Stress

I recently got a fever and cough. I was not particularly sick, and was completely functional in the rest of my day today. However, it was the third time I’ve gotten sick in the past 6 months. Historically, I rarely get sick, so going from having an excellent immune system to this super frail immune system was a bit concerning.

At the same time, I’ve been battling regular issues with my digestion since at least December. My naturopath and I decided to look at food sensitivities as a potential contributor, so I had some initial testing done, and then started an elimination diet in January to see if we could validate any of those results.

However, March came along with no improvements to my digestive health and now I was also sick again. I decided to visit a clinic to see if I could tackle these two problems at once.

I brought up these two problems with the doctor. For the fever and cough, they suggested the typical rest and over-the-counter drugs as needed. For the digestion, they ordered a bunch of tests for me to do with the caveat that digestion is a complicated issue and they thought it would be unlikely that the tests would reveal anything conclusive. Another possible explanation they mentioned that could explain both the digestion issues and the recurring fever/cough was stress.

This was not the first time stress was mentioned to me as a potential problem. Over the past couple of years, I’ve had conversations with my naturopath where they would ask me about my stress levels. About a month ago, my psychotherapist brought up stress as a potential issue. So after having three independent parties suggest to me that this might be a problem, I started to consider it more seriously.

I think the hardest thing for me is my lack of awareness when it comes to my stress levels. Even now that this is on my radar, I’m still not aware of when I’m experiencing stress. However, I have started to speculate about how somethings could be stressful for me.

For instance, the elimination diet I was trying had me cutting out foods such as wheat, corn, rice, potato, dairy, and nuts. These foods are regular parts of my diet, and they are very common ingredients in foods at both restaurants and grocery stores. As a result, I would be stuck eating unfamiliar or unfavourable foods at home, and at restaurants my options would be extremely limited, even after asking if certain accommodations could be made. I figured that this could be a source of stress for me since food plays a fairly big role in my day-to-day, so after hearing this third mention I’d stress, I decided to end my elimination diet prematurely. My digestion issues haven’t gone away, but I do think they are a little bit better than in the past; I acknowledge that this could simply be confirmation bias, though.

A couple days ago, a friend told me about some observations that they had made. A while ago, we were bussing up to do the Grouse Grind, and I passed out during the commute. They also pointed out that I pass out fairly frequently during our regular hang outs with friends or at work. They mentioned that they interpreted this to be a fairly serious warning sign. I’ve always just brushed it off as being tired. But now I have to reconsider how this may have been a blind spot for me.

But now I’m starting to worry a bit about where I may use this as an excuse. For example, I’ve read that high stress levels can lead people to become easily frustrated. Reflecting on some conflicts with my boyfriend, I know that I’ve been easily frustrated. But is that actually due to my experiencing increased stress? Or is it simply a reflection of my lack of emotional intelligence?

In any case, I’m trying to think more about stress without stressing about stress. I imagine this will be a long journey for me. I’m hoping that along the way, I can become more aware of my stress levels and stressors. I’m also hoping to get better at managing my stress and recharging so that stress doesn’t have such a big impact on my health in the future.

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