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Stress Denial

How denying stress, affected my health

Image by Ian Espinosa

I woke up one day last year feeling nauseous. I remember getting on the commuter bus that day feeling as if I had a hangover. Except, I hadn’t had a drop of alcohol. I decided to take a nap in the bus in hopes of feeling a bit better. And indeed, it helped.

At the time I didn’t think much of it. I figured this was one of those rare things that happen just once. Boy, was I wrong. This was actually the first of many, many days that I’d wake up feeling this way. As the days went by, not only did I feel nauseous, I also had re-developed old digestive issues that I had already addressed and reversed.

When I started to keep track of what was actually causing it, I realized that on those days when I felt nauseous in the morning, I hadn’t slept well. As the months progressed, my sleep issues got worse. There were days when I was only getting 2 to 3 hours of sleep. It didn’t matter how much of a sleep routine I had, or the fact that I meditated before going to bed, or that I had double blackout curtains in my bedroom. NOTHING helped. 

I knew what was causing it, but I was in complete denial. The job I had at the time, which I loved because it was in an industry that I truly wanted to learn about, was the source of my lack of sleep. I had taken on too many responsibilities and never learned to say “no”. Not only that, but the dynamics of the management, (a situation which was completely out of my control) were causing me even more stress. There was a lot of uncertainty. Changes that seemed unnecessary. People that were quitting for strange reasons, etc.

I loved working for my boss. He reminded me a lot of my dad and I kept thinking that I needed to take care of him. This weird sense of loyalty kept me from looking at this from the perspective that I needed to take care of myself too. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to take care of anyone else. I finally came to my senses on a particularly stressful day. I came home and told my husband “something HAS to change, I can’t continue going like this.” 

Around that time, someone approached me about a management job closer to home. I hesitated at accepting it, but I finally did. As the days were approaching for me to leave that job, I developed a weird pain on the bottom part of my foot, right after my boss spoke to me about not leaving, trying his best to make my job situation better by working at one of the other locations which was maybe 15 minutes closer to home (but it would still be a 2 hour commute). As tempted as I was to say yes, I turned the offer down, not even the raise he offered me was enough for me to stay. I knew my health was going downhill. 

After my last day of work at that company, I came home and slept soundly for twelve hours. It wasn’t until THAT moment, that I realized I had taken the right step and I have never had any issues with sleep since then. The weird pain in my foot disappeared after about three weeks at my new company. Every time I would think about my last job, the thought “I can’t walk away” would crawl into my head. It took me three weeks to realize that I had indeed walked away and that I was not going back. Now that the dust has settled and I’m feeling like myself again, I can look back and see the warning signs that I had ignored.

During the time that I was there, I forgot:

WE CAN ALWAYS SAY NO

While at this job, I took on responsibilities that other people wouldn’t take, even though it was their job.  I was an Executive Assistant to C-Level executives and had done such a good job at managing their itineraries, that I was asked to be the one managing the trips for the whole sales team. Expense reports? No problem, let me also take on the ones for the whole sales team. A new software needs to be implemented to handle all travel and expense reports? Sure, let me manage the implementation (and so on). I never once said that magic word that would have taken the stress off… NO. 

OUR FEARS ARE PROBABLY NOT BASED IN REALITY

I had so many fears while working there: That I’d wake up one day and not have a job. That my boss would have a heart attack and I wouldn’t know what to do. That if I said no to another task, I would get fired, etc. In looking back, not speaking up was the biggest issue and the one that made the most damage to my health. And then the fear of “not being able to walk away” was a silly thought as well. And if I had been let go? It would have probably been a blessing. 

WE ALWAYS HAVE A CHOICE

I was fortunate to be approached about a job. All my interviews were done around my schedule. Not once did people at my old job know that I was actually looking for another opportunity. Had this job not knocked on my door, I would have had to look elsewhere on my own. Thankfully for me, when the opportunity knocked I was ready to choose. Don’t forget however, that if facing a situation in which your health, family and relationships are at stake because of a job, you ALWAYS have the choice to walk away.

The problem with me is that I rationalized staying there. On one hand, I left because I knew that the new opportunity “probably” couldn’t be as bad (it’s great, actually). During the time I was there, I ALMOST lost myself, my health and my sanity. If you are in a position like this and your health is being impacted by whatever situation you have in front of you, you may need to be honest with yourself and see what changes you need to make. Ask yourself whether or not the thing that you are trading for your health is worth it. Is it stability? Is it looking good? Is it an overblown sense of loyalty? Is it believing that you won’t be able to find something better? 

Even though I’m a health coach and if I were talking to myself I would have talked myself into leaving sooner. The lesson that I learned from this is that even the best of us can make this mistake. We shouldn’t second-guess our bodies telling us that it’s time to go.


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