It’s the end of February, also known as Heart Month, when we share information regarding heart health and heart disease awareness. When it comes to heart health, there’s so much to talk about…blood pressure, cholesterol, signs of a heart attack, signs of a stroke, how to perform CPR, salt intake, stress, etc. The list could literally go on forever.
Stress was a major topic this year and managing it is one of the key pillars of our programs whether you’re participating in personal training, our online All Access program, or our corporate programs. It doesn’t matter how much you exercise or eat right, if your body is constantly under considerable stress, it will affect your body. And it’s not good.
Over the past few years, I have personally focused on my work/life balance and tried to slow down. Rest and recovery doesn’t easily fit into my busy lifestyle so I have to schedule it. Yoga wasn’t my thing but I’ve tried different kinds and have learned to incorporate it into my routine. Sometimes it’s all I do for a workout in one day, sometimes I supplement with my favorite poses.
Here’s the thing. I was working quite a bit for someone else for about four years. I had a great experience and learned a ton. However, it was a very stressful job and I was traveling a lot. I acknowledged that I was under a lot of stress and that the travel alone had the most impact on me. Despite being under stress though, I though, “I’m a healthy person. So naturally, I should be immune to the physical effects?!” To ward off the stress from travel, I planned workouts into my travel days and made sure to get it in before meetings and conferences. I ate relatively healthy and even packed my own snacks for some trips. I was always drinking water to stay hydrated. Knowing the stress was increasing, I focused on incorporating some deep breathing into my routine for the last year.
Cut to my final 6 months on the job. As much as I hate to admit it… I was having chest pain and palpitations. I’d lie down at night and when I should have been able to relax, I felt like my heart was going to beat out of my chest. I didn’t listen to my own advice because I was “a healthy person.” I exercised, ate right, was finally doing yoga and deep breathing. I should have gone to the doctor right away but instead I waited. Which is embarrassing for me to admit, because as a trainer and coach, I want to lead by example with all I teach.
Finally I made the call and was seen. Even though it’s embarrassing to admit I had chest pain, it was more embarrassing to tell the nurses and doctors it had been going on for months and I hadn’t been in to see them yet. Wrong and wrong. My bad.
On my first visit, my blood pressure was high. Not scary high, but clinically pre-hypertension if it was going to be a regular reading. And way higher than what my normal numbers are. The doctor figured it was just stress making my heart work harder than normal but we had to do some tests to make sure that structurally everything was ok. So I had an echocardiogram and wore a holter monitor for 24 hours. Each time I went in, my blood pressure was consistently much higher than normal.
Lucky for me, all my tests proved that my heart is strong and working fine. But it was obviously under a lot of stress. I would need to find a way to manage the stress better than I had been. Seriously? It was hard work incorporating those habits into my daily routine. If listening to Zen Garden radio while you work and are in the car doesn’t help, I wasn’t sure what would help at that point! I was aware of the stress and worked hard to manage it well. But apparently not well enough to keep my body working physiologically sound.
Cut to two months later….I found myself in a better situation and I had given my notice at the job. Five days after doing that I thought I broke my rib. I learned my lesson and called the doctor right away. I hated having to go back so soon, but this time I was listening to my body. Lucky for me, my rib wasn’t broken! Sidenote: what a painful four weeks of recovery though! But here’s the better news: Only five days after giving my notice and knowing that I wouldn’t be traveling all over the place, my blood pressure was back to my normal!!!!! What?!?!?!
The point of this is to share with you just how much stress can affect your life. Even when you think you are managing it well, you have to listen and be aware of what’s going on. We can never reduce stress. It’s something we emphasize with clients. But we can learn to manage it. We have to constantly evaluate situations and evolve our programs and ourselves. This wasn’t an easy post for me to write or share, but we all need to learn from each other. It’s important to know that even “healthy people” can suffer from the effects of stress. It takes a serious toll and takes serious steps to manage. If you need help finding steps that work for you, we’re happy to help. And while February is just about over (come on Spring, we’re waiting!) this is important information all year round, not just during Heart Month.
Thanks for reading…