What I Learned From My Year With Chronic Stress ( and Invitation to Break Taboo Every Wednesday)

acceptance-art-dirty-faith-Favim_com-610774” In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on. ” - Robert Frost

We all have stress in our life. When things get a little crazier than usual. We have too much to do at work, many deadlines, sleep poorly, family issues, long to-do lists and our car breaks down. That’s just life.

It’s completely normal to have days and even short periods in our life, when we run just a little bit faster to get things done. Our body is built to handle short-term stress.

But, what I want to address today, is the long-term stress. That’s the dangerous stress that can become a chronic condition, when ignored. If you’ve been hanging around, you probably know already that I’ve been dealing with chronic stress for some time now, but I’ve not really addressed it here. I’ve mentioned it, but not really talked about it. Not because I didn’t want to, but I was too busy keeping my head above water and getting better. Also, because it has been too tough of a journey to talk about.

Honestly, I  didn’t know how to handle it.

I pulled myself off the hamster wheel last year. Actually, stress knocked me of it. I had no choice.

I literally went from having a busy normal life with studies, work, family, gazillion activities to absolutely nothing. 

My health collapsed. I had pain in my heart region, headaches, my left hand and fingers were numb, neck pain, pack pain, low libido, irritable mood and I cried over the smallest things. My doctor told me that physically there was nothing wrong with me, but I felt like I was living in burning hell. I had pain in every corner of my body, I couldn’t relax, I couldn’t remember some things and I couldn’t focus at all.

Symptoms of chronic stress that I had experience 4 years and stupidly ignored, because I didn’t have time to deal with it.

Long story short, I couldn’t recognize myself. I had become a shadow of who I used to be. I was angry at myself (and world) that I had let it so far, because I was too damn busy and scared to stop and face the reality. Chasing the success was killing me…literally.

Yay, there is good news in this story, I’ve come a long way.

Though, I’m not 100 % symptom free yet. I’m not completely symptom free yet. But it no longer gets me, like it used to.

I decided to talk about it here on blog, because everywhere I look, people are getting sick with stress, yet nobody really talks about it.

What’s up with that?!

It’s sort of taboo in our society, because we’re too success oriented. Maybe getting sick with stress is like shouting out to the world ….I’m big failure. Nobody in their right mind would want to do that. Imagine, if nobody would ever hire you again or your network gets to know that you’re officially the weakest link now. I think the reason we don’t really talk about it at dinner tables or during “how are you conversations”  is because we try to protect ourselves. It’s like admitting that we’re weak. And that’s a no go when you have places to go and people to see. Apparently.

I’d really like to address that. There is strength and power in overcoming something like chronic stress. 

So…

The good news is that I’ve learned a lot through this process and thought I’ll share my big time lessons and experiences with you every Wednesday. And I hope you feel like discussing it and feel free to shoot questions to my way. Let’s break the taboo here.

And don’t worry, it’s not going to be like all dark and creepy.

68My intention is to give a realistic idea how to notice chronic stress in others, in yourself, talk about symptoms, what to do about it, how to prevent it, let you know what works and what doesn’t.

I hope that blog series is going to be sort of free space to discuss how to heal and prevent stress naturally, no medicine involved. I’ll keep it real and share my highs and lows with you.

So what did I learn from my experience? I’m stronger than I thought I was and to listen to my body.

Tell me…. :)

Do you think stress is a taboo? Why do you think people don’t talk about it?

Have you ever experienced anything like stress? How did you deal with it?

My earlier posts about stress:

Improve Your Health + Stop Ignoring Your Life Purpose

Mindful Monday: Take Some Time to Be (and Improve Your Life)

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I used to think, I was in control of things and most definitely my life. Just like everyone around me, I had goals, plans, lists, 5 years plans to assure that I’m on top of my game.

Instead of doing, planning and keeping ourselves constantly busy to feel temporary comfort, we have a choice of stop and do nothing. Until the right action shows up in front of us. We get to relax more and do things, when doing is required.

Yup, it’s the beauty of not-doing I’m talking about. The skill I’m still learning.

So if you’re anything like me, a busy-bee with family and gazillion things to-do. Here are a couple of practical ideas how to chillax some more and let life direct you.

  • Make your weekends “yours”. Relax, let weekends be your space to be, do nothing and hang in PJ’s all day long, if that’s what you like.
  • Have some faith. I’m not saying don’t care or don’t have intentions. I’m just saying don’t force things according to your plan. I replaced my goals with intentions. I might aim to do something, but if it doesn’t work out I’m flexible and I’m able to adjust quickly and find other opportunities, rather than being stuck in my plans. It’s the waiting that’s the hard part here. We’re so used to doing that anything less than that seems lazy. Which leads me to my third point.
  • Don’t judge yourself. If you’re super achievers or effective to-do list queen, you know what I’m talking about. Sometimes, we can be our worst enemy.
  • Meditate. Just 5 min. every morning makes such a difference Or just sit and be by yourself and watch what your mind will come up with.

Tell me……

What do you think of all this not-doing?

Do you have any practical tips to remind yourself about it?

Simple Living: 7 Ideas to Simplify Your Life

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Sometimes life gets busy, too busy, that’s when I turn to simplifying my life.

You know to clear the air, to restart, to turn a blank page, to cut down the noise…

So I can better hear my own voice.

Right now, it’s that time for me. I write my master thesis and I’m this close to be done, so I need to keep my focus. I need to keep things really simple. I need to remember my own advice, to just breathe.

Times like now is when I simplify everything in my life to absolutely essential, that I just can’t live without. And normally first places I attack  are my home, closet, email box, activities, TV programs, my daily routines and habits.

So let me walk you through my way of simplifying….I’m not saying it’s the right way, but it’s what works for me.

1. Switch off that smart phone (when you need it). Don’t let devices control your time and energy. I know, it sounds slightly crazy to say something like this, but honestly it’s one of the best things to do when you feel overwhelmed and need some peace of mind. Shut off the information stream for just 1 hour (if you can). If you can’t just do 30 min or just 10 min. I started this habit, when  my kids started daycare, after I picked them up, that was our time together and I just didn’t answer calls or reply to messages. Instead I read books with my kids. I even took a step further and am having smart phone free Sundays.

2. Let go of stuff that drives you nuts. Right now, I spend most of my awake time writing my thesis. And to be honest it has started stressing me, because I have this picture of end result in my mind. It’s not always a bad thing, but if it starts stressing the process here and now, what you’re doing, then let it go. Advice to myself, focus on one step at the time and forget the end result.

3.  Empty your email box. Clean it up. It just feels great to have no junk and old stuff in your email box.

4. Replace bad habits with good ones. I don’t believe we can go cold turkey and change habits overnight. We can replace them with good ones. Like smoking with walking in nature or late night unhealthy snacking with healthy fruit bites. I realized I was snacking a lot from 8 p.m. because that’s when my kids go to bed I can finally hang with my hubby and watch some good movie….but all these chocolates, cookies don’t work for me in long run. So I replaced those bad guys with some healthier options like fruits.

5. Do less. Take a look at your activities. Consider if what fills your schedule, is truly what you enjoy doing or is it something you’ve convinced yourself you should be doing.

6.Clean, baby! I’m not a clean freak, but I like having certain areas of our home clean, like bathroom and kitchen. I’m telling you, it’s a mission impossible with 2 full speed kiddos, but it helps me to stay sane during those chaotic moments.

7. Become minimalist with your money (time). Only buy stuff that you truly need. I used to confuse need with want, which caused me to spend money on impulse purchases. This meant I also gave away my time from people and things I love, to earn more. So I started buying stuff I really need. Of course I slip once in a while, but mostly I keep my shopping real simple.

Tell me….. :)

What do you do when life gets too busy?

Your best tip to keep it simple?

Great articles:

Living the Simple Life

5 things from 1989 to better my life

 

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Mindful Monday: Kindness Transforms Everything

shutterstock_116101924“A warm smile is a universal language of kindness.”

We all have our good days and those nothing-goes-right-today-I-just-want-t0-hide days. On those bad days, unexpected act of kindness can change everything in a second. Just a kind smile, words and even a hug.

It changes the energy of any semi bad day….all of a sudden things don’t seem to be so bad as they seemed. Somebody’s kind attention lifts us up.

And when we see someone else having a bad day….we just need to remember to pay it forward.

So pay it forward! :)

Tell me…… :D

Your best kindness moment that saved your day?

Photo source

Simple Living: How to Get More Time For What Really Matters

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“At the end of the day, the only questions I will ask myself are…Did I love enough? Did I laugh enough? Did I make a difference?”

Today’s post is about self-care and time management. Something I’ve been forced to learn. Especially, after I had my 2 kids. You can now call me a fierce nay sayer, because I know what matters to me and what I need to get done.

  • Health & alone time.
  • Time with hubby
  • Spend reading & playing time with kids
  • Work (that feels like play)
  • Travel

But that’s not how I’ve always been. I’ve been guilty of always over booking myself, forgot that I only have 24 hours every day, just like the rest of the world. The problem has been that I always wanted to do so many things. You know busy life stuff….like manage my studies, work, kids, home, keep up with my friends and make healthy food from scratch. Add here pointless TV programs, internet surfing and online shopping and you get the picture.

I don’t know what the heck was I thinking. Even super efficient superman could keep up with some of these tasks.

The problem here was not the endless wanting-to-do list, but my inability to prioritize, truly know my priorities and act according to those. I always went according to what was thrown my way, that’s what got done.

 The problem was that I never got to the things that really matter to me. Things that I truly wanted to do.

Like exercise, meditation, alone time, reading a book, swimming and yoga.

It’s a skill you know, like biking, running, leading….it takes some practice. But the good news is that it’s easy to start. Here is how I did it.

  • Take 30 min weekly to reflect about what matters. If you think you don’t have time, then make time. Say every Sunday morning. I cut out trash TV programs (all pointless reality shows). Write down stuff. Do it again next week. After one month look at your list and pick your top 5. Write them down and keep them visible where you see your list everyday…as a reminder, a compass for your life that keeps you in check. This list makes living on purpose easier, because you know why you’re doing what you’re doing. The rest is just noise.
  • Say no so you can say yes to yourself. I’ve said it to myself before….but somehow I always fail with this one. I say yes too quick to later regret. I can’t stand to turn down meeting with friends. I consider myself relatively straight forward person, but somehow I suck in saying no to meet ups. But that’s a no go because I have to…no I need to have alone time to digest stuff and reboot…to feel energized. I’m a proud introvert…when it comes to alone time. It’s my air, place of zen, time when I feed my soul with something beautiful (like reading Mark Nepo). So now I do this….I have a limit of 3 appointments per month….once it’s reached…I can’t add new ones. 3 is a great number right now, but it may change as my kids grow and I get more time.
  • Create specific everyday habits that support your living on purpose. I always wanted to get healthier and exercise. The reason I always failed was that getting healthier and exercise are not specific enough. I need to get super clear. As soon as I set a goal to just put my running shoes on and get out of the house everyday, no matter the weather, I managed to create a new habit. After I got used to little running, I added some yoga stretches and swimming…over 1 year period. It was very gradual and easy going….one thing at the time. Now I even go to gym. The same happened when I decided to cut those 5 plus cups of coffee and replace them with 1 cup of green tea.  After I cut out coffee, I could move on to my breakfast….toast with cheese. Not very healthy. Now I go for fruits or omelet with veggies. And you know what, slowly but surely I’ve become healthier and I exercise daily.
  • Do soul brushing. Just as brushing teeth, shower, breakfast are important. So is taking care of our soul…right from the morning. That’s why I meditate right after I brush my teeth…..it’s what I call radical self-care. Tuning into myself, intuition, God and my soul to say good morning…..before everyone else starts talking. It keeps me grounded for the rest of the day and connected to my intuition and it reduces stress too, because I can prioritize efficiently.

Tell me…………….. :)

Your best time management tip?

Your favorite book or TV program?

First thing you do in the morning?

 

Great related articles:

10 Ways To Use Mindfulness To Create New Habits

The Hard Stuff Often Matters Most

3 Surprisingly Simple Things You Can Do Right Now to Build Better Habits

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Mindful Monday: Letting Go

quotes-about-letting-go-of-someone-you-love-tumblr-02yglauk” You can not find your soul with your mind, you must use your heart.” – Gary Zukav

Whenever I’ve doubted if I should let go of an idea, plan, habit, goal or a person, I’ve always feared what would happen. You know…fear shows up.

Because nothing is as scary as the unknown.

When I quit the job, let go of some people, quit blaming myself for health problems I had, stopped drinking coffee….I experienced temporary discomfort of not knowing what’s next. But once I let go…and accepted that discomfort,  even enjoyed it, something changed.

I realized new doors opened to me and other opportunities showed up. Not like magically overnight, but with time. If you’re as impatient as I am, then watch out to not rush things. I’ve tried to remember that…

Good things take their time. They can’t be rushed.

I learned to trust….letting go means having faith that something better will show up, because we deserve it. I learned to hope and invite new good things into my life. But it can’t come into our life before we make space. Before we invite it in by making space.

I still think letting go is the hardest thing ever, but here is how I’ve done it.

1. Accept the emotions that occur. Like grief, anger, disappointment…and just allow them to be. Feel them and watch them. Don’t try to change them.

2. Don’t let your logic talk you out of letting go. I’m very rational person…let’s just say I overuse logic and sometimes I forget my heart and gut feeling. Some letting go is easier than other…with some, our ego, logical mind will jump in and just take over…talk us out of our initial decision. We can even doubt if we really should let go.

3. Sleep on it. Letting go is not easy and it’s ok to doubt. So I often just sleep on it. Feel if it’s the right thing to do.

4. Learn to be OK with discomfort. I think this is the hardest thing to do…to accept this feeling of discomfort. It has helped me to think….that nothing lasts forever. It has helped me to deal with discomfort. It’s good to know that grey clouds are there temporarily…eventually sun shows up.

Tell me…. :)

What have you let go in your life? Did something better show up?

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Simple Living: Summer Vacation Part 2 (My 10 Favorite Things To Do)

Today’s post is all about snap shots from our vacation. We got home yesterday…and now we’re just relaxing and unpacking. We kept our vacation really simple…outdoorsy-foodie-swim-relax-family kinda vacation. Here are my 10 most fave moments. Be prepared for some serious photo spam. :)

1. Time to be (and plenty of kisses).

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2. Swimming (teaching my soon 6-year-old son how to and assure my almost 3-year-old for gazillion time that…no there are no crabs in the water).

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3. Ice cream

icecreamI’m oddly picky when it comes to ice cream….I only like fruit flavors…sorbets (and sometimes chocolate). I can’t do what every normal parent does when their kid can’t finish their huge ice cream….because I just don’t like their choice of ice cream. I had mango ice cream…my son had gigantic one with pistachio-chocolate flavors….which he couldn’t finish.

Note to myself….next time buy him a smaller one.

 

 

 

4. Homemade ice-cold pickles.

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Hands down the best snack on earth. I’m willing to give up many foods for these ones…..even sweets and cheesecake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Local bookstores

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When I get enough of the heat outside…I love hanging around at local bookstores.

6. Share yum food with family & friends.

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fish1Grilled fish with tomatoes. I’m not over exaggerating if I say…the best meal of this year.

 

 

7. Drink chilling cold soda.

lemonadeThis is my favorite childhood soda. We used to drink it after sauna. It’s sooo good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Exercise.

swingsPushing the swing for hours requires some serious trained muscles you know…. :D

I did that a lot. I couldn’t run…but I got most out of a local playground.

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. Have evening tea (they had coffee) with the WISE women in my family.

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10. Chillax & view life with fresh pair of eyes.

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That’s what I love about vacations…..to step few steps away from everyday, chill and reevaluate. I got back home with renewed energy and I realize how great my life is.

 

Tell me….. :)

What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?

What are some of your fave activities during your summer vacation?