Trying to improve my life

Stressed Out! (Part 1): How stress has affected my life

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Stress is insidious. It creeps up on you little by little so that you don’t necessarily realize what is happening. For me it started out with one symptom, and it was easy to dismiss that symptom and attribute it to something else. Finally it ended up with me feeling as if I were going to pass out while being on the train. That’s when I knew I was in trouble and needed to seek a doctor’s care.

Stress is the body’s response to a change in its environment that requires a modification or reaction. The response can be emotional, physical or mental. Not all stress is bad, for example, it can help to keep a person alert in a potentially dangerous situation. But stress can have negative effects on the body if the incidents are prolonged and a person doesn’t experience any relief.

According to the American Medical Association stress is the basic cause of about 60% of illnesses. Upwards of 75% of doctors visits are for stress related issues and stress is the number one proxy killer disease.

A few years ago I cut my hair into a fade. I didn’t wear protective styles because I wanted to “experience” my hair; watch it grow, try different hair styles, etc… After a year of wearing it out I had barely 3 inches of growth. This was unusual because my hair normally grew very fast. I wasn’t sure what was going on and attributed it to having my hands in my hair too much and aging. But stress can cause hair to fall out. Alopecia areata causes the white blood cells to attack the hair follicles, which in turns stops the hair from growing and causes it to fall out. There are thought to be many factors that can cause AA, which may be hereditary, including extreme stress. AA, in its first stages, is characterized by small, round bald patches on healthy looking scalp. Telogen effluvium is triggered by stress, causing large amounts of growing hairs to enter a resting phase. Eventually the affected person would see their hair fall out.

My hair in a fade/twa.

My hair in a fade/twa.

My hair in a twa.

My hair in a twa.

Looking back, my first signs of stress were grinding my teeth and upset stomach. When I started seeing my dentist he told me that the wear pattern on my teeth was for someone much older and suggested that I use a guard at night. There were times when I awoke with my jaw clenched and my teeth grinding together. This caused me to develop TMD or temporomandibular disorder. The temporomandibular joint is what connects the lower jaw to the bone of the skull. This joint allows the jaw to move so that one can talk, chew or yawn. TMD is caused by problems with the jaw joint, jaw or muscles used to chew or move the jaw. One of the things that may cause TMD is grinding the teeth or clenching the jaw, which stress can cause a person to do. TMD sufferers can experience short-term or long-term (it can last for years) effects. Also, I began to experience excessive bouts of upset stomach. At first I blamed it on eating bad food too late at night or just aging. I also began seeing a chiropractor because the muscles in my shoulders and back were so tight that it made it difficult to sit for long periods of time.

I got used to the pain and discomfort. These symptoms became normal; a way of life. I lived with it, like a lot of people do. But the stress kept piling on and my health became worse. In 2010 my mother passed away. I gained 40 pounds that year, yet another sign of stress. After that things got really bad. I began waking up with my heart racing. I also started sweating. I would be in my apartment in the morning, no sun in the sky, moderate heat, and sweating like I was outside on a 95 degree day. I would get on the train and feel like I was going to pass out. There were several times when I would have to actually get off the train.

Stress also affects how you sleep. I became a raging insomniac. I couldn’t get into a good sleep pattern no matter what I tried. When I did sleep I wasn’t fully falling asleep. There were times when my eyes would be open, I was registering what was happening in the room but I could hear myself snoring away. Due to a lack of sleep I found it hard to concentrate on even small tasks. Things that should have taken a minimal amount of time began taking hours to complete.

I went to see my doctor for a full physical. I was diagnosed with a condition but several of the symptoms I was having didn’t fit with that disease. She began running several test and I was eventually diagnosed with anxiety and having panic attacks.

Signs that you may maybe stressed out

Elevated heartbeat and breathing


Upset stomach including diarrhea and nausea


Back pain



Grinding teeth

Weight gain

Skin conditions

What can you do to combat stress?

Umm… maybe it’s time to go see a doctor and have a physical done. Really talk to your doctor about any pain, discomfort, or abnormalities that you are experiencing.

My doctor taught me a breathing technique and suggested that I carry cold water with me, especially on the train. She said that cold water can help calm a person down. She encouraged me to try yoga and stretch several times a day. I also have to lose a lot of weight.

If you’re seeing problems with your hair, skin, or nails you might want to start with a complete physical by your doctor.


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This entry was posted on October 11, 2013 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , .
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