I got a headache yesterday from stress. One of those, you’re talking too loud, the lights are too bright, almost-migraine headaches where all you want to do is lay down in a dark space and close your eyes. I was in physical pain and the only person to blame was me.
I kept telling myself to relax, breathe, everything was going to work out. But for some reason my stress levels kept going up and up and up. That muscle near my left shoulder blade was so tense it felt like I had been throwing a left-handed pitch all day.
My decision making suffered, the work I had to do scattered into a million tiny tasks I felt I couldn’t possibly conquer, and every little annoyance was magnified into an unapproachable mess. There’s nowhere to park? HOW CAN THIS BE HAPPENING?
The day started off like any other. Eleven o’ clock rolled around and I got a text message, “Are you almost here?” Almost there? No, I thought I had to be there at 12:45 p.m. Snowball packed. Rushing to get to my next appointment, snowball grows. No parking, snowball picks up speed. No time to eat, snowball starts destructively taking out innocent bystanders. Flight cancelled and rebooked to the wrong destination, snowball is huge and moving with such speed and force that all hope is smashed. And thus, the headache.
The thing is, I’m fine. Everything turned out. Nothing catastrophic occurred. Nobody even got upset. I’m on a plane headed to my correct destination, albeit 18 hours later, but hey, it ain’t that bad.
But still, I struggled through the entire day. By not taking care of my body, every issue was amplified. That term “hangry” isn’t just a fun colloquial term. We don’t function properly when we are dehydrated or lack a healthy meal. The most basic fuel we need to be successful is food. Not over-processed, nutrient-deficient, “food”… real food (and water!).
My day would have played out differently if I had just remembered to comfort the kid in me.
Over the years I’ve taught kids from ages 2-12 various skills like speaking English, swimming, and skiing. Teaching kids ended up teaching me an invaluable lesson, stress is born from basic needs not being met. If a child started to cry there were five questions I always asked to quickly get to the root of the problem.
- Are you hungry?
- Are you thirsty?
- Do you need to go to the potty?
- Are you scared?
- Are you cold/hot?
The answer was almost always yes to one or more of these five questions. Although we feel like we’re decades past the issue of needing to go to the potty, we all still have these basic needs to meet; physical comfort and security are not to be undervalued.
If you aren’t able to talk yourself out of negative thoughts or stress levels rising, you might try asking yourself these five questions. Yesterday I was hungry, thirsty, and scared that I was letting someone down. No wonder I couldn’t be comforted by my constant self-reminders to relax.
Sometimes days get stressful. It happens. We get caught up and we feel like the situation is out of our control. But it’s almost never out of our control. True catastrophe is one thing. Running late, failing to close a deal, or missing a deadline is another. The most proactive way to avoid stress (and stress-borne illness) is actually quite simple. Take care of yourself. Don’t be hangry. Be happy.