Are you recognising and managing your symptoms of stress??
I apologise if this is a little long but I had a lot to say for our first blog! In the coming weeks, I will break down the components of this blog to discuss them individually in more detail. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy Change It Up’s first blog on stress and anxiety:
I don’t believe there is anyone who hasn’t experienced ‘burnout’ living in the fast -paced society we do these days. We are constantly running on adrenaline in a bid to be the best multi-tasker we can, in order to maintain routine and functionality in our lives. But do you recognise the subtle hints our bodies give us to indicate we’re potentially not running at full throttle?
FACT – Without fail, every shift I work as a paramedic I develop epigastric (upper abdominal pain) about half way though my shift. When I am on my days off, I NEVER get abdominal pain! Coincidence? I think not…….
So what does this mean? Well after constantly putting this down to rushing down a meal (or missing one completely!) at work, I realised that irrespective of this, I still developed abdominal pain? I was also suffering chronic reflux and constipation (sorry for over sharing 😊). Now anyone who experiences these gastric symptoms knows they can be quite unpleasant and have holistic effects on other body systems. Over time, these ailments can lead to other chronic health conditions that can be very difficult to manage when left untreated. So I went and spoke to the team at Gisborne Health to find out how best to treat this? Sure, I could have gone on Nexium (this medication stops the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, thus relieving the symptoms of reflux), however I call this a ‘band aid’ fix as it is not treating the root of the problem. One of the first questions they asked was “are you carrying much stress?” My immediate thought was no but the more I thought about it, the more I realised – hell yes I am carrying stress! I’m a working mum, I seem to have this anal retention about keeping my house spotless and I don’t like being late or letting my kids miss out on things (yep we have lots on after school!) I also like control in my world and knowing what lays ahead for the working week.
The penny dropped…… My abdominal pain was my bodies way of telling me I was stressed/anxious. So why was it just at work? As you can appreciate, when I’m at work, I have no control over what time I eat, when I can go to the toilet or what time I will finish my shift! I have no clue if the job I’m being dispatched to will take us 2 hours or 4, will be something life-threatening or something quite routine and ‘easy’ for me to manage. Now for someone who likes control, emergency services is not a great fit….? BUT I love my job! This is my fifteenth year with Ambulance Victoria and for probably the first 12 -13 years I thought it was the best job in the world! So what changed? LIFE! My kids got busier as they got older so even if I get home at 2am, I still need to get up and make them lunch and get them off to school (in a zombie like state…). My husband travels a little with work and when that coincides with my shift work – gah!!!!! Hello grandparents and saviours! Finally, I’m far closer to 40 than 30 now and I have been a shift worker for 15 years! I realised that I have been doing 10, 12 and 14 hour shifts for a long time and my body does not tolerate these shift lengths like it did 10 years ago. In summary, a cumulation of a variety of factors leaves me in a state of mild anxiety whilst at work that manifests itself as abdominal pain. So what do I do?
I take apple cider vinegar every morning as soon as I wake up. This was on the recommendation of a naturopath as it stimulates digestive juices to help aid digestion. (don’t worry you get used to the taste..)
I take a pro-biotic every night. This is also in consultation with a naturopath at Gisborne Health and changes frequently as your microbiome (gut bacteria) is quite transient.
I see a chiropractor. This not only helps my spinal health, however enables better neurotransmission of ‘messages’, thus creating more harmony between the body systems. I honestly feel quite different in my head space after being adjusted. (I know this isn’t for everyone but it works for me).
I take peppermint tea with me to work. Personally, this has really helped settle my gut and has a lovely calming effect on me.
I take a small esky to work with me. This is packed with snacks, lunch and dinner as I normally work 10am-10pm. This has helped immensely as I now try and eat whenever I can, even if its in the ambulance or at the hospital. This means I can endeavour to eat at ‘normal times.’ For example, the last shift I worked we got our ‘lunch break’ 7 hours into our shift at 5pm! Had I not had my trusty supply with me I would have been hangry!! I am no good to anyone when that happens…..
I ‘rock out’ on the way to work! I have heaps of playlists that are uplifting and motivating, immediately making me feel more optimistic about my day. I also listen to podcasts which have been truly inspiring and motivating for me.
I exercise regularly - has anyone seen me at boxing??? What a great stress reliever!
I have made a succession plan for my career.
Finally, I talk about it! Most of you who know me understand my personal struggles with my job. I don’t hide them, I’m not ashamed of them and I’m not ready to retire yet (errrrrrm we have a mortgage!) Sometimes just telling someone something is enough therapy in itself!
So what to take away from this…..? Simple! Listen to your body and recognise signs and symptoms that aren’t normal? Are there patterns and trends that lead you to think about a common cause? Can you then go about making changes in your life in order to promote better health? I know I can’t change my role as a paramedic and what the job entails BUT I CAN change my bodies response to stress and be proactive rather than reactive about solutions. Look out for each other and don’t judge as you never know what someone else is going through? You have the power to make someone’s day by asking R U OK? 😊