Not to scare you or anything but….
Did you know that stress is a leading cause of premature deaths?
No matter what healthy means to you, there’s one common area that we all tend to forget about- stress management.
This is the story that started my journey to a life centered in WELLNESS.
It’s time to share why I am so passionate about this work and my mission. I am passionate about helping people learn to TAKE CARE OF THEMSELVES in the midst of taking care of their loved ones. Not just by the foods you eat and exercise, but also the MIND. WHY?
Once upon a time, a monster named “STRESS” took over my life. Stress led me to fear. Fear led me to anxiety. Anxiety led me to depression. Depression led me to a version of myself I no longer knew or wanted to be. Can you see the downward spiral?
On a POSITIVE note, I can say today I no longer suffer from full-blown anxiety attacks or depression. Life FEELS good.
However, as I am about to share, it did not always feel that way.
True Story: I used to suffer from anxiety attacks. It began in the midst of taking care of someone in my life who has a chronic condition- my sweet boy Danny, who is now 11 years old.
A few months after Danny’s 1st birthday, I remember waking up early in the morning to a seal-like barking cough. Worried, I rushed to his room to get him out of the crib. I held him in my arms and took him outside into the cool fall air to help relieve his cough and calm him down. I called my husband, who was on his way to work, to tell him that Danny had a “bad” cough. As many of you might be familiar with having children or past experience, the barking cough is known as “croup”. The croupy cough lasted a couple of nights and Danny went beck to being his fun-loving, energetic self. Little did I know that this was the beginning, and easy part, of many, many, many croupy cough episodes, which later turned into asthma attacks.
He began to have these episodes from that point on every 4 weeks, 6 weeks if we were lucky. They all lasted for days. Each episode got worse each time. There were countless nights when he would wake up and literally not be able to catch his breath. His pediatrician referred us to an Asthma/Allergy doctor. Danny was diagnosed with Asthma.
Before Danny turned 5 years old, we were in and out of doctors’ offices, emergency rooms, and admitted to the hospital at least 6 times. One of the times, he was transferred in an ambulance in the midst of an asthma attack down to CHOP for further care. We had a hard time getting his breathing under control.
We would give him his inhalers the way we were educated. But it felt like NOTHING was working.
Watching your child suffer is one of the hardest things for a parent. One of my worst fears was the possibility of him dying in the midst of an asthma attack. This fear of losing him started to take its toll on me. I began to let STRESS, FEAR, and ANXIETY take over my life.
Lack of proper stress management and mental health self-care led to full-blown anxiety attacks and depression. I had anxiety attacks while I was driving, having to pull over on the side of the road because I felt like I was floating and going to crash my car into something. They happened at the grocery store, or while taking care of my kids doing simple tasks. I began to isolate myself because I felt like there was something wrong with me. This lead to feeling depressed. The depression affected my relationship with my husband and my kids. You can see the domino effect and how it ultimately can affect one’s quality of life.
Along with these anxiety attacks and feeling depressed I found myself getting sick more and more often, I felt fatigued all the time, and I had pain in my back and joints. I was so busy taking care of everyone else that I forgot to take care of myself. My body was SCREAMING at me to take some time for self-care. Mental self-care. I was emotionally drained and stressed out.
The saddest part was, and I am so embarrassed to admit this, but I began to resent my OWN CHILD. I thought, What mother would resent her own child? This poor kid was suffering….I am so selfish. I think I started to resent my own child because it was not the idea of what I thought being a mother and having a child was “supposed” to be. I reached an all time low one evening when I began to hear my son cough, and cough, and cough, in his bed in the middle of the night. I worried that he would have another asthma attack that I could not mentally deal with. I was NUMB and STUCK. I thought to myself, maybe it would be easier if I just packed a bag and left. I wanted to disappear because I had NO CONTROL over his health or the situation.
I felt guilty. Like I wasn’t doing ENOUGH. I felt like a bad mom. I felt ALONE even though I was surrounded by my amazing, supportive family. I’m sure some of you reading this can relate and know what an awful feeling it is.
While it was happening, I kept it to myself because I thought there are so many people who have it worse. There are families that have children with terminal diseases. “You shouldn’t be complaining Katie. It’s ok. You are ok.” But, keeping it to myself and not reaching out for help made it worse.
I want to clarify. I am not blaming my anxiety attacks and depression on my son.
Here IS where I am going to play the blame game: I am blaming it on the lack of my own mental health awareness and lack of self-care that I oh so needed while taking care of a loved one with a chronic health issue. I didn’t know what I needed at the time.
I’m not sharing this story because I want people to feel bad for me. I am thankfully on the other side. I am sharing this story because maybe someone else is in the middle of a story like this. Know that you are not alone. If you are “stuck,” start small, and try just ONE new thing to start to reduce your stress.
When I realized how stuck in the stress cycle I was, the one thing I tried was practicing THANKFULNESS and GRATITUDE.
It may sound silly. Like, how can being grateful change your life? But it DID. It did not happen over night. It took time and consistency. It re-wired my brain in a good way. I changed my focus from negativity- worrying about the next episode and allowing stress to take over- to positivity, focusing on the present when things were going well, and being grateful for those times. If I hadn’t made that switch, I would be in a completely different place right now. It sounds a bit dramatic, but I think I might be in a psychiatric ward.
As Willie Nelson said, “Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start to have positive results.”
Managing your stress levels is key to your health and wellbeing. Self-care is not for the weak or sissies. It is a necessity if you want to PREVENT illnesses (mental or physical) and/or flare-ups with chronic conditions.
I am going to give ONE and only tip for stress in this newsletter because I feel that PASSIONATE about it. I could give you 10, but I am going to give one for now. ONE to focus on if you are in need of nixing the negative and being kinder to yourself.
My ONE and ONLY Tip:
Practice GRATITUDE. 5 minutes a day. Replace scrolling on Facebook or social media for five minutes in the morning, mid day, or evening with gratitude. Find what works for you. When you do it consistently like any new healthy habit you are trying to create, you might see a difference. If you are skeptical, I get it. However, I challenge you to slow down your busy life and give it a try. Yah never know.
Journal it! Carry a small wallet sized notebook in your purse, or put a journal next to your bed for morning time or nighttime. It literally takes less than five minutes. Your mind begins to focus on all the wonderful things going on in your life instead of the default toxic negative stuff.
Or try this new app that I literally just found a few days ago. It’s called Grateful: A Gratitude Journal. It asks you two questions and you can upload a picture from your phone with it. It really seals in the deal of gratitude and has you looking forward to life instead of again focusing on ALL THE NEGATIVE stuff we CANNOT control in life. I’m sure there are more apps out there, let me know if you’ve found some that work in managing stress!
Right now, I am so GRATEFUL to all of you who read this story. It was a tough one to tell. Part of me wanted to stick to the surface, just sharing the tips I have learned through my training. But for all of us, it is important to link our WHY with our wellness journey in order to truly be successful. This was my WHY.
If you would like 9 more easy tips on how to reduce stress, check out 10 Easy Ways to Reduce Stress.
If you are looking for more help in the day to day so that you can be a healthier version of yourself to grow, please schedule your complimentary WELLNESS Breakthrough Session.