Where Stress Hides

The past few weeks have been a lot. I won’t go into detail because despite this being a personal blog, the events of the past few weeks are simply a little too personal and too close to home to want to share in their full detail. Needless to say, I have been stressed and likely more so than I have in years. At times, it’s easy to forget that stress is a biological response not just a psychic phantom. The body responds to stress poorly and I think we tend to forget that when we ache and feel rundown while being under constant pressure. 

I wanted to explore what was feeling and I hope that in sharing and being vulnerable that you all take a moment to think about the stress in your life and how it’s affecting you. With that being said, here is where I felt my stress the most. 

My Stomach

Nausea, loss of appetite, increased appetite, food being unappealing

I won’t go into gruesome details here but when people say that you “trust your gut” part of that is because your stomach is a vital part of the system that stress can impact. The past few weeks have been marred with upset stomachs, wanting to eat everything in sight, wanting to eat nothing at all and just generally not feeling well. I remember feeling similarly when my mother passed away and being shocked because I simply hadn’t correlated the shock and trauma of losing my mother as a contributing factor to my then deteriorating health. I’ve been able to feel better by eating when I’m hungry, drinking water and the occasional ginger candy but I’m still working hard to handle my messed up gut biome. 

My Head

Headaches, dizziness, vertigo

I’m not usually a headache sufferer, only when my blood pressure is too high. So with the recent swaths of severe light-sensitive headaches that can’t be linked to high blood pressure I had to assume that of course, it was the stress. I would get dizzy if I stood too quickly and had to bury under the blankets to avoid light (a perfect place for a depressed person) and I exhausted almost all of my cold compresses just to keep the feeling of blood rushing in between my ears at bay. 

My Back

Back pain, stiffness

When I’m stressed out I don’t tend to move. I’ll post up in one place and remain there until a biological function usually forces me to move. I stay in that one uncomfortable place for so long that my already ailing back typically grows sore from having to keep  me either hunched over, sitting in some kind of impossible twist or laying down in the most inelegant position humanly possible. 

My Mind

Insomnia, fatigue, racing thoughts, obsessive thoughts, negative self-talk

The brain is a cruel hunk of tissue sometimes. The worst part about having mental health issues is knowing that you’d never let your friends talk to themselves the way you talk to yourself. I’m fortunate that I’ve had a network of friends and family propping me up and motivating me and reminding me that I am not a sad miserable slug who doesn’t deserve happiness and I’d truly be lost without them. It was the fatigue I couldn’t deal with at first then the fact that once I tried to sleep that I just couldn’t. Fortunately, I’m on medicine for that now and my nights can be somewhat restful albeit very artificially but I can sleep even if it is often dreamless and rarely restful. 

The last few weeks have been hard. The state of the world is…well, it is, my personal life is not what it was and I am nostalgic for a version of my home, my family and myself that likely truly never existed. But in thinking about all the ways stress impacts me and my choices and my body I’ve been working hard to be more mindful and intentional about the choices I make. And in that mindfulness, I have been able to get much more done: like finishing up this blog post. 

Taking Care of and Treating the Self

“Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your your spirit it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” -Eleanor Brownn.png

This has been a difficult small eternity, hasn’t it been? And I don’t say that to make light of the serious nonsense that’s been going on in the U.S. and abroad I say that to tell all of you that I am just as stressed out as many of you are.

But with that in mind, I wanted to talk about self-care and how I do my best to manage our current garbage fire of a world.

For those unaware: self-care is a series of actions, rituals and practices that help improve one’s own mental health. It’s become quite the buzzword recently and with the rise of “treat yo self” culture, it’s one of many things appropriated from those with chronic mental illness and conflated with simply being immature, irresponsible, selfish  and reckless. True self-care shouldn’t be damaging, put you in a financial lurch or be entirely disastrous to one’s health or usual routine and it isn’t an excuse to be a jerk and shun personal responsibilities to oneself and to others.

I’m far from a paragon of mental health, longtime readers I’m sure are aware with my struggles with depression, anxiety and more. But I offer these tips as:

  1. An insight into my semi-chaotic mind and world.
  2. Genuine advice for those curious about the world of self-care.

Here are a few of the ways I take care of myself after a long day, week, month or year.


I Get Witchy

Many readers have noticed my predilection towards the supernatural. I can’t help it, I was born Roman Catholic. But I’ve always been vaguely magical. From ghosts to hauntings to ritual, I’ve been drawn to the world of magic and spirituality for years now. I found crystals recently and while I’m far from a basic witch who thinks crystals can cure cancer (they cannot, please see actual doctors) I do take some solace in my crystals. I know it’s psychosomatic, but so is aromatherapy so don’t come @ me. I’ve always enjoyed rituals so lighting some incense, wafting over my crystals and myself and doing a little tarot is a lovely way to unwind: I still walk into Catholic churches and still do at times take in the eucharist but I have never seen Catholicism as a religious entirely separate from paganism. My Catholicism is at home with tarot, incense, crystals.


I Get Beautiful

I have very low self-esteem despite being strangely vain and concerned about my looks. I have pores you could land a plane on. I have acne scars because of self-mutilation behaviors and eczema. I am chubby and short and I am unhappy with my body. But I am still incredibly vain. And in that displeasure with my cursed meat shell, I do what I can to make myself feel pretty. I love masks, I love serums, I love makeup. I love my fit and flare dresses and my dusty pink wardrobe. I do things that help me feel a little bit prettier.


I Enjoy Something Wholesome

Every Saturday morning for the past several months, I wake up early (well, I’m always up early) and I spend an hour in the morning before I get up and leave to start my day watching a magpie and her owner on Periscope. It’s wholesome, relaxing, funny and sweet. The bird is adorable, her owner is attentive and answers all the questions the folks in the livestream have about his beautiful bird and the weather in England and which biscuits are the best (we disagree on Oreos). The world for many of us is a hot garbage fire and social media is hard to do. The 24-hour news cycle is exhausting and it seems like everything is awful everywhere. But for an hour every Saturday, I get to watch things be okay for an hour. I have an entire list of videos and television shows I can watch to avoid feeling anything too much. I try to, during the darker times, to watch things that I know may trigger an emotional episode (something a few friends of mine have lovingly called “dead parent approved” or “not dead parent approved”). Wholesome things include, kittens, sloths, The Mameshiba theme song and the like. Not to say I don’t still watch things that challenge me (see my long post about watching BoJack Horseman despite it hurting me emotionally every single time I watch it) but if I’ve already had a rough week, there’s no point in making things worse needlessly by opting to watch something stressful.


I Do Something (Important)

The world is a hot dumpster fire in many places and that is overwhelming and exhausting, but it’s important to turn disillusion into action. I do what I can when I can. I educate those who wish to listen. I vote on matters that are pressing to me. I continue to express what I feel and educate myself when needed.


I Do Something (Frivolous)

There are plenty of instances where doing something big just isn’t appropriate or needed but that doesn’t mean I like to stay inactive. Especially considering how insidious the negative voices in your head can be, it’s important to seek out others. I sit on calls, I go out to the mall, I go for a walk in the park. I do my best to do something. Many will recall how I use Pokemon Go to sometimes help me get out of my apartment and get some air.


I Indulge (Unfortunately)

A friend remarked that my self-care began with cake and ended with frosting. She wasn’t entirely wrong with that assessment. Remember that remark I made earlier about self-care not being something that should totally derail you? Well, I occasionally lie. I bake, I love sweets and sometimes I buy dumb things on Amazon. It isn’t self-care but it does sometimes happen and sometimes I do feel better after making a meal of two cakes.


I’m far from a mental health expert. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by people who are genuinely invested in my mental health and a therapist who is loving, empathetic and understanding. These are simply a few of the ways I cope with a stressful world. That does not mean I am always successful in my attempts at taking care of myself. I still have bad days but they are likely reduced when I do what I can to take care of myself. Again, none of these things are a substitute for actual mental health care. That’s always been my ire with the modern use of the term “self-care”. I work hard to be the best version of me and spending hundreds of dollars in cakes and lipsticks are not ways to be my best self.  It’s effort, it’s crying, it’s stressing out over panels and how to get paint out of things. It’s calling friends tirelessly and in tears and arranging to meet over late night coffees to rant about failed first dates. It’s lapsing and trying your very best to be better next time.

That’s self-care.

Be kind to yourself and others, dear readership.