Physical Manifestations of Stress
Last updated: May 2023
My family was recently traveling out of state for a long holiday weekend. I decided to get myself an audiobook to listen to along the way. Reading in the car would result in car sickness for me. Actually, just being a passenger in the car would end up in car sickness for me so I was driving... but wanted to pass the time with a good book.
Self-help and audiobooks
Quick Tip: I love, love, love self-help books. If you haven’t read one and been inspired, I urge you to try one. They’re really, really great! They often give a different and positive perspective when things feel hard.
And, as an added bonus, audiobooks are wonderful if you’re struggling to read print (though I’m right there with you, there’s something really special about an actual book in hand). Audiobooks are a great alternative for us when we’re just unable to read. Whether it be because we’re in the car or because we’re healing from an injection or just plain struggling to see.
The lies we tell ourselves
I decided on a book written by Rachel Hollis called 'Girl, Wash Your Face'. This is a book about all the lies we tell ourselves and how to overcome them. For example, I’m not good enough, I’ll start tomorrow, or I will never get past this. Each lie is a self-help chapter with tips on how to overcome these obstacles.1
Stress can manifest in our bodies physically
In the very first chapter of this book, 'Something Else Will Make Me Happy', Hollis describes being so stressed out that it physically manifested for her with Bell’s Palsy. Bell’s Palsy is defined as a sudden weakness in the muscles on one half of the face.1
Read that again. She was so stressed out that the muscles in half of her face stopped working. She was told this information by her trusted doctor but didn’t believe it until the second time it happened to her.
I immediately remembered a time when something like this happened to me as well. There was a time in my life that I went to the doctor with something wrong and I was told it was caused by stress.
I went in with my upper lip swollen to more than double its size. I thought it was an allergic reaction to something or even a bug bite so I went in. One of the first things my doctor asked me was, “Are you under a lot of stress?”
Hahahahaha... um really? YES! I was a teacher (Guys, truth bomb here... teachers love their kids and jobs, but it can sometimes be very stressful and a lot of pressure). I was very newly pregnant with my oldest son (I’d say my body was in a little bit of a stressful state – more like shock).
And oh, yeah...I just found out I am losing my central vision too. Stressed? That was an understatement.
Did I will it to happen again?
What’s really strange is that not more than a few days after listening to Girl, Wash Your Face, it’s happening to me again. It’s as if I willed it to happen by thinking about it while listening to Hollis explain her physical manifestation of stress.
My current stressors
Orrrr... I could really just be under A LOT of stress again right now. The new school year just started and now I’m a mom of two young boys. Motherhood can feel stressful too, guys... if you are one, you know this to be true.
I have been blessed with very ‘easy’ kids, but we are BUSY. Like, "When’s the last time we had time to all sit down together and eat?" kind of busy. Not to mention any of the other personal stressors I have. And, oh...still losing my central vision and trying to deal with THAT gem.
I’m constantly doing, working, fixing, worrying, cleaning, thinking, did I already say worrying... I basically don’t sleep... and I think my body is screaming at me today to SLOW DOWN, Mama.
Today, as I write this article, it’s 2:00 am. I just woke up in the middle of the night to my upper lip being swollen. Again. Noooo. Just NO! I'm screaming to myself.
My ugly truth
In her chapter, Hollis described what it was like to be in public with Bell’s Palsy. Though my physical manifestation of stress is not quite as drastic as hers, I can relate.1
What will my students be saying behind my back at recess today? What will people think of me this weekend at my son's soccer games and guitar recital?
I know, I need to grow up. I’m almost forty and honestly shouldn’t care what people think of my appearance. I usually don’t, really. But this thing going on with my lip is ugly. Really ugly.
It’s my ugly truth. The ugly truth of being a full-time working mom, the ugly truth of personal things going on that I cannot control, the ugly truth of my sometimes constant worry about my future, the ugly truth about my deep-seated worries about my vision loss.
Listening to my body, accepting stress
Friends, our bodies are really great at telling us things. We just need to actually listen to them. My body is telling me that it’s tired and waaaay too stressed out. It’s time for me to get back to a more positive, healthier place before this swollen lip turns into something worse.
Stress feels awful to me, it physically makes me feel sick. It steals my sleep and my joy.
I have to remember that stress and anxiety are my brain’s way of telling me, “Hey, Lady, something is wrong here. Chill out. Now.” And when I don’t listen... I get a swollen lip so I can SEE my stress too. Okay, body. I hear you.
Listen to your body,
Do you have eye healthy recipes you like to make for the holidays?