The first time I’ve experienced stress-induced pain in my body was during college. My grandpa had just moved into a retirement home. So, we spent the next weekend getting his appartment ready to be rented out again. We were just ripping out the carpet when I felt a sudden sharp pain spreading across my left shoulder. I didn’t think much about it at first. The tomboy I am I was used to having light injuries here and there. But soon, I realized that this pain was different.
The pain would come in waves. Some days I didn’t feel anything while on other days I could hardly sit up straight without an uncomfortable tingling sensation underneath my left shoulder blade.
Over the course of the next months (and then years) I would see different doctors and spine specialist getting anyhting from injections to massages and correcting practices. I went to yoga classes (sitting still in meditation was especially troublesome) and did deep stretching. Nothing seemed to help.
I realized that the pain would get worse if I was incredibly stressed and even go away when I was relaxed (two weeks on vacay and I didn’t feel a thing). At one point, I was so fed up by it all that I just didn’t care about it anymore and got used to it (it’s astonishing how easily adaptable our bodies are).
Finishing college, moving + starting a business in one year can be a little bit much
The second time stress manifested in my body was when I finished college, moved to another city and in with my bodyfriend, and decided to become self-employed. Back then I didn’t think this was much or would somehow affect my body. Growing up in a very pushy environment, rest was something for the lazy and a ‘work hard’-mentality was praised. In my mind I thought this was normal and something you had to to if you wanted to become someone.
Looking back at it now, I’m not surprised at my body’s reaction. Those were a hella lot of changes just in one year. Enough to let one’s adrenals go through the roof.
Suddenly, I would get the baddest stomach and gut cramps. I felt crazy bloated no matter what I ate and drank. First, I thought it was the water brand my bodyfriend had at his house. But then it also started to happen when I ate different things and even drank the water I was used to before. All kinds of possible causes were running through my head and at one time I was certain that it must some kind of food intolerance or allergy.
I was certain that I must have food allergies
I soon saw myself, the ever healthy person that never even missed a day in school, running to different doctor appointments and undergoing all kinds of allergy tests. I even got a coloscopy. To be honest, deep down I knew I was perfectly healthy (at least on a physical level) but my body continued to behave differently.
All the test results came back negative. Additionally, I could eat and drink everything without a symptom at all when I was away from home. But as soon as I came back to Germany, the pain would return. Sometimes it was so bad that I could barely eat anything anymore, felt constantly bloated, not hungry, and in return totally drained.
I don’t know how many doctors I went to. I just remember one telling me I should be happy that the only thing I’m able to stomach well are veggies, fish, and chicken as other people would wish to only be able to eat that way. Can you imagine how I felt after I left his praxis? Like a pretender who was just making everything up to steal away his valuable time from the patients that really needed his help.
But it also got me thinking. What if he was right? What if I was actually making all this up? If you’ve been following me for a while, you probably read about my past struggle with my body and how I never felt skinny enough. Maybe my body was reacting this way when I ate certain foods because I subconsciously labeled them as bad (or fattening)?
So even though this doctor rubbed me the wrong way, I also have to thank him hindsight because he finally openend my eyes of what was really going on.
When my ear went deaf one afternoon, I knew something had to change
The next time, stress manifested in my body was when I started working for a yoga studio as their head of marketing. The boss was so demanding that I was up on my feet 24/7 to make sure to get everything done. Suddenly, my carotid artery began incontrollably pulsing. Something I’ve only experienced in high school in my eye lids before. To make matters even worse, I had a ringing noise in my ears all the time that one time caused on of my ears to go deaf while out on a run with Roman. Can you imagine how panicked I felt?!
You are probably thinking now why is she telling me about all these illnesses? It’s because I want to make you aware that some painful sensations in your body do not alway stem from physical resources. There have more to do with your mental condition and how you deal with the daily stressors in your life.
Because yes, high levels of stress for an extented period of time will manifest in your body! These stressors can be anything from work-related matters to prolonged periods of high intensity exercise without proper recovery. We are living in such a high-paced world where so many things are constantly requiring our attention. No wonder we are experiencing anxiety, sleeplessness, hormonal, digestive issues. and so much more.
Too much stress leads to physical reactions in the body
Ongoing, chronic stress causes chronic pain and sickness. As well as your brain becoming fatigued when working overtime. Sometimes I even get a sore throat out of the blue that is gone two days later. This happens when I stress myself out so much that my body sees no other way to get my attention.
To lower my cortisol levels I had to overhaul my lifestyle big time. I thought I lived healthy before but taking a closer look, I had simply overdone it (the type-A personality I am). I would set my timer for 5 a.m. everyday to squeeze a workout in before work (preferably something like a tough HIIT workout) and usually planned on doing another crazy sweat session after work. Thankfully, I was too tired most times. But then I would feel bad about skipping it and unwinding with a glass of wine instead.
And then there was food I was constantly stressing about. No, I can’t eat this or that because it’s high in carbohydrates or this that or the other. And don’t get me started on work. I put so much stress on myself to get my company up and running that I denied myself any downtime. Weekends started to stress me out as much as going on vacay (something I enjoyed so much before). With the result that I found myself in a vicious cycle of constant hustling and negative self talk.
I knew it was time to slam the breaks if I didn’t want to suffer from something more severe in the future.
My morning HIIT sessions were replaced by soothing walks and Yoga
Slowly but steadily, I took the pressure off of myself and replaced my morning HIIT with long walks around the blog, a gentle yoga flow or some stretching. I soon felt how my body started to relax. I was not so tired throughout the day anymore and had more energy to tackle all my tasks. I still got my workout in but only in ways that felt good without the need to push myself to the limit. This took some adjustment on a mental level but soon the feel-good feeling replaced any internal doubt about my new fitness routine.
I also introduced more outdoor workouts into my life finding lots of joy and calmness on hour-long hikes, paddleboarding or bike tours. Being active while connecting with nature became my new found pleasure.
Now two years into this new healthy lifestyle, I still find myself triggered every now and then. Be it because of an Insta post I see or because old belief patterns slowly creep back into my head. Then I say to myself that I’m not that girl anymore that obsesses over looks and forces her body to take on a certain shape but uses fitness and food to feel good.
The road to more calmness can be a long one
Work-wise I still struggle to find my ground. Being locked away and with co-working spaces only being partially attractive now, surely doens’t help. I’m trying to meet a friend for coffee at least once a week and connect as much as possible to other people working from home. It helps to exchange thoughts as well as challenges we all deal with.
I know that there is still a long road ahead of me but knowing I’m on the right path keeps me motivated to get up and try my best each day. One day, I’m certain, the stress-induced pains one after the other will finally leave my body for good.