I had a pretty stressful autumn, followed by an even more stressful winter and, predictably, my body took the hit. Not only were my eating habits totally wonky, but my exercise was inconsistent and my sleep was totally off. On top of that, I was having all of these stomach issues, brought on by stress, which made eating right, exercising and sleeping much more difficult. Then, when my body finally seemed to settle down, I started getting hit with these painful sinus headaches and tightness in my chest when I woke up. At first, it was bearable, but ultimately, they got more frequent and more uncomfortable, until I was popping some kind of pill virtually every day.
Unfortunately though, between family troubles, a heavy workload, and mothering twin boys, I simply didn’t seem to have the time to go to the doctor. I had so many things on my plate, all of which seemed to take priority over my own health. So, for months, yes, MONTHS, I just sucked it up.
About a month ago though, things finally seemed to calm down for good. My boys were in school, work had eased up and the personal stresses of the winter were behind me. So, it was time to see a doctor! First stop was my GP, who checked me out and confirmed that I must be having allergies, brought on by stress. As he explained it, during stressful times, your immune system can basically shut down, making you more susceptible to illness, and more sensitive to allergens that you previously were able to tolerate.
So, my next stop was the allergist, who did the whole scratch test on my back, followed by 14 needles in my bicep. Basically, after 38 years of being allergy-free, I suddenly had a severe allergy to dust mites, as well as some minor allergies to other airborne thingies.
Then, he decided to do a food panel as well, to check for food allergies. Now, this one was the total shocker. I was basically allergic to foods I ate every single day. Avocados, mustard, salmon, blueberries, melon, just to name a few, of which there were about 20. I had no idea! I literally had been consuming foods that I was allergic to on a daily basis, without realising it, without noticing any symptoms. (And, by the way, they’re all healthy foods too, so WTH?) As he explained it (if I got it right), I had gone so long without treating my primary allergy (the dust mites), that I had developed some temporary intolerance to certain foods as well. No, it wasn’t serious or anaphylactic, but it was harming my body and my health. So he recommended new bedding, an air purifier and medication to treat the dust mite allergy, and told me to steer clear of my red flag foods for at least six weeks.
So why am I sharing this boring medical story with you? Because for years now, ever since having kids, I haven’t been taking care of myself like I should. I ignore ails that I shouldn’t, I put off doctor’s appointments, all because I just don’t feel like I have the time or energy to take care of me. I suffer through a lot of colds and fevers and aches and pains because I don’t have a choice. How can I go to the doctor when I have to pick up my kids by 12? How can I just lie in bed and heal when I’ve got twins to chase after? Who cares about my cough when my little guy has been up all night coughing as well? And get a good night’s sleep? What’s that? Plus, I chalk everything up to just being a tired, stressed-out mum of young kids when, in reality, some ailments aren’t just par for the course.
Here are a couple of things that I realised though. First off, I’m really no good to my kids if I’m not taking care of myself, too. I remember one point over the winter, in the midst of all of the headaches and coughing, when my son asked me to play some chasing game with him, and before I could answer, he said, “Are you too tired?” I should have gotten my butt to the doctor then! The other thing I realised is that when something is wrong (and luckily, in my case, it was minor), it doesn’t just go away on its own and, in fact, can just get worse if it’s not addressed. In my case, I now have to undo a four-month histamine assault that I could have tried to get a handle on months ago.
None of this is a big deal, I know, but I think that, as mums, we need to prioritise our own health. You know that whole thing about securing your own mask on an aircraft? We owe it to our kids to stay on top of our health, and to be at a our very best, because they deserve energetic, playful, vibrant mamas. We also owe it to ourselves because having kids doesn’t make us less important — it means we’re actually more important than ever.
More ways to take care of yourself:
- 13 Simple Ways to Feel Less Stressed
- How to Slow Down in a Culture of Busy
- 5 Natural Ways to Sleep Better, According to an Expert