Day 278 Sober: Drowning in Stress

Today I’m 9 months and 3 days alcohol free. I am tired. My shoulders are pinched up into knots because of stress. My lower back aches, and my head feels too heavy for my neck. I’m tired. I’ve got two more papers left to write for the semester, and only 10 days to write them. I haven’t been to the gym in over a week. Work is simultaneously stressful and boring. Oh, and I’m tired. Did I mention that already?

Despite it all, I’m okay. My mood was way down in the toilet on Monday – I had a really, really shitty day on Monday, which wasn’t helped by the cold shitty weather and the heavy, shitty snow that fell that night – but today, I felt alright. I wasn’t overly distracted or distraught by anything. I didn’t feel like crying at my desk, which was nice.

I had an interesting conversation with a coworker today, too. He seems to be in a similar emotional rut as me, for very different reasons. He and I started working for our company at the same time early last summer, and I’ve always viewed him as a very competent and passionate worker. Today, as the day reached a lull and the rest of the office sat quiet, he reached out to me for conversation and we started chatting about working, living, and trying to exist without exploding in today’s world. He told me he felt like he was dying, because the woman he loves ran off to Paris a month ago to find herself, and she hasn’t texted or called him since she got back to the states last week. This isn’t the first time she’s done this to him, and it’s tearing him up inside.

We talked about some of the pains and traumas we’ve both experienced. I related my experience of being married and quickly divorced. We both lamented the fact that in today’s society, it’s rare to have a work situation where you can take the time you need to recharge and recuperate yourself mentally, as you might if you come down with a physical illness or injury.

It was a good talk. It felt nice that he trusted me enough to confide some more personal stuff in me. Makes me feel like maybe – perhaps, just perhaps – I’m starting to look and act more like a counselor every day, and people are taking notice. Not that I would provide services for my coworkers or friends, but to know that I’m starting to be viewed as a source of comfort and trust is…well…comforting.

Later on in the day as the office started emptying out, I became incredibly aware of the fact that my shoulders and back are way, way more painful these days than they should be. I haven’t slept funny or strained them during exercise. I don’t sit completely hunched over at my desk – at least, not all the time. I remembered feeling something similar toward the end of last semester – a creeping, aching pain deep between my shoulder blades that travels up along my neck, stopping just at the base of my skull. It makes my lungs feel more full and heavier. I notice it worsens when I think about work or school.

So, as I sat at my desk, I tried adjusting my posture to relieve some tension. Nothing. I arched backward and pinched my shoulder blades together. Nothing. Tilting my head from side to side only provided temporary release. I was getting really frustrated.

And then I noticed that I wasn’t really breathing. I mean, I was breathing, but in short, shallow breaths. My stomach muscles and the muscles around the bottom of my back were tight. As soon as I focused on taking deeper breaths and consciously forcing my spinal muscles to relax, the tension started to ease bit by bit.

I was actually kind of amazed. Here I was, thinking that there was some sort of sitting position, stretch or exercise that could magically make the pain go away. But as soon as I started focusing my attention on tight muscle and mentally forced myself to relax… the pain and tension would start to melt away.

I really, really need to start paying more mind to how my stress levels affect my body. I mean, I can feel it, but I keep forgetting that it’s a psychosomatic phenomenon that causes me to clench my fists, clench my jaw, and tighten the muscles in my neck and back to the point of pain. It can’t be too good for my long-term mental well-being or physical health to be so tightly wound. I just need to focus on the breath… in, out, in, out, deeply through the nose and out through the mouth.

Sigh. I should’ve just become a yoga instructor instead.

❤ Em. Day 278.

6 thoughts on “Day 278 Sober: Drowning in Stress

  1. tiredoftreadingwater says:

    I recently started reading a book called Breathe by Belisa Vranich. She describes how we are designed to belly breathe but due to stress and muscle tension we clench that part and so the upper chest and shoulders get dragged into a dysfunctional breathing posture. She explains that this causes aching back, neck, shoulders so what you write here makes total sense to me. Keep up the belly breathing, I hope you continue feeling better 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. mikeykjr says:

    Working in your type of environment, human services if I’m not mistaken, is a very stressful job, especially for people like us. I reminded myself all the time of how important it was to take care of myself. Sometimes I succeeded while other times I failed. For me it was hard for others to relate to how I trying to deal with the stress. We can’t exactly give details of our professional lives and I didn’t like beating around a bush. Personally I’ve just had bad experiences with co-workers.Co-workers are nice to help get through situations or learn from experiences but leave it there. One suggestion made by a professor at college was to get a therapist. Someone you can talk about your job stress. For a few months a year, at least once a week, I was able to have someone listen who understood what I was dealing with. It helped me tremendously. But I also know that such services are not available to everyone for free and could be costly if not. At least see what is available. Perhaps one could help with work stress.

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  3. soberinvegas says:

    breathing and the power of breath…such a small thing that can make such a huge difference! ❤ when I start to feel myself tense up at work I try to think about when was the last time I took a deep breath? Doesn't solve every problem but certainly helps!!! ❤

    Like

  4. Paul S says:

    I can’t add much more than what others have mentioned here. The shallow breathing is something I do when I too am knotted up, and it’s a vicious circle. My meditation practice helps me with that, and now I am finally at a point where I actually *remember* to take deep breaths while I am feeling stress. It makes a big difference! And glad to hear that people feel open to you – that’s a greater EQ emanating!

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