Stress Effects On Your Health

Stress evolved to help us avoid danger. So, it’s meant to be a quick burst of energy. No more. Today, stress is everywhere, every day, and it, ironically, creates a new kind of danger.

Every life event and change comes with some stress. Graduating. Getting a new job. Getting married. Getting divorced. Having a baby. Moving. Retiring. Most of the time it’s not the stress that creates the problem, it’s how you react to it that makes the difference. Your reaction to each event in your life can have a positive or negative impact, be a pro or con. It’s all a matter of mindset.

My Experiences

As I’ve learned, the duration of the stress can affect you too. How? It can threaten sleep, weight, patience, hormone balance, immune system, thinking, and memory. Those issues are all important, but sleep is the most important in a healthy life. Interestingly enough, those effects also impact your longevity and propensity to Alzheimer’s. You just never know what’s going to introduce stress to your life.

Over time, I’ve learned which situations raise my stress levels and have worked to modify the situation to moderate my stress. For example, I created my own style of scheduling my day. The traditional approach of entering into your calendar an activity or appointment in a specific time on a specific day didn’t work for me. I found I actually got more done and felt better about my accomplishments when I created Fluid Scheduling, a blend of mind mapping, to do list, and prioritizing the action. The only things I scheduled for a particular date and time were appointments.

Yes, some things do have to happen at a specific time. Those get entered into a set time. Otherwise, I have my To Do list to record three things that need to get done that day prioritized, and I flow through my day with my stress low and my productivity high. Perfect!

Recently I saw just how stress can engulf you before you recognize how strong and pervasive it can become. From that situation I learned how important it is to manage stress and what can happen if we don’t.

My Life Turned Upside Down

My husband and I decided we had to move from our home of 20 years. We had designed and supervised the construction of this house and its myriad improvements. And we weren’t just moving to another house, we were moving to a residential cruise ship. We wouldn’t need very much, and wouldn’t have space for much either. What a challenge!

I’d been decluttering for a few years and had made great progress, but this move showed me how much we yet had to do. When we listed the house the Realtor predicted it would take anywhere from six to 18 months to sell. Good, that gave us time to really cull through our things and dispose of them so others could make use of them. But even then, the pressure was on to clear our lives from the home. The first thing I noticed deteriorating was my sleep quality.

Well, the projected schedule was reduced to four months. We accepted an offer just two months after we listed the house. The buyers wanted a quick closing so they gave us a month. We knew we needed more time. Fortunately, the buyers moved the closing date out another month, giving us the time we needed, or so we thought. Really, we needed at least another month. The pressure built and as my stress went up my sleep quality down.

With a quick deadline to get so much accomplished, I gradually abandoned my various health routines. I quit walking through my forest, figuring I’d be doing so much walking while decluttering. Then I stopped riding my stationary bike. Meditation became a catch-as-catch-can event. Meals were eaten on the run. Even my hydration became erratic. Sleep became sketchy with my brain racing, often in the middle of the night, through lists of things I needed to do, worrying about what I might forget, and so many more things. My weight started to increase. My thinking got foggy.

The ship we had chosen for our home was scheduled to leave from Ft. Lauderdale on December 1. That was two months after our house closing so we decided to use that time to drive around the US to say bye to some of our friends and family. Planning the tour was added to the already busy days.

Different Stressful Experiences

The planning required diverse packing situations: packing for the road trip, packing for the new home situation, and packing everything else to rid our house of what was left. We had decided to not keep anything in storage because we didn’t want the expense of the storage unit nor the effective anchor of those things.

Getting rid of 99% of your possessions is a challenge. Whew! The one stress release I had was that the buyers said we could leave anything we couldn’t get rid of. And my muddled thinking kept me from renting a dumpster to help get rid of things! I wasn’t happy about leaving so much, but with the tight schedule it was unavoidable; the only way we could meet their deadline. It sure was a relief once the move was complete.

It turns out driving around the country with your car loaded to the gills is stressful too. Sleeping in a different bed almost every night, eating strange foods, sitting for long hours, and trying to maintain some semblance of a work schedule all added to the stress load. Road food is unhealthy anyway, so sugar and alcohol snuck into the mix. My weight kept going up.

And The Other Shoe Dropped

Three weeks into the road trip we got word that the ship’s schedule was delayed – by eight months. Eight Months! We considered what to do. Should we cruise? Expand the road trip? Settle down somewhere?

We chose the later. It would give us time to de-stress from the move and the driving. But where? We had gotten rid of our deep-winter clothes along with everything else so the new location had to have a mild climate. No worries, we had time to think about our living options.

When we visited Las Vegas, which was supposed to be for a few days, we realized it was relaxing, the weather was mild, and we had friends there. We found a furnished apartment with a direct view of The Sphere, a 366-foot high globe with projection screens inside and out. It’s become like my fireplace – a mesmerizing and ever-changing amusement to watch and relax by.

Getting back into healthy habits took more time than I’d hoped. We loaded up with healthy food, started exercising, slept better, and slowly started releasing stress. Well, we tried to stick to a routine. It took much longer than I thought it would.


The Everchanging Sphere

Part of the stress I hadn’t addressed was mourning my losses. My cat, my labyrinth, and my beloved home and land. Once I took care of that, my life started to settle into a pleasant and valuable routine. I could focus again. I felt productive, I felt happier.

I have a lot of weight to lose. I have belly fat like I’ve never had before, something I know is critical to work off. Belly fat is probably the most unhealthy fat you can have. It’s a reflection of hormone changes and visceral fat deposits. I had some blood work done to help me see how much damage was created. I also did a spit test for a different look at my health. I can see the damage on the outside so getting a picture of the damage on the inside is important.

What I learned was that my heart-health blood markers were elevated, raising my risk for Type 2 Diabetes and cardiovascular issues. I aged five to six years, as gauged by Function Health and Tally Health age tests. Add all of that to feeling of my muscles being full of water, limiting my movement, I’m concerned for my longevity. Time to reduce the stress and learn better coping mechanisms. And gain back those years!

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