When Stress Took Over My Life
No one willingly makes decisions to increase his stress to an unbearable degree. It usually happens slowly, or is thrust upon a person quickly, and one day the reality of what has taken place becomes clear. For me, it was a mixture of decisions made out of necessity and overconfidence in my ability to "multitask" that led to stress taking control of my life. I discovered stress has a way of sneaking into one's life with the stealth of a thief before launching an attempt at a total takeover. No one who ignores the signs or has poor boundaries is completely safe, and let no one kid you, if stress takes over your life there is a price to be paid. It may be a little different for everyone, but the price of allowing stress to rule one's life is amazingly predictable.
The following is the price I paid:
- My health suffered. There is something about being strapped to a stretcher and being forced to stare at the ceiling of an ambulance that makes a man question his approach to life.
- My mood suffered. Stressed people are grumpy people. Some have been grumpy for so long it feels normal.
- I forgot how to have fun. I often ask stressed out people, "When's the last time you had fun?" The look I get in response says it all. They usually stare at me with a blank expression that turns to confusion.
- I missed good times with friends and family. Many days I felt so badly and my mind was so preoccupied that I missed out on times of enjoying others in my life that I love. I was there with them—but then again, I wasn't.
- I worried more. When we are stressed it always feels like we are forgetting something, need to do something, or something is about to go wrong.
- It was actually more difficult to have good boundaries. When one has had all he can take, it would stand to reason it would be easier for him to say, "Enough is enough!" I found fatigue had eroded my better judgment and setting new boundaries or maintaining them seemed like a more difficult task than allowing someone to put more on me.
Other symptoms of a stress take over are as follows:
Stress Warning Signs and Symptoms
- Memory problems
- Inability to concentrate
- Poor judgment
- Seeing only the negative
- Anxious or racing thoughts
- Constant worrying
- Irritability or short temper
- Agitation, inability to relax
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Sense of loneliness and isolation
- Depression or general unhappiness
- Aches and pains
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Nausea, dizziness
- Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
- Loss of sex drive
- Frequent colds
- Eating more or less
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Isolating yourself from others
- Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
- Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
- Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)
The Bottom Line
The bottom line for me was that I had to take my life back. My plan was simple:
- I stopped making additional commitments where I had a choice.
- I delegated everything I could. "Everything" really did not actually have to be done by me.
- I set realistic expectations for myself.
- I started saying "No" to people who had been taking advantage of my willingness to help them.
- I found the off button on my phone every night at the same time.
- I started exercising anytime I could, even if it were just walking around the mall at lunch. Gradually, I built exercise time into my schedule. My health and sleep started to improve right away.
- I started taking time to have fun. Enjoying the people I love is a medicine all its own.
- I accepted the fact that no matter how hard I worked, someone would always want me to work harder. Consequently, some people would never be pleased and that was their problem—not mine—unless I let it become my problem.
- I learned it is okay to disappoint some people. Some people will always expect more, more, more, and when we are all used up, they will move on to the next person and use them up.
I took more steps, made more changes, and still go off course from time-to-time, yet I feel like a different person than I did when stress ruled my life. I almost feel as if I have come back to life. Nevertheless, I know "stress" is probably waiting around the corner and I must remain vigilant or else suffer another take-over.