[AF: as fuck. something the kids say. I like it.]
These past few weeks have left me really stressed out. I will spare you the actual details, but I can tell you about how my body is reacting.
I’m not sleeping well all the time. I’m not in my own house or in my own bed, so it stands to reason I won’t sleep well. But that doesn’t dismiss the effects of not sleeping well. I’m not as rested, and therefore not as resilient, because of the sleep differences. I’m tired and more cranky than usual.
My head feels very full. I’m carrying a lot of details about our move, and my brain just feels F-U-L-L. Some days I get headaches- which is a thing I rarely experience.
My libido is somewhat lowered. This is probably due to the stress and the lack of sleep. (Which is also to say: if you’re not sleeping well or regularly stressed, it may not be helping your mid-life libido.)
I want more salty things to eat and carbs, carbs, carbs. It’s well known that carbs are a comfort food. With good reason, too; carbs provide the brain with the easy-access energy it needs. But in my case, carbs are also a way to get my body to slow down…to sit down and eat. (My psyche and body are trying to help me. Really.)
My moods change more quickly and my energy is pppphhhhhffffftttt. Are you familiar with the ‘spoons’ analogy of energy that some people with chronic illness use? It is the idea that we are given a certain amount of ‘spoons’ or energy each day, and we can spend our spoons on doing certain activities, but once the spoons are gone, they’re gone. And so is our energy. These past few weeks, I have found myself with less than zero spoons at the end of the day.
Now, admittedly, the stress is my fault- we decided to move house, after all. And my stress is also completely related to my ability to move house (not something everyone can do). So, a lot of this stress is entirely my decision (there are many, many situations where stress is not because of our own actions- systemic issues are very stressful and there’s often not a lot a person can do to get out from under them).
Obviously, my body was telling me, I was stressed.
Now, there are a lot of things you can do to help yourself when you’re feeling stressed. We all have our tricks and go-to options for de-stressing.
But getting back into your body- and out of the stressful mind/brain- is a time-tested way to help yourself de-stress.
Taking care of stress is best done in the moment stress happens. Most of us let stress pile up and believe we will ‘let it all go’ on the commute home. Or we ‘save it for the weekend’ when it seems like we’ll have more time to let out all the emotions and body sensations of the stress we’ve had all week. My experience is, it doesn’t usually work like that.
If you can, when you’re stressed, try to come back to your body as soon as you can.
What do I mean by that? I mean that you need to notice you are actually in a body. Instead of being mostly up in your head, stressing, try noticing what your body is doing. When you walk to the bathroom, notice that you’re walking. When you eat your lunch, notice that you’re eating.
For me, it looked like this.
When I did my stretches before bed, I really paid close attention to relaxing my muscles and using my breath to stretch a little further than normal. I really felt it in my whole body.
When I ate lunch, I read a book instead of looking through my phone or tablet. My eyes got a rest from screens and my brain was more engaged while being more relaxed.
I purposefully got out of my head and into my body. When walking from the car to any store or into my house, I noticed my whole body walking. I felt my purse on my shoulder, my feet hit the ground, and made my jaw relax.
Even though my libido was lower, we had super slow sex. Often, with sex, we’re working to reach the goal of orgasm. If we take our time and enjoy every little touch (or gently tell our partner how to touch us), it forces our brain to slow down, de-stress, and enjoy pleasure. We did and it was so much deeper and enjoyable- and helped my body feel less stress.
Stress is part of life, no doubt. And there are times when we have more stress than others. But stress is best balanced in the moment- as soon as we can, find some way to relax or calm down. And getting out of the stressful brain and into our body is a great way to balance and restore ourselves even in the midst of life’s craziness.