I am constantly marveling at how much power our brain and mental state has over our physical body, even if we aren’t conscious of it.
I’ve learned (the hard way) about what kind of a toll stress can have on our bodies. Before I went out completely on my own, I was engaged in a long-term, very stressful contract with a client. The stress buildup caused a myriad of physical health problems, which I didn’t realize were all related to the stress until much later.
I had severe panic attacks, which manifested themselves in my throat and chest. I felt like a fish flopping around the beach, desperately gulping for air. I couldn’t breathe. I would even wake up from a sound sleep, multiple times each night with these attacks. I had horrible heartburn, to the point that I underwent an endoscopy to check for damage. Acne exploded across my face. You get the idea.
It wasn’t pretty.
I went to many doctors and received an assortment of drugs to help with these ailments. And they did help, a bit. But, not completely. Finally, I realized that I couldn’t keep putting my mind and body through this much constant stress. So, I chose to walk away from this guaranteed body of work and find new work and new clients, all on my own.
Now, don’t get me wrong — running your own business is stressful. Not having a ton of work lined up when you walk away is stressful. But — would you believe, that within just two weeks — 95% of all those ailments went away? The panic attacks, the heartburn, all of it. I even stopped the medications. Didn’t matter. I was better.
You know what else happened? My creative work got better. A lot better. I felt full and energized. And happy.
The mental laborers
I think that as a whole, the United States culture is corralling more and more young people into white collar professions over blue collar. The “mental laborers,” if you will. The expectation is that everyone should go to university and receive a college degree – becoming a mechanic or a construction worker seems like more of the “backup plan.” I definitely went the “mental laborer” route.
The vast majority of my work is done while being almost completely still. I sit. I think. I move my fingers across a keyboard and shuffle the mouse around a bit, but I really don’t move much. My brain does all the work for me, and my body is essentially just hanging out.
We have to take care of our brains.
I think there is a lot of emphasis on staying physically fit — which is also very important — but we have to take care of our mental health too. As my not-so-lovely story showed, a mind that isn’t well taken care of can make your body sick too.
I think that taking on a little less, and resisting the 24/7 culture is so important. I have been reading more about productivity and minimalism and slowly trying to adopt some of those practices into my life. It’s been helping me be less stressed and feel more peaceful.
From time to time, I’ll be sharing some tips and resources about wellness and staying balanced… I hope this post gives you some context about why this is so important to me. I also hope it challenges you to take a look at your own schedule and think about what you could change to help you feel more purposeful and balanced — instead of doing things just for others.
Here are a few wellness/minimalist/inspiring resources that I really enjoy:
- Zen Habits blog by Leo Babauta
- Unclutterer blog
- The Art of Nonconformity blog by Chris Guillebeau
- Rework, a book by 37 Signals
- Unclutter Your Life in One Week by Erin R. Doland
(I just started this one, and I really like it so far. My newly cleaned/organized closet is such a nice way to start my morning!)
Full disclosure: Links to the books in the post above are Amazon affiliate links. This means if you click on them and buy something, I receive an affiliate commission. I hope you do, because it helps me buy new books. And then, I can share all that wonderful new information with you. More on this disclosure stuff at publisher Michael Hyatt’s excellent blog. Thanks to the Communicatrix, Colleen Wainwright, for inspiring this disclosure (among other things).