For as long as we are alive, we will experience some degree of stress, especially given the many roles we play as women. Stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to good and bad experiences that can be either beneficial or detrimental to our health. Prolonged, excessive stress is not just detrimental to our health, but can be debilitating and deadly. We all know this, but somehow take it far too lightly.
When you experience high levels of stress, your muscles naturally tense up in order to protect themselves from injury. So, when you are constantly under stress, your muscles do not have time to relax which may lead to headaches or body pains that ultimately affect your back and shoulders, not to mention a compromised immune system that may lead to communicable diseases further down the line.
On a personal level, this is exactly what I experienced recently having been under prolonged and tremendous amounts of stress, as a result of business and other responsibilities. In hindsight, the signs were there that my body was getting depleted and my immune system compromised, but I ignored them.
Back when I was at varsity studying Neuro Psychology, I had an opportunity to be part of an international programme of students who worked with cardiologists in hospitals. We counselled outpatients who had undergone double or triple bypass surgery on lifestyle changes. The approach did not only focus on diet, exercise, drinking and smoking, but also on self-awareness. Self awareness makes it possible for us to better understand the ways in which our personalities and lifestyles affect our health and our general wellbeing.
While I’m very health conscious; I recognise that I am a Type A personality.
Type A personalities are some of the people you see tapping their feet when they are in line at the grocery store and continually switching from one line to another one that looks shorter. Or the ones driving behind you beeping and flashing lights to force you to either move out of the way or drive faster. Type A personalities are very achievement driven, fast paced and highly impatient individuals. Their facial muscles are often tense, they speak quickly and are always under pressure. I am one of them…
So, one morning, not so long ago, I woke up with partial facial paralysis; the inability to move the muscles on one side of my face, also known as Bell’s palsy.
Driving to one of my meetings that morning, I couldn’t make out any pictures on the large billboards along the highway due to my blurred vision. All of a sudden my mouth started drooping.
This was a scary experience as I didn’t quite understand what was happening to me. I thought I was having a stroke.
At the meeting, my speech started slowing down considerably and became incoherent.
I knew something was really wrong and I had to consult the doctor immediately.
While the specific causes of partial facial paralysis are not known, researchers are still exploring the possible causes, some of which may be stress related.
Considering the physiological effects of stress on the body, it is possible to make the connection with an event such as the partial paralysis of the face taking place in my case.
Given the overwhelming task of leading corporations, managing careers, family responsibilities, church, community, aging parents, children and so forth, pressure and stress is inevitable, but you have to PAUSE and take time to put expectations and schedules aside and just be still.
Listening to your body and making necessary adjustments requires tremendous self -discipline and control, but the payoff is worth it. Remember, you are of no value to anyone when depleted.
It is in the stillness and empty space that life takes place.