretty. Time and time again, I have seen friends, family, coworkers, and complete strangers stress themselves out in such a way that their bodies start to malfunction.

For example, how many of you work yourselves to the bone, only to wind up sick? Now that you're sick, how many of you continue to work slavishly to The Greater Cause? (That Greater Cause could be work, a show, a project...). You feel that you HAVE to keep going right? And this cold/flu/ickiness seems to be the worst because it just won't end! How many of you keep going until you get diagnosed with some horrible respiratory infection/fever of over 100 degrees/can't get out of bed  - and THEN you stop?

How is it we get ourselves in this crazy cycle of lamenting and stressing? Why do we have to keep going against these great odds? Is it a need to be a hero in a story - to fight against all odds? I don't know. I'm certainly guilty of it as much as anyone else.

I often see people working themselves to the bone, I see them lament about not sleeping well, body parts hurting, and talking about how they never have enough time. When I can, I'll tell them - hey, you should take a break, your body is sending you these signals for a reason - and often the advice is ignored, and the person in question continues the cycle of stress and pain. It happens ALL THE TIME.

We've forgotten how to listen to our bodies as a barometer of how we're doing. Wha? Barometer? What am I even talking about? Lately, when I get stressed the F out, I get these wonderful breakouts on my face, sometimes even a stye of ginormous proportions. If I'm really over doing it, I'll get a lousy flu to last me a week or more. Fantastic stuff, really.


So there's me. Today. Lookin' ever so ugly and tired, and just plain miserable. My genetic make-up has blessed me with the ability to get a sty (think acne for the eyelid), and when I get pretty stressed, it never fails to blow up into something bigger and uglier. This has been happening since I was a teen. Doctors have been unsympathetic. "Use a heat compress." "There's nothing we can do. Use a heat compress." Last year, thanks to my lack of income to support health insurance, I went into an acupuncture student clinic. In the Eastern medicine world, I've been told I'm overheated, to use a cool compress, and to have cool foods and drinks. No matter what, I have to sit through it and wait for it to go away on its own.

This lovely little fucker has been brewing for a week. 

What do I do? I called out from work for a couple of days, but still proceeded to stress out over stressing out. Was I stressed out? What am I stressed out for? Am I stressed?!? I feel like crap, I gotta take the day off. Compress, eye drops, compress, nap. More naps. Netflix. I gotta take more days off. I can't take any days off I need the money! I can't flake on my friends, I've made plans! WHY ISN'T THIS FUCKER GOING AWAY?!?!?!?!?

Shit, I need to breathe. 

Breathe again, Patty. 

Kay. So here, I'm going to take my own advice. Obviously, this body of amazing knowledge is trying to tell me something. When I think about it, this past year has been red flag after red flag - back spasms, neck spasms, a week long cold on a vacation, and now this. Kay, I get it. I need to take a step back, so to speak. To get myself on a more solid foundation of whatever the heck I'm doing. 

First, I need to get a reality check of how I'm taking care of myself. If I had health insurance, I would go into the doc's and patiently listen to them tell me I need to use a compress. Who knows, they might even have something else to tell me. However, since I don't have health insurance, I need to take matters into my own hands and figure out what to do. 

Second, what can I control? I can control the basics, right? Sleep, food, exercise. Work on getting 8  hours of sleep, stop eating junk, and go for a frickin' walk, or even just do some yoga. If I'm stressing, I need to unwind the stress. 

Third, what am I stressing about? Gad, when I think about it - everything! Every single thing. Oh man. MoneyMoneyMoney, my bod, a lack of relationships, what the fuck am I doing with my life, jobs, I need a haircut, This Project, That Project, I must be letting everyone down, I haven't talked to friends in forever, Traffic on the 405, getting my car registered, the sound on my computer doesn't work, I want to take my family to Disneyland for a week, I should do This, I should do That. STRESS.OUT.OVER.ALL.THE.THINGS.

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who stresses out. As a matter of fact, I KNOW I'm not the only one, otherwise, my work as a massage therapist would be non-existent. 

What do we do, people? How do we take care of ourselves when it feels like the world is weighing ever so heavily on our shoulders? Start with the small stuff. Learn how to let go of anxiety (life long work in progress, I'm thinking). Ask for help. Take mini vacations. Take a long vacation. Treat yourself as a priority. If you're not feeling good, how can you do well at the Job/Project/Goal/Cause/Show? You can't. You can't be as good as you want to be if you're feeling like poop. Something has to give and it shouldn't be you. 

So be good to yourself, dammit. Take a step back and breathe. Make some compromises in your favor. We're in this together, so I'll go try to do the same thing.

And you know what? Like my friend Vicki just pointed out - you have to have faith that will get better. Hope. It might feel impossible, but it's not, truly. Keep the hope going!

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