Stressed to Sick

stress image  Two full months have yet to pass since I’ve relocated to Reno, but I’ve already been sick twice. This is “discouraging” because 1) consistent training makes all the difference for me, and 2) for once, I’d been doing so well this past season (healthy all fall/early winter until I caught the crud that everyone had in January. But, even then I bounced back well—no six-weeks-malinger.)

I suspect that a perfect storm of physical, mental, and emotional stressors has left me exceptionally run-down and thus more susceptible. Here’s the tally:

Practice time shift: Back in Denver I was on deck at 8 a.m. most days. In Reno, practice begins at 5:30 a.m., requiring a 4:45 a.m. alarm. It’s just early enough that I’m afraid that I’ll never fully adjust. Thus, I now feel draggy most of the time, and on days when I swim later on my own, I naturally wake up between 5:30-6:30 a.m., so of course I have trouble getting to sleep on those nights, perpetuating a vicious cycle.

Diet: Not so good recently. I’ve been having some really bad days that provoke scarfing whatever junk I can get my hands on (see “stress” below), all of which I normally avoid like the plague because it sparks my chain of inflammation-to-sick. Full disclosure list: cookies, corn chips, cheese & wheat crackers, froyo, microwave popcorn.

Lack of steaming: In Denver, it was easy to steam, a simple 10-minute remedy that’s been very effective for reducing my chronic asthma/allergy congestion. On my a.m. LCM days, I did weights in the afternoon, finishing with a steam room session. On a.m. SCM days, I simply moved from pool to steam room. In Reno however, there’s no time to steam prior to 5:30 a.m. practices. With “eating” being the priority once home, I then roll into the day’s tasks, making it hard for me to stop everything to steam. While the gym I joined here has a steam room, you know from my last post that getting there regularly has been a problem lately.

Lack of outdoor time: I’d swim at least three days a week outside in Denver year-round, weather permitting. I can do that here now thanks to the nifty 25m lap lane right outside my door, but I’ve yet to get on a solid schedule due to either being sick or busy (or both at the same time), and LCM outdoor pool practice here may not begin until mid-June. So, the majority of my practice time lately has been indoors, which isn’t as healthy for me (heat + recycled dry air + chlorine isn’t great combo for my asthma) as fresh outdoor air.

Stress: Easily the biggest running-me-down factor at the moment. Right before I moved, my sister and I had to start sorting our parents’ affairs. It’s been a staggering amount of 24/7 tasks under far-from-optimal circumstances (crisis-level decisions and actions, searching for and trying to make sense of paperwork, very divergent levels of care required per parent, shocking reveals, and we’ve yet to find one factor that’s been “good news.”) I’m the first to admit that my status quo lately veers between depressed, exhausted, sad, irritable, and stressed.

Listing the above issues however, is a great way for me to review and brainstorm remedies. Some of the things I’ve thought to try include:

–Staying within one hour of bed/rise times. Avoiding daytime naps if possible to fall asleep more easily at night.

–Tweaking my diet: Adding healthier fat (e.g. avocado) and eating smaller portions but more frequently to feel satiated most of the time. Emphasizing veggies and other whole foods. Stocking some treat foods that are “safe” for me. I’m aware that simply “stopping” stress eating may not be realistic right now, but I can at least reach for something that won’t make me sick. I’ve also been reminding myself that making myself sick via food is not going to help anything.

–Bringing my shower stuff every time I go to gym to make sitting in the steam room automatic. And I’ve paired TV-treat-time with steaming and stretching on afternoons I don’t go to the gym – I look in advance for fun things to record as play-back steam/stretch “carrots.”

–Avoiding getting too run-down. This is the biggest issue I’m trying to address at the moment. So far it includes doing whatever I can to boost restful sleep, asking for help, setting up small regular perks, and allowing myself to feel my emotions and permission to “just stop.” The latter ranges from getting out of practice early (one morning last week, for whatever reason, everything was hitting me right then and I was melting down), to asking for time to “process” what I’ve just learned before responding/making a decision.

I know there are many essential life lessons for me to lean into right now. Some key ones include: learning to remain grounded under duress, patience, forgiveness, letting go of the notion of “control” (especially when tied to “expectation”), and that “acceptance” sometimes means taking no action. I know I’ll eventually look back on this phase with some thanks for providing so much personal growth. But for now, my immediate focus is finding and maintaining a healthy balance again…

Next week: Swim Garmin Mini-Review

Stressed to Sick

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