Needless to say, this month has been exhausting. Battling sinuses, rib fractures, and fevers left me feeling depleted and frustrated. The first time ever in my marathon training I thought, “What if I can’t run”? It brought on a whole new level of anxiety and I wanted to get to the bottom of why I was questioning myself and succumbing to fear.
I’ve heard of professional athletes receiving not only physical therapy but psychological therapy as well when they are out from an injury. I can understand this as the sport is their professional livelihood and when one feels like they can’t provide, he can fall into emotional turmoil. But what about the rest of us? I’m certainly no professional and barely fit into amateur status, where in reality I’m a hobbyist. I do sports for the health aspects and for the fun of it. Yes, I enjoy tormenting myself physically to a certain threshold of sweat and pain. I like competing, not for the sake of winning or achieving a personal best each time, but to give myself a pat on the back for once again setting and pursuing a goal I set and I’m pretty damn proud when I achieve it. So when I felt the feelings that I may in fact fail, my whole being physically and emotionally went off track. I even contribute this irrational fear as a reason to why my body’s immune system became weakened.
Here’s what stress physically does to the body:
- Low energy
- Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
- Aches, pains, and tense muscles
- Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
- Frequent colds and infections
- Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
- Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear
- Cold or sweaty hands and feet
- Excess sweating
- Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
- Clenched jaw and grinding teeth
And here are some emotional reactions to stress:
- Becoming easily agitated, frustrated and moody
- Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control
- Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
- Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem), lonely, worthless
- Avoiding others
NO FREAKING WONDER I FELT LOUSEY!
Here are some action steps that helped me reduce stress:
- Keeping a positive attitude.
- Accepting that there are events that I cannot control.
- Practicing relaxation techniques daily through meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga.
- Eating healthy, well-balanced meals.
- Learning to manage my time more effectively.
- Getting enough rest and sleep.
- Identifying the sources of stress. In my opinion, I had one too many commitments (moving, learning a new environment, establishing a new career, trying to make new friends, parties, traveling, training for a marathon and cross-training, etc) and felt fatigued and irritable.
- Talking it out. Ahem, my blog 🙂
- Taking time for myself. Unfortunately, I didn’t recognize the symptoms before my breaking point at which point I was forced to take time to nurture myself. In hindsight, rest days are OK and ESSENTIAL for self-recovery and optimal physical and emotional function.
After I “allowed” myself a full week’s recovery (also while enjoying a fabulous Valentine’s weekend in Paris), I’ve decided to put my rebuilding energy into re-focusing my purpose and recognizing my accomplishments to date!
Here are my steps to re-focus my goals:
1. Go back to my original marathon goal and either recommit or alter to make it more realistic. The biggest reason for failure is setting a lofty goal that is not measurable. My marathon finish goal time is 4:30.
2. Schedule my workouts for the remainder of training over the next 7 weeks. Physically putting my workouts into my calendar will help me stay committed and focused.
3. Be sure to get enough sleep and integrating a bedtime ritual each evening. For example, I will begin to commit to not using my cell phone at least 1 hour before I go to bed.
4. Reassess my social commitments. See where I can ask for help, and where I can start to say No.
5. Am I still loving it? If I’m not loving what I’m doing, then I won’t follow through.
Do you recognize your symptoms of stress? What are some of your tactics to treat it?