A few days into my "non-GERD" diet and I am feeling no different than during the Elimination week. Perhaps I was even a little less "gerdy." I have had the past few days off for a "staycation," and what a difference in my stress levels to not have to worry about schedules, work deadlines, commuting dramas, looking Professional.
In my appointments with Dr. C., we have talked about the role of stress as a GERD trigger. More and more, I think that is what is responsible for most of my problem. For one thing, I have other health issues that are triggered by stress:
1. Tooth Grinding: Mostly on my left side, I am most definitely a grinder. I can feel my jaw clenching during the day. My dentist picked this up right away, and suggested a night guard. I was appalled but finally got one and I am SOLD. He told me he wears one, his staff wear them, and I learned my coworker wears one. Is this a secret must-have NYC fashion accessory? Apparently!
2. Pre-glaucoma: My dad has glaucoma, so perhaps I was destined to get this, but its onset now is a little strange. My ophthalmologist says stress can be a trigger.
3. Sebaceous cyst flare-up: I'm falling apart! A long-time cyst on my shoulder has flared up and will be removed (tomorrow!). When I read up about angry cysts, I was not surprised to find out that "stress" can cause these things to get exacerbated.
4. Swallowing difficulties/panic attack-like episodes: Stress produces these syndromes. Stress!!!
WHAT'S MAKING ME ALL STRESSED OUT!?
1. Death of my cat last year. My 16-18 year old cat died. More accurately, I took him to the 24 hour vet to "put him to sleep" after he had a tough week. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. "It was the right thing to do" but the vision of him looking "just fine" minutes before the needle haunts me. Not only does his death/absence stress me out, the lasting reality that I was Death's henchman really freaks me out.
2. New York City. "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere." Indeed. The cliches are true. This is one stressed-out place. Every day is a psychological drama on top of physical challenges (crowded subways! stinky streets!). Just being here requires a veneer of steel and a large sense of humor.
3. Not enough exercise. Most of my life has been spent in conditions of "extreme activity." I held jobs which required 6-8 hours of nearly non-stop physical labor indoors and outside. I do not drive; my vehicle has been my bicycle, which I used to bike to and from the physical jobs. When I went to graduate school and then a desk job in a university -- a more sedentary day -- I still maintained an "extreme" biking schedule, riding to and from work, around town, and long rides on weekends. Moving to NYC has radically changed how much exercise I get. I bike once a week, and try to walk as much as I can, but I am not getting a quarter of the physical exertion my body is used to getting -- and this, I think, "stresses out my body." Or, maybe I'm always "stressed" but all that exercise tempered the effects.
4. Not enough time. Or faulty time-management. But doesn't everyone complain about this one?
5. Clutterclutterclutterclutter. Over the past 7 months, I've been "de-cluttering" my apartment. It is improving, but there is so much more I can do to streamline, improve efficiency, install order and create a calming environment and space to BREATHE.
6. Other Things. Not living up to my own ideals. Not having enough opportunities or vacation time to see family/friends. So on and so on.
HOW WILL I ADDRESS THIS STRESS, THEN?
Time to do more of what works, less of what doesn't. Make some changes, listen to more music, climb stairs at work. Operation Stress Out (as in Out It Goes!).