Dealing with Stress

The best way to deal with stress is exercise, getting enough sleep, and eating well. This is what I tell my clients when they’re dealing with a massive workload, or they have events every night. But what about when the stress is overwhelming every aspect of your life?

On Wednesday, December 8 last year, my husband came home feeling unwell. For the next two days, he had a nasty stomach flu. By Saturday, he was feeling dreadful, so I took him to the ER. Things went from bad to worse. His kidneys had failed completely. His liver was struggling. He was quickly transferred to the ICU and put on constant dialysis. On the Monday, he underwent an emergency operation at his bedside in the ICU (he was not stable enough to be moved to the operating theater). During the operation, his lungs failed. He was put in a medically induced coma, on a ventilator, on life support, and remained that way for fourteen long, agonizing days. His surgeon told me the “chances of mortality are very high”. The only thing he had going for him was his youth (he is 38 years old).

Once he was taken off the ventilator on December 27, he dealt with fevers and infection, but battled through. He was moved from ICU to the general wards on January 3, finally coming home for recovery on January 6.

Throughout this ordeal, exercise was the last thing on my mind. As well as still having pain and discomfort from the tendons I strained during the marathon, I was totally disinterested in anything other than being at my husband’s bedside, reading him messages of support from family and friends, and trying to understand what was happening in his body and what his doctors were doing to help him.

It’s so easy to prescribe exercise as a stress antidote, and I know it works, but when faced with such a traumatic, sudden crisis, I found myself unable to make time for it. I have great empathy for people struggling through trauma and grief, when finding time for yourself is the last thing on your mind. My advice to clients will remain the same – exercise is a mood booster, it can help clear your mind, and it can make you feel stronger and more centered, leaving you more able to face challenges. But sometimes stress totally takes over, and you can’t beat yourself up for being enveloped. The old adage, ‘This too shall pass’ always remains, and when life gets back to normal, it’s super important to get your exercise regime back on track and make sure you are taking care of yourself.

Today I came back from a run, and as I stretched on my stoop afterwards, I realized how much it would have helped me through that experience to be able to get out and run from time to time. Hindsight is a beautiful thing!