Ten minutes

ten minutes

I am stressed.

But the funny thing is, I don’t feel stressed. Not in my mind, I mean. And that, apparently, isn’t such a good thing. Because my body, unable to signal to me that maybe it’s time to slow down, let go, and indulge in self-care, has to find other ways to tell me I’m stressed.

Last month, I went to see my doctor because I’d started feeling tingling and numbness in my hands, arms, legs, and feet. (Checking these symptoms online wasn’t such a great idea, as you all probably already know.)

My doctor listened patiently as I described my symptoms. Then she told me I didn’t have to worry about the worse-case scenarios. And then she asked me, “Have you been stressed lately?”

I thought about it. “No,” I said, shaking my head.

But even though I didn’t feel like I was experiencing stress, she said my symptoms were most likely the product of stress.

My body, she explained, reacts physiologically to stress.

It’s true, and it’s something I’m just now getting around to accepting. And my main problem? I don’t actually know I’m experiencing stress, not in my mind anyway. An example? When my doctor asked me if I had been feeling stressed lately, I told her no.

And yet … both my cats were ill and my mother had just broken her hip.

I felt exhausted, yes, but other than that, I didn’t think I was stressed. So obviously my body has become adept at signalling my stress in other ways.

This causes some problems. How can I let go of my stress when I don’t actually feel like I’m stressed? I don’t have problems sleeping and I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the stressors in my life right now.

I could go the medication route. But I’d rather find alternate, natural ways to relieve this stress that my mind doesn’t feel but my body does. After doing some research into this, I’ve decided to try the following things:

Exercise. Exercise seems to be on every list of ways to destress. I haven’t exercised since last fall, and I’m obviously feeling it. Feeling it so much, when I walk anywhere these days I get all these “glad sensations”. My feet want to take off, go faster. My body says, yay, motion!

Ti of Book Chatter and I have been talking about making small, healthy changes, starting today, May 1. I’m always biting off more than I can chew, so small changes are a good fit for me. Ten minutes. That’s what I’m starting with. Ten minutes of exercise a day.

Meditation. It’s quite telling, but I’ve not been meditating for a couple of months now. And when I try to meditate, my mind goes crazy. An avalanche of thoughts. Nothing earth shattering though. Mostly mundane things, like what I’m going to eat for lunch. When will they turn on the air conditioning? My goodness, it’s hot in here this morning. But I do like the sunshine. On and on it goes.

So I’m going to go back to a tried and true method that’s helped me with my meditation in the past. I have several Brain Sync meditations. They’re supposed to be a scientific way to help you get into the meditative state. I don’t know about that, but I do know they’ve always worked for me. So, ten minutes. My month of small changes—ten minutes of meditating with Brain Sync every day.

Morning Pages. The book-reading demon has this theory about my stress. He thinks I’m not allowing myself to feel my real feelings because they’re not what I’m supposed to be feeling. I think he has a point there. I used to do morning pages—three pages of stream of conscious writing, quite literally a brain dump. They were my daily ritual, and I’d gotten to the point where writing those pages became my happy place. For eight years, I literally would not do anything until I’d done my pages. And then I stopped doing them because they’d gotten me to a place where I felt quite good most of the time and I didn’t need them any more.

But happiness and feeling good are ways of living that need to be maintained. I obviously need some sort of practice that will get me there and keep me there. And a daily brain dump will perhaps let those feelings I’m not aware I’m feeling flow out of me, onto the pages of my notebook.

Again, ten minutes. (Although I’ll probably revert to habit and do three pages.) Ten minutes isn’t a lot of time. These changes won’t work for me if I feel like they’re a burden, or I don’t have enough time to do them. I can’t resist “ten minutes” because it’s only ten minutes, after all.

So that’s my list. Do you have any tips on destressing? I’ll gladly add to this list because this whole body reacting to stress thing has got to change!

11 thoughts on “Ten minutes

  1. Suey

    Interesting how you don’t feel stress inside your head. Along with the physical stuff. Very interesting. I had a light bulb moment about exercising the other day and have managed do it for three full weeks now, every day. I haven’t been that consistent in years. Still not seeing any physical benefit (I swear I don’t know why that has to take so long) but I think I feel better just because i’m doing it. Not fitting it in was stressing me out! :)

    All your ideas sound great! I hope the ten minute thing works and that you can fit it in! Good luck. I’m glad your systems weren’t anything worse. :)

    1. Belle Wong Post author

      I need your lightbulb moment when it comes to working out, Suey. I took a look at my summer clothes and think I either have to get in shape fast or get all new clothes! You’re right, too, about how just exercising seems to make you feel better. I don’t enjoy exercising, but when I do it, I feel so good about having done it!

  2. Suey

    Oh PS. Music helps me.. a lot. Loud, blasting music. Best in a car. With the windows down. I feel better instantly. :)

  3. Katherine @ I Wish I Lived in a Library

    That’s interesting that you’re not feeling stressed mentally and I can see where that wouldn’t be such a good thing. I need to get better about taking 10 minutes to do something I enjoy that is calming and exercise is always so beneficial. I’m intrigued by the brain sync meditations as I’m terrible at calming my mind. Get some rest and take care of yourself!

    1. Belle Wong Post author

      Thanks, Katherine! There are some free demos on the Brain Sync website. If you try them out, let me know how they work for you!

  4. Nicole @ Golightly Place

    It sounds like you’re on the right track. I experienced your exact symptoms when I was 36. It scared me so badly, because new things were tingling every day. Finally, one day as I was sitting and trying to embroider to relax, I had a huge tingling rush from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. I was really freaked out after that. But, yes, it was stress/anxiety and I have had to learn to manage it over the years. For a long time I would still get the tingling in my fingers and feet. Sometimes I’ll get it around my legs – it feels like little bugs/gnats flying around my legs – SO irritating. And to this day, when I have to say something I don’t want to say I’ll get a tingling on the very top of my head. My brother has called it my “Spidey Sense,” – alerting me to “danger!” :)

    I had other symptoms too: a numbness in my face ( I could still feel things, but it felt like my face “ought” to be numb, because if felt similar to when it had been numbed at the dentist); my tongue felt perpetually “burnt,” like when you have burned your mouth on coffee or pizza and your taste buds are gone. Those are some of the major things I remember.

    Thankfully, I don’t experience those things any more – just the head thing on occasion and the weirdness around my legs. That’s when I know I’ve taken on too much. Like you, I would not have said I was stressed and that is why it scared me. I thought the diagnosis was wrong (which led to more anxiety) because I didn’t see all that was affecting me. Looking back, though, there were many, MANY things going on in my life that I had just accepted and tried to adapt to, but my body finally said, “no more!”

    So, I had to drop a lot of things and set some pretty firm boundaries with myself and others. Because, at first I thought that because I had learned that it was stress and anxiety, I could just go back to handling everything, but I would just know that it really wasn’t anything to “worry about.” My body did not respond that way though. It was in overdrive and I began to have the tingling sensations any time I was overstimulated (such as at the science museum and Omni Theater that I took my kids to – I tingled all through the movie and on out into the museum with the crowds).

    Also, I learned that sometimes my body would react a few days AFTER a stressful event; like a delayed reaction. And it would take my body a lot longer to “come down” from it’s response than I thought it should. Meaning, in my head I was “over it,” but my body was still processing. That was a weird thing to learn, because sometimes I would have tingling symptoms and I would have to look back to the prior two or three days to see what might have triggered it. And then I would have to just not stress out about the symptoms themselves – annoying as they were – and remind myself that there was not something worse wrong with me, that the symptoms would abate in a few days.

    I say all this to say that this is common and it is real. I didn’t think that it could be as powerful as it was and found it so odd that my emotions could affect me so physically. So do pay attention and take care. Slow down when your body tells you to and consider it a gift that it is telling you, as frustrating and annoying as the symptoms are. It may be something you have all your life – even a little bit from time to time, as I do now. But at least your body gives you a “heads up” when it’s time to slow down. Not everyone is as lucky as that.

    Best wishes in your healing journey!

    1. Belle Wong Post author

      Nicole, thank you so much for this. It’s good to know that it’s does happen to others too. And the delayed reaction thing – such a good thing to know. And now that I think about it, it makes so much sense. My body’s reaction to the stress certainly didn’t happen all at once – it was very likely a gradual process, so coming down from the physical reaction isn’t going to happen immediately, either.

      I also love what you wrote about considering it a gift that my body is telling me I need to slow down. I don’t think I really paid that much attention to how I was feeling before, and this has definitely brought a new awareness into my life!

  5. Heidenkind

    I know exactly what you mean. When I get stressed I can’t eat and my acid reflux flares up fierce. During grad school I weighed 110 pounds. Yikes.

    1. Belle Wong Post author

      I have a hard time eating when I’m anxious, which is close to stress. Doesn’t happen when I’m stressed but I think it’s because I’m not actually aware I’m stressed!


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