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  1. #1
    Lay the coin on my tongue SilkRoad's Avatar
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    Default What do you do about stress when you're not sure what its source is?

    I feel as though I have become a person suffering constantly from symptoms of long-term stress and I am kind of struggling to figure out why.

    I was just looking at a list of common indicators of stress and I seem to be suffering from quite a few - including constant tiredness, difficulty making decisions, difficulty concentrating, going from task to task without finishing anything, tendency to irritability, etc. I also have at least occasional weird physical symptoms like sudden heart palpitations, migraine-like symptoms (without really getting full-blown migraines), etc. Plus in the last four-five years I've had a couple of phobias which I'd had a little bit my whole life get much worse.

    I have had way way way too many sick days off work in recent years and I suppose I'm fortunate that my jobs have been reasonably tolerant of it. Sometimes it's more due to exhaustion and feeling unable to face the day than anything else, but I avoid telling them I'm stressed. The thing is, I don't feel like I have major reasons for stress. I don't have major personal crises going on, I have a busy life but it should be manageable, I have friends...etc. I don't have an enormously stressful job. I have a boss who tends to be unpredictable and can be a bully, but my relationship with her is about as good as one could hope for under the circumstances (ie. better than that with quite a lot of others in the office) and actually she is leaving in December, which unless we get someone nightmarish I would consider a good thing.

    I feel guilty because I don't feel like I am coping and I don't know why. Fortunately my job doesn't have complaints about my performance (in fact, my performance reviews tend to be good to excellent in terms of how I'm getting the job done) though my sick record for this year in particular is dire. I have almost always managed to stay on top of my work but I tend to feel constantly overwhelmed - in life generally - and honestly my life and job are not THAT overwhelming. It's almost worse to feel that you are suffering from stress and maybe borderline depression and you're not even sure why.

    I have wondered if I have had a long buildup of stress for years in my life. It just doesn't seem quite right because I've had an easier life than many, I think. I have a supportive family and social network and good friends. But there have been a number of years for - well - about half my life when a lot of stress has occurred and I wonder if things have built up for a long time. In my late teens particularly, a lot of people died. A few years after I moved away to Europe I was depressed (fairly seriously, I think) for more than a year in the wake of a breakup. My first few years in the UK I had some interpersonal stuff which in retrospect I think caused a lot of stress, plus a living situation which gradually became less than ideal with constant construction work going on around my apartment, and bedbugs for a few months! Then this year I had to move house when I didn't want to and hadn't planned to though it has worked out fairly well.

    But you know, none of this is that major on its own. It's not like I've gone through divorce or even a massive breakup or something like that. I tend towards paranoia and I worry that some day (although I've had no warning) I'm going to get told that I'm just sick too much and I'm going to lose my job. You know, something like that. I worry about not being able to cope emotionally/psychologically and that makes my feelings of not coping worse.

    Sorry for the tl:dr. Any suggestions? I think I may be paying a visit to the doctor soon at least, though when it's all vague they often seem at a bit of a loss, too.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member ptgatsby's Avatar
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    I read your post a couple of times through the day trying to get a handle on what you are going through. After reading your posts from this year to get an idea where you are coming from, I don't think I can get enough of a handle to give really tangible advice.

    One major piece of information that is missing is your degree of reactivity... normally I can get a feel after reading quite a few posts, but I can't here. It leaves a huge gap on what I/you would consider "normal" for your negative emotions.

    At the top of the list, and I mean the top is: are you exercising? By this I mean, ~30 minutes of elevated heart rate - not weights, not walking around the block. I can give some individual tips for dealing with anxiety/stress after that, but it's useless without the exercise.

    Quote Originally Posted by SilkRoad View Post
    I was just looking at a list of common indicators of stress and I seem to be suffering from quite a few - including constant tiredness, difficulty making decisions, difficulty concentrating, going from task to task without finishing anything, tendency to irritability, etc. I also have at least occasional weird physical symptoms like sudden heart palpitations, migraine-like symptoms (without really getting full-blown migraines), etc. Plus in the last four-five years I've had a couple of phobias which I'd had a little bit my whole life get much worse.
    See a doctor first; do a full checkup if you are able to. I would suspect that it is stress/anxiety, but those physical symptoms are enough of a reason to go regardless of what you think it is.

    The thing is, I don't feel like I have major reasons for stress.
    Stress is largely a physiological issue. If you are being affected by it physically, then you are being affected by it: no wiggle room. Start with the assumption that you do and work backwards. Don't look for things to see if you do have it. Doing so just invalidates your emotional state and makes the situation worse.

    I don't have major personal crises going on, I have a busy life but it should be manageable, I have friends...etc.
    What's your normal routine with friends? How frequently do you see them, what do you do? Indirectly from this, love life matters somewhat, but more importantly is how you feel it matters. You brought it up here and a little elsewhere.

    I don't have an enormously stressful job. I have a boss who tends to be unpredictable and can be a bully, but my relationship with her is about as good as one could hope for under the circumstances (ie. better than that with quite a lot of others in the office) and actually she is leaving in December, which unless we get someone nightmarish I would consider a good thing.
    Reread this: I read it as rationalization for a source of stress.

    I feel guilty because I don't feel like I am coping and I don't know why.
    This is going to be central to dealing with your stress. You don't "cope" with stress, almost by definition. What you have is not a singular event to be coped with. Accepting it as normal has a whole slew of issues.

    I tend to feel constantly overwhelmed - in life generally - and honestly my life and job are not THAT overwhelming.
    Yes, they are. If you are feeling overwhelmed, then they are. Don't step back and look at it from the outside. This is about your life, from your perspective. A large amount of helping yourself will be to accept that you are stressed/anxious and that these things that you rationalize as not being responsible actually are.

    I have wondered if I have had a long buildup of stress for years in my life. It just doesn't seem quite right because I've had an easier life than many, I think. I have a supportive family and social network and good friends. But there have been a number of years for - well - about half my life when a lot of stress has occurred and I wonder if things have built up for a long time. In my late teens particularly, a lot of people died. A few years after I moved away to Europe I was depressed (fairly seriously, I think) for more than a year in the wake of a breakup. My first few years in the UK I had some interpersonal stuff which in retrospect I think caused a lot of stress, plus a living situation which gradually became less than ideal with constant construction work going on around my apartment, and bedbugs for a few months! Then this year I had to move house when I didn't want to and hadn't planned to though it has worked out fairly well.
    Sometimes we train ourselves to feel, react and behave a certain way. In this case, having gone through stressful events may leave triggers in you that get hit on by seemingly unrelated present-day events. The general advice here is cognitive behavioral therapy, but you'll need to find the "triggers" from your old behaviors. Something to keep in mind.

  3. #3
    Insert witty line here... Ponyboy's Avatar
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    I hope this doesn't sound "light" or off the cuff but my advice would be to take a long walk....everyday! Walking is a great time for thinking and the excercise gets your body back in better physical condition. I used to think what can walking do? (comparing to work-out dudes and hyper-excercisers) but it really does make a huge difference albeit not overnight. I used to suffer from depression and what you described sounds similar to what I felt at the time. It was like the "big" things in life didn't mean diddly but the smallest things would send me off the handle, nothing made sense at all. And I felt bad all the time. So anyways, long story short, try getting out there....alone, no headphones, people, or other distractions. If it doesn't work, it doesn't cost anything! Hope everything turns out well for you!
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    Mojibake sprinkles's Avatar
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    How is your center? What are you like at complete rest? (and you definitely should have a time of complete rest!)

    Are these things on your mind no matter what, preventing you from rest? If so, that definitely counts as stress, no matter the cause. These things will pick at you and prevent you from having a stable core, which in turn makes you more susceptible to the things picking at you.

    You must work to empty your center and stabilize your core so that nothing can uproot or erode you in this manner.

    Exercise is also good but is more of a booster if you don't achieve a normative core. Without a good center it's akin to taking caffeine to cope with long hours - it doesn't fix the fundamental problem.

  5. #5
    darkened dreams labyrinthine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SilkRoad View Post
    I feel as though I have become a person suffering constantly from symptoms of long-term stress and I am kind of struggling to figure out why...

    Sorry for the tl:dr. Any suggestions? I think I may be paying a visit to the doctor soon at least, though when it's all vague they often seem at a bit of a loss, too.


    I'm sorry to hear this, SilkRoad. I also have Generalized Anxiety Disorder because of long-term stressers in my past. I noticed in your post that you dismissed the significance of the stresses you encountered in your life. I wouldn't judge whether your experience are severe enough to warrant a deeply anxious response because each person is unique and each life is difficult even in the best situations. I am sorry to hear that you have faced issues of loss and loneliness. A person who is sensitive and internalizes pain is possibly more prone to have long-term effects from it.

    Long-term stress can create patterns in the mind, including the sub-conscious, that take time to address and redirect. From what I've read, stress can cause the adrenal gland to produce more cortisol, which in high enough levels can damage the amygdala in the brain. The amygdala is the center for fear and primal emotions. It is important to break the pattern, and medication can really help if the issue is too strong to be readily addressed with meditation or other relaxation exercises. I have taken various anti-anxiety and anti-depressants over the years and some were terrible for me like Zoloft which made me ADD and caused terrible problems when I went off of it. Lorazapam was also terrible for me because it caused withdrawal symptoms of even more severe anxiety and more recently made me see double.

    I finally found a good doctor who prescribed cymbalta and he said that it balances brain chemistry in a way that can be beneficial long-term, even after you go off the medication. It has helped me feel balanced. I know every person's system is different, but I thought it was worth sharing those experiences with the medications.

    If the issue is debilitating, I do think it is important to stop the constant anxiety with whatever help you can get including pharmaceuticals, and then work towards using more natural methods of help by building new habits to continually de-stress.

    I really hope you can get set up with something to help you because it is really difficult to feel anxious all the time. It can get better, though.
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  6. #6
    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SilkRoad View Post
    Sorry for the tl:dr. Any suggestions? I think I may be paying a visit to the doctor soon at least, though when it's all vague they often seem at a bit of a loss, too.
    Yeah but I dont think its vague, you've got physical symptoms, you've got concerns about stress, you've got life events and identifiable factors which could cause stress.

    I've experienced stuff similar to this, I think that managers of the sort you mention are a big problem, in my organisation I've moved around and on each occasion there have been different stated reasons specific to the tasks in particular work roles but its really been stress generated by specific line management. I'm fortunate with who my boss is at present and I'm able to cope with the work environment I'm in now, which is unpredictable and stressful in all sorts of ways, in part because of that.

    The other bosses I could tell didnt want to work with me, through passive aggressive behaviour, scheming and accumulating evidence of their view of my performance it was pretty clear. The first time I encountered this I dealt with it and stuck out for longer than I would now and the second time I just bailed on that situation, told them exactly what I thought, that their practice as managers was very, very poor but I walked. If your time is taken up in struggles with line management it is not possible to spend your time doing what you should be doing which is your job. Which causes stress too.

    There's not the same pressure, apparently, or maybe they just dont feel it themselves, to succeed as a good boss in terms of motivation and looking after the welfare of your staff and this is something which I've decided is not restricted to my field and my part of the UK, I thought about it at the time whne the conservative government were talking about so called "no blame" firings and making it even easier for bosses to sack employees.

    I know that I felt a lot better when I was able to leave those painful people who were in management positions, I find it difficult taking anything to do with them now because they are largely unchanged and unchanging but I do my best and prepare for any encounter and do what I can to pass the time when it happens. I've made a conscious decision to try and eliminate time spent with them from my working days and life so far as is possible. I've also made a conscious decision to try and surround myself with laid back and positive people and to have as many totally unrelated to work connections and diversions as possible too and that helps me manage stress too.

    Physical exercise, a really good diet, regular check ups with Drs, dentist, optician etc. it all helps too. I know my mood has been helped by greater and greater effort in the gym, I've been exhausted by it but I've improved my capacity to bounce back with time too. I know this is going to be virtually no help at all probably, and I'm sorry about that, but I thought I would post anyway. I hope you're feeling better soon

  7. #7
    Administrator highlander's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SilkRoad View Post
    Sorry for the tl:dr. Any suggestions? I think I may be paying a visit to the doctor soon at least, though when it's all vague they often seem at a bit of a loss, too.
    There are a few things that come to mind:
    - Getting enough sleep; eliminating any significant sleep deficit you might have
    - Regular exercise
    - Healthy eating; eliminating processed foods - going to natural foods
    - Minimizing caffeine intake

    All of those things can make a difference though I don't know your exact situation

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  8. #8
    Lay the coin on my tongue SilkRoad's Avatar
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    Thank you everyone, I'm taking all your comments on board and I really appreciate you taking the time. I'll try and respond in more depth at some point or at least let you know what/how I'm doing...
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  9. #9
    can't handcuff the wind Z Buck McFate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SilkRoad View Post

    I have had way way way too many sick days off work in recent years and I suppose I'm fortunate that my jobs have been reasonably tolerant of it. Sometimes it's more due to exhaustion and feeling unable to face the day than anything else, but I avoid telling them I'm stressed. The thing is, I don't feel like I have major reasons for stress. I don't have major personal crises going on, I have a busy life but it should be manageable, I have friends...etc. I don't have an enormously stressful job. I have a boss who tends to be unpredictable and can be a bully, but my relationship with her is about as good as one could hope for under the circumstances (ie. better than that with quite a lot of others in the office) and actually she is leaving in December, which unless we get someone nightmarish I would consider a good thing.

    I feel guilty because I don't feel like I am coping and I don't know why. Fortunately my job doesn't have complaints about my performance (in fact, my performance reviews tend to be good to excellent in terms of how I'm getting the job done) though my sick record for this year in particular is dire. I have almost always managed to stay on top of my work but I tend to feel constantly overwhelmed - in life generally - and honestly my life and job are not THAT overwhelming. It's almost worse to feel that you are suffering from stress and maybe borderline depression and you're not even sure why.

    Something I’ve personally noticed (in retrospect, about myself) is that I refused to acknowledge a lot of the things that stressed me out in the past because I felt like they shouldn’t stress me out- as if figuring that out (coming to the conclusion they “shouldn’t” stress me out) would make the stress go away. But it doesn’t make the stress go away. Especially in situations where getting stressed sorta went against an ideal in my head about how people could act towards one another (and the ol’ saying “be the change you want to see in the world”), and if something seemed remotely petty I was having none of it- so if it was just embarrassing to be stressed out about it then the stress turned into anger at myself for not meeting my own expectations, I think. Instead of accepting there was some feeling of urgency in me to deal with a problem, I’d try to force myself to ‘let go’ of believing something needed to be fixed (and because it kept being a problem for me, it turned into a bigger and more generalized bad feeling).

    If I could go back, I’d point out that the judgment I consistently had about my own reactions was actually counterproductive. And I’d try to teach myself to hold off on that judgment long enough to honestly pinpoint exactly what’s making me feel stressed; no matter how whiny or petty, since I wouldn't have to tell anyone or act on it and the important thing is just to notice it- that opens a space to acknowledge even the most embarrassing of feelings in a way that is more honest with myself.
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  10. #10
    4x9 cascadeco's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Z Buck McFate View Post
    Something I’ve personally noticed (in retrospect, about myself) is that I refused to acknowledge a lot of the things that stressed me out in the past because I felt like they shouldn’t stress me out- as if figuring that out (coming to the conclusion they “shouldn’t” stress me out) would make the stress go away. But it doesn’t make the stress go away. Especially in situations where getting stressed sorta went against an ideal in my head about how people could act towards one another (and the ol’ saying “be the change you want to see in the world”), and if something seemed remotely petty I was having none of it- so if it was just embarrassing to be stressed out about it then the stress turned into anger at myself for not meeting my own expectations, I think. Instead of accepting there was some feeling of urgency in me to deal with a problem, I’d try to force myself to ‘let go’ of believing something needed to be fixed (and because it kept being a problem for me, it turned into a bigger and more generalized bad feeling).

    If I could go back, I’d point out that the judgment I consistently had about my own reactions was actually counterproductive. And I’d try to teach myself to hold off on that judgment long enough to honestly pinpoint exactly what’s making me feel stressed; no matter how whiny or petty, since I wouldn't have to tell anyone or act on it and the important thing is just to notice it- that opens a space to acknowledge even the most embarrassing of feelings in a way that is more honest with myself.
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