How Humans Cope with Stress

I’ve been noticing some interesting things recently as I deal with a number of stressful issues occurring in my life. They are separate and related, and vary in scope and scale and how they were injected into my life and relieved. They’re dynamic, in other words, but persistent, and lately, sizable in any way someone looks at them. They’re relative, I know. Everyone has problems, and I know there are people with greater problems than I have, and others with less. But to each person, the stressor is relative to the amount and type of coping skills they’re armed with, the amount of time they have to devote to them, and all the other resources needed to deal with each one separately, in conjunction with one another, and often compounded by each other. I don’t mean to compare my situation with anyone else’s because they’re all unique.

So I’m not writing about this as a complaint; more like a clinical observation about how my own person, physically and mentally, have reacted to what I’m experiencing. I think nearly anyone would agree that what I’m experiencing, knowing the details of it all, is unusually high-stress in any context, however. “Measuring” it seems pointless and futile because of what I described above. I’m just trying to impress the fact this isn’t your everyday “I got into a car accident” or “my power was cut off” type of problem that’s being dealt with.

So what initially happened when I was hit with the sudden news that my wife left me and my family was destroyed, dreams shattered, the dog died, etc… was that I lost a lot of weight quickly. My cortisol levels went off the chart. I lost over 25% of my weight in two weeks, and I wasn’t overweight. That was from about 175 lbs to less than 152 pounds, and then it kept dropping into the 140s, to about 145 and then to 135 when I stopped weighing myself because it was frightening to see myself turning into a skeleton and not being able to stop it. Even though I was eating normally and living as I always had. Eventually, after gorging myself for months and time doing the work time tend to do, I put the weight back on. Yes, I went to the doctor, and he just said it was because of stress, which is what I already knew and why I dismiss most doctors to begin with.

fight or flight

Fast forward to now, about 2 quick years later when I’m experiencing a resurgence in stress from some of the same issues that remain unresolved, or have become worse, plus a number of new ones. I had financial stresses removed temporarily, and then the rug pulled out from under me and me crashing on the ground even harder than before, which I’m working on getting back up from now.

But what is interesting to me is my body’s response this time. I went through a period of sleeplessness where I would go days without sleep until my common sense and biology made me get some sleep. And then I’d rest very hard, and find it hard to even move a muscle in the direction out of bed, to shower and tend to the numerous obligations I have. I don’t drink or smoke, and I exercise when I can, but I’m not on a regular exercise regimen. My daily chores typically provide quite a bit. Just mowing my nearly vertical yard is more than I believe most men my age could do, and I do it every week, plus chasing my daughter nonstop around gets the heart pumping. I’ve never worried about becoming Mr. Universe but I’ve always been active. Always.

What’s more, I find that I have an insatiable appetite. I’ve never eaten for comfort or as a coping mechanism. I consider food fuel and eat healthily. I tend to graze throughout the day and night instead of eating big several full meals like most people I think do. I don’t wait until I’m starving to refill my tank. I’ve never been a snacker. But I do have a sweet tooth and will eat dark chocolate or ice cream as a rare treat.


But lately, I have been eating non-stop, which I think is due to our fight or flight instinct. I stay awake forever as a fighting stance. And my body wants me to bolster my energy sources by eating a bunch of food and resting, once I give in and lie down. It tries to keep me down to rest, to be prepared to fight, although to me when I’m lying there, it feels more like flight. I keep getting bad news which is body blows that also tempt me to hide from the world as well. But I know that’s the least productive thing I can do and will only make matters worse, so I fight it. I’m a fighter, not a quitter, and I’m a doer, not a talker, which is are facts that will remove me from this pit eventually one way or another. People have had to face far worse circumstances than I am, and have emerged so much stronger than most people on Earth as a result. I don’t think that I fall outside that group of people with the background and fortitude I have. And although nearly everyone has turned their backs to me, I still have a group of people that I know live me and care about me, which will always be remembered and helps lift me up when I just want to lie down and give up.

emotional eating

This time, despite my ridiculous appetite, I’m not putting on any weight, but it’s especially noticeable when juxtaposed against my daughter’s appetite. She is 4 years old and eats like a bird, to begin with. And she’d rather play than eat. I have to force her to focus on settling down and eating, and even then she’s picky, so she’ll only eat a few bites at a time and then it’s back to work for her. She reminds me of myself in that regard, where I will often neglect myself in the name of finishing something else I’m focused on to the point of being manic. When I did consulting work, I’d stay up for 3 days straight to finish a project and not come up for air until it was done. That’s always been my ethic, and I recognize it and recognize it’s crazy, but that’s another post. I also notice stress compels me to want to create/produce, like writing, building things, fixing things around the house, playing guitar, and being artistic. And it’s the reason I’m up typing this at nearly 2 am instead of getting sleep. But I’m not crazy, so goodnight.

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