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Self care is hard. It’s hard to shake the feeling that it’s selfish somehow. But I know from learning how to manage my depression that it’s vital, and it’s one of the only circuit breakers that works when my mood is on the slide (and even then, it doesn’t always stop the slide altogether).

My stress load at work has been large lately, and will remain at that level for more than a month. I was supposed to get up today and go to an event at work to take photos, but when I woke up at 6:30 I just couldn’t. I thought my role in the day was probably not vital, so sent my apologies and went back to sleep. Briefly surfaced at 1pm, feeling groggy, and thought I probably shouldn’t sleep the whole day, so decided to do some massage study. I fell back asleep for another few hours – but after the reading I did I didn’t feel bad about it (but not because reading a textbook makes me sleepy, which it does).

The chapter I was reading was about illness, injury, risk factors for disease. The bit on stress said:

Research has shown that as stresses accumulate, especially if the stress is long term, the individual becomes increasingly susceptible to physical illness, mental and emotional problems, and accidental injuries. . .  

. . .the body mobilises different defence mechanisms when threatened by harmful stimuli (actual or perceived). The [general adaptation syndrome] has three stages: (1) alarm, or the fight-or-flight response, which is the body’s initial reaction to the perceived stressor; (2) the resistance reaction, in which the secretion of regulating hormones allows the body to continue fighting or to endure a stressor long after the effects of the alarm reaction have dissipated; and (3) exhaustion, which occurs if the stress response continues without relief. 

In generalised stress conditions, the hypothalamus acts on the anterior pituitary gland to cause the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which stimulates the adrenal cortex to secrete glucocorticoid. In addition, the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system is stimulated by the adrenal medulla, resulting in the release of epinephrine and norepinephrine to assist the body in responding to the stressful stimulus. Unfortunately during periods of prolonged stress, glucocorticosteroids (cortisol) may have harmful side effects, including a diminished immune response, altered blood glucose levels, altered protein and fat metabolism, and decreased resistance to stress. 

Sandy Fritz, Mosby’s Fundamentals of therapeutic massage, Elsevier, 2013, p 210

tl;dr: Basically, stress produces hormones to help you deal with a situation, but it’s only supposed to be useful for short periods, and if you don’t seek relief you can end up with health problems. I know all this but I keep forgetting when I’m in the midst of it.

So if you know you’re going to be in a long term stress situation, and you can’t get out of it, it’s important to do all you can to relieve that, whenever you have the opportunity. So I decided that sleeping all day is not a bad thing. I need to go and get a massage for myself.