Thursday, January 20, 2011

And I Wait...

Well, yesterday was "D-day".

The big exam I've been working for the last two years to take and I have to wait. Thank goodness I'm not having to wait weeks or months even. Friday is long enough!! I was cool, calm and I felt very collected going in.

Leaving - was a different story. When I got to question 72... I realized I was getting close to the magic number: 75. (On the NCLEX you can have a minimum of 75 questions and a max of 265. It is a computerized adaptive test that adjusts to the level you are testing at. The higher the level you're testing... in theory, the less questions you will have. But there is always the chance you're bombing it and it will still end at #75.)

Well, I finished #72 and moved on. #73. #74. Then I hit #75 without really paying attention and then, my screen went blank and turned solid blue.

I felt so sick to my stomach. Seriously. I left there in shock that 1.) it was over and 2.) I felt like I knew NOTHING it was asking of me!!!! ugh!

I immediately went to FTCC to see a few classmates, drop a few things off and pick up a few things. Every instructor that saw me had nothing but Positive thoughts and comments... which helped me get over some of the stress, but overall. I still left and woke up this morning nervous as hell. I HATE THIS FEELING! AH!

So, I got to thinking about stress and all the incredible things this BROAD physical response does to enhance our skill/focus in the short term and how it can seriously wreak havoc on us in the long-term or chronic sense.

So - What is Stress?
Stress is a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way. When you sense danger – whether it’s real or imagined – the body's defenses kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight” reaction, or the stress response.

The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you. When working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert. In emergency situations, stress can save your life – giving you extra strength to defend yourself, for example, or spurring you to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident.

Chronic Stress:
The body doesn’t distinguish between physical and psychological threats. When you’re stressed over a busy schedule, an argument with a friend, a traffic jam, or a mountain of bills, your body reacts just as strongly as if you were facing a life-or-death situation. If you have a lot of responsibilities and worries, your emergency stress response may be “on” most of the time. The more your body’s stress system is activated, the easier it is to trip and the harder it is to shut off.

Long-term exposure to stress can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. It can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, contribute to infertility, and speed up the aging process. Long-term stress can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety and depression.

Many health problems are caused or exacerbated by stress, including:

  • Pain of any kind
  • Heart disease
  • Digestive problems
  • Sleep problems
  • Depression
  • Obesity
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Skin conditions, such as eczema

How do we know how much is TOO much?
Because of the widespread damage stress can cause, it’s important to know your own limit. But just how much stress is “too much” differs from person to person. Some people roll with the punches, while others crumble at the slightest obstacle or frustration. Some people even seem to thrive on the excitement and challenge of a high-stress lifestyle.

Your ability to tolerate stress depends on many factors, including the quality of your relationships, your general outlook on life, your emotional intelligence, and yes, even your genetics.

The following are some of the common warning signs and symptoms of stress. The more signs and symptoms you notice in yourself, the closer you may be to stress overload

Stress Warning Signs and Symptoms
  • Cognitive Symptoms
  • Emotional Symptoms
  • Memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor judgment
  • Seeing only the negative
  • Anxious or racing thoughts
  • Constant worrying
  • Moodiness
  • Irritability or short temper
  • Agitation, inability to relax
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Sense of loneliness and isolation
  • Depression or general unhappiness
  • Physical Symptoms
  • Behavioral Symptoms
  • Aches and pains
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Frequent colds
  • Eating more or less
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Isolating yourself from others
  • Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
  • Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
  • Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing) 

Keep in mind that the signs and symptoms of stress can also be caused by other psychological and medical problems. If you’re experiencing any of the warning signs of stress, it’s important to see a doctor for a full evaluation. Your doctor can help you determine whether or not your symptoms are stress-related.

Well, this is usually the hard part about stress. Everyone will tell you to eliminate those stressors in your life for optimal impact on your health, but we'll be realistic... you can't just quit your job or kick the kids out of the house permanently. And you can't go to nursing school without taking the NCLEX eventually! So, we have to learn to cope.

For me - Exercise and cleaning are my major stress relievers. I am CONSTANTLY changing up my exercise routines to keep me from getting bored and to continuously keep challenging my mental and physical fitness. Cleaning is also a big one for me - it not only helps me get a little anxiety out while scrubbing a sink/floor, but the cleanliness in turn helps minimize organizational chaos and clutter... which creates more stress for me. So, We just keep it neat. :)

Other techniques you can try or use include:
  • Help someone else by volunteering
  • Have lunch or coffee with a co-worker
  • Call or email an old friend
  • Go for a walk with a workout buddy
  • Schedule a weekly dinner date
  • Take a class or join a club

Like your physical health, our mental and emotional health are extremely important!!! Holistic health.

Many people put off and/or flat out ignore their mental well-being.  Face it, like a "sick-day", we all really need mental-health days. Just as your physical health requires time and energy to build or maintain it, so does your emotional well-being. The more you put in to it, the stronger it will be. People with good emotional health have an ability to bounce back from stress and adversity. This is called RESILIENCE. You can remain focused, flexible, and positive in bad times as well as good.

So, today is kind of a mini-mental health day for me! :) I really am just way overwhelmed with worry and fear that I haven't passed this HUGGGGE step in my nursing journey... that I need to not think and just deal. Yes - there will be lots of exercise and cleaning done today. Probably something really yummy for dinner (and yes, Vino!)... and maybe even a nap with my sweet and super snuggly Ginger-snap. :)

I hope you all can take some time to focus on YOUR mental health. Where are you on the stress pendulum?Are you ready to do this:

 Or are you already like this?

Either way, you probably need to work on how you deal with stress. We can't live in the world we live in without needing to put our feet back on the ground and do what we need to do. BUT - we don't need to add inches to our waists, destroy marriages and families, induce and/or exacerbate heart disease, put off sex (it's one of the best stress relievers available!!) and loose control of ourselves.

Take care of yourself first, and then you can take care of everyone else in your life. Remember the saying: "if Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy"? Well.... this is the perfect time to think that way!

Have a great day friends! Please do something for YOU today. (preferably, not a trip to Cook-Out for a milk shake though.)


I got a lot of information for this post from an article by Melinda Smith, M.A., Ellen Jaffe–Gill, and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. Last modified: November 2010

No comments:

Post a Comment