What Shingles Are Teaching Me About Stress Management

It started Friday, June 3rd.

Welp, it may have started before then, as I was finding myself quite fatigued in the last days of May. I was sleeping a lot — sometimes 10, 12, even 14 hours — and seeing as I usually get anywhere from three to six hours of sleep, max, that was worth noting.

But on Friday the 3rd, I mentioned to Keith that I thought I should take a half a Sudafed. My ear was bothering me. Pressure. Pain.

Over the course of the weekend, the pain and pressure stuck around… increased. Uh-oh. Another damn ear infection, right?

Okay, off to Urgent Care for a pack of antibiotics and a topical cream for a rash on my earlobe the doc is certain is due to a reaction to some earring I’ve worn.

NOTE: I’ve not worn earrings in about 20 years.

But whatever; he went to med school and I did not. And I am a good girl and take the drugs I’m prescribed.

Tuesday night: excruciating pain. Let’s give the drugs time to work. It’s only been a day.

Wednesday night: excruciating pain. We’ve decided if this pattern repeats Thursday, back to Urgent Care we go (which is what they recommend when we talk on the phone Wednesday — I love that they call to check on me).

Of course, Thursday night: excruciating pain and a schedule that simply will not allow for another visit to the doc ’til Friday.

So, Friday the 10th, back we go.

Oh. Oh? It’s not an ear infection?

“Your eardrum is clear as a bell! You look great… except for this rash. Have you ever had shingles?”

In fact I have.

As anyone who has ever had chickenpox *can* have, I had shingles when I was 16, about to turn 17. In fact, it was this time of year… so… 29 years ago.

Now, shingles are not fun. They’re painful as fuck. They’re scary. And they’re brought about by stress. Significant stress.

Something about which I’m quite familiar, but something about which I’ve gotten very good at managing in my adult life.

Or so I thought.

Cut to Friday the 10th and my new diagnosis. And my new drugs. And oh my God, sweet relief for the first time in a week.

But the number-one “fix” for shingles is stress avoidance.

How the hell am I supposed to avoid stress?

My fitness of choice is a high-stress, adrenaline-junky flight around a vertical apparatus.

I care far too much about evvvvvveeerrrrrryyyyyyything.

I idle at stressed out.

So.

I take these drugs. One of them is “set an alarm and take one of these five times a day” in nature. Another is “take one of these and OMG watch out because you’re going to crash out, hard.”

Now, I don’t mean, “may cause drowsiness,” here. I mean, “you’re going to be slightly paralyzed so you cannot move.” Whoa.

I guess that’s one way to ensure no stress! I mean, I can’t move. I can’t really focus my vision. I’ve had to cancel everything and I cannot stress about it.

Physically.

I cannot stress about it.

So, this gets me thinking about stress management.

It gets me thinking about “good enough.” It gets me thinking about the attachment to results, to outcome, to how others feel… and it gets me thinking about how I’ve lived my life believing that if I work hard enough, I can make anything happen.

And so far, that’s been true.

Don’t have what I want? Work harder. I’ll get it.

Yet something I’ve never worked hard for…? My health. Relaxation. Detachment.

And that brings me to a decision I made long before this shingles diagnosis: I’m going on vacation. True vacation. Off-the-grid, no technology, 100% unreachable even by Keith vacation. For the first time EVER.

Yup.

I never once have taken a break without also taking my work with me.

See? I love my work. And I run my own business. I have a staff to pay. And if I’m not working, they’re not making rent. So I’m always working. And I love it. Therefore it’s very *easy* for me to justify relaxing then working, relaxing then working some more, and then relaxing and pulling an all-nighter to catch up on work… and calling that a break.

Because compared to my daily life, it is.

This one is going to be different, and I had already made that decision for myself before this diagnosis.

And maybe that’s why this diagnosis came about? I’m pushing myself harder to get as much done as possible so that I can truly enjoy being clocked out.

Matters not. Whatever the reason, I now have to take it easy.

And that brings me to this: Stress management is a choice. Our relationship with worry, our concern over what may happen, our PUSHING to make things happen is 100% within our control.

Those extra ten things we may do because we think it makes a difference often might make a shift of anywhere between zero percent and ten percent in the results we’d get if we didn’t do those extra ten things.

So how’s about trying to NOT do those extra ten things now and then? Or to do one of them? Maybe?

What might you commit to NOT doing?

What bit of stress are you choosing to introduce — maybe even daily — that you could soften a bit?

I have to say, I’m looking for things daily to just let go of. It’s pretty awesome how everything all works out just the same.

And as much as I love you, I cannot wait to be 100% cut off from hearing from you or sharing anything with you about my journey for more than a week. Cannot. Wait.

Love,


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

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11 Comments

  1. Bradford stevens June 14, 2016 at 6:21 am

    Yes. Take a break Bonnie. Stress is no joke and relaxation very importan. Be well!

    Reply
  2. Marsha June 14, 2016 at 6:58 am

    Yep! As you said in your e-mail, and what we talked about in The Work, the amount of effort put into something does not always equal a reward, especially in our business. It’s something I’ve always known, and gets reinforced in different ways over the years. The last one was with a wonderful book by Malcolm Gladwell called The Outliers, which is all about examining successful people, and that there’s a lot more to it that just ‘work hard’. Because plenty of people ‘work hard’, but don’t get the same result. Eye opening.

    Have a great vacay!!!!!!

    Reply
  3. Mike Pusateri June 14, 2016 at 7:04 am

    Bon!

    I think I’ve mentioned it before but you must look into Transcendental Meditation. Pam and I started practicing it nearly 3 years ago and it is life changing. Do some research on TM online, read the GQ article, and watch the Seinfeld video. Then find a TM Center in LA and reach out to them.

    The difference in your stress level will be night and day!

    Reply
  4. Shakeerah June 14, 2016 at 8:03 am

    Thank you for sharing this! I’ve recently begun practicing being in the moment and trusting that I am equipped to adapt to any changes, and if not, I’ll learn. It takes the fun out the journey if I have all the answers anyway. What also helped me with this realization is two days ago I ate a fortune cookie that had the best message on the paper: “Relish the transitions in your life – they will happen regardless”. Just what I needed.!

    Take good care of yourself and enjoy that vacation! May it be the best one yet!

    Reply
  5. Ravi Naidu June 14, 2016 at 8:46 am

    Hey Bon, so glad you’re getting a real break. I’ve been thinking about this exact same thing…haven’t had a real break in a year and I promised myself at the beginning of the year that I would do that…epic fail! So I’m taking a week in July! But right now I’ve been focused on my thoughts as soon as I wake up in the am. That’s when the stress monsters get really geared up and thinking about everything I think I must get done in the day is the worst way to walk up…and sometimes it just keeps me in bed and then I feel even worse! So, I don’t have the magic formula for what to say to myself when I get up, but I’m bringing more awareness to the first moments of my day and how I can consciously use those to shape the rest of the day. Pretty sure I’m on the right track!

    Reply
  6. Remy June 14, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    Wow Bonnie
    First I want to thank you for spending two hours with us on Thursday for Brand Blitz being in that amount of pain. I had no idea. Please take that vacation and really take that vacation.
    I’ve been stressed a lot lately. Even though I’m not good at it I’ve been meditating, making a daily gratitude list and morning pages 3 a day. And just trusting in the universe to make it all work out. Also I find that when I stress about a project I think I’ve been here before and the results came out the way you wanted so that will happen again.
    And this is easier said than done.
    I’ll send lots of healing energy

    Reply
  7. Lore June 14, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    I’ve found this is a pattern, especially with all the strong, beautiful women I admire (*hint hint you*) that we are so motivated and put so much pressure on ourselves without even being aware of it (now I’m totally talking about myself) that we cost ourselves out health because we’re too busy thinking about our work, other people, not wasting our precious second son earth etc. I worked as a sound technician on the live show of King Kong, a gigantic endeavour with a massive animatronic ape, and I was pulling 80 hour work weeks for four months…the result? Glandular fever and a month of my life I actually can’t remember because I was on the couch unable to do anything. Fast forward to now and, whilst I’m still working on not feeling guilty for resting, I am much better at factoring in time to go for a walk or have a free day to spend by myself or with a friend. It has made a big difference to my well being and I am so happy for you in that this not-very-nice wake up call has taught you to take this time for yourself. Sometimes you need a big ol’ slap in the face to change something in your life that needs changing.

    Reply
  8. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie June 18, 2016 at 8:52 pm

    Thank you, everyone, for the comments, tweets, and emails! ๐Ÿ™‚ Here are some replies at long last! <3

    Bradford -- Thank you! I am still resting. Still recovering!

    Mowsh -- Isn't it interesting how the reinforcement comes back around over time? This is a lesson I'd like to say I've learned once and for all, but I know myself too well to believe that. Loves me some Gladwell, fo' sho'! And thank you about the vaycay. It will be EPIC. ๐Ÿ™‚ Cannot! Wait!

    Pusateri -- Thank you! And thank you for the tweet! I had to fish your comment out of the spam filter. I think the TM mention may have triggered it for some reason? I'm not a meditator, no matter how much I try (I know, ironic) and no matter how much I relax into it (I grew up in a New Age household, so meditation was on the agenda from my single-digit ages and it just never took for me). But I'm so glad it works for you!

    Shakeerah -- Oh, I'm so glad you enjoyed this post. Love that fortune cookie goodness! Absolutely, I will enjoy every bit of this vacation and I look forward to sharing the lessons it provides. I plan to do a LOT of "being in the moment-ing." ๐Ÿ™‚

    Ravi -- Glad you're taking a break as well. I start my mornings with Abraham-Hicks. Seems to really make a big difference in my ability to start off on the right foot, in the right energy, with the right amount of creative fire (without being pegged to manic over-achiever zone). Catching it early is definitely key!

    Remy -- Of course! It's my job to be with you gorgeous people and it is a joy to do my job, so there! ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you for the healing energy and, yes, it is SO easier said than done, isn't it? Keith likes to say, "Everything is always working out for me," which is an Abraham-Hicks refrain. I'm trying to take that lesson from him as it seems to be TRUE... and he does very little "efforting" in life. Ever. He's a great teacher for me!

    Lore -- See, the thing is with me, I don't even feel it as outside pressure. At all. Ever. And certainly not gender-related pressure. I have *always* been driven. I have *always* worked hard. You can find photos of me as a TODDLER *working*, organizing, fretting about where things went (my toys were so VERY in order). And I've always said that when we win the lottery, the only thing that changes is that I can say NO to ALL the projects that don't light me up, rather than having to sometimes say yes to ones I'm not crazy about (since we need the money, at times). Still, I hear you on the cautions of overextending and I love that you're making progress on not feeling guilty about that rest time! Not sure I've learned a lesson that really STICKS with all this, but we'll know for sure on the other side of this vacation. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Reply
    1. Juanita Chase June 21, 2016 at 9:54 pm

      OMGOODNESS!! Sending so much love and positivity! I made a commitment last year to not continue the same patterns I had become accustomed to by going off the grid for 2 months- no social life, no contact, lots of therapy, no social media and lots and lots of meditating and writing. A life sabbatical. It was hard, I thought I would be giving up my career, etc, but I realized if I didn’t handle this NOW, I’d either be dealing with it another 20+ years or I’d be dead and then there would be no me to have a career. This blog really helped remind me that self care is so important to our overall life and if I need to take a day off to not feel guilty, bc the best of me will come out on the other side. xoxox have so much fun on the hicks cruise!!

      Reply
  9. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie June 21, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    Thank you, Juanita and yes, please do find breaks for yourself, even a day or an hour at a time! Whatever it takes to recalibrate and keep from getting exhausted and rundown. For sure! I cannot wait to share what I experience as I head off on this unplugged adventure! <3

    Reply
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