Handling Unexpected Stress

Over the last several years it has become clear to me that I have a severe reaction to particular moments of irregular stress in my life. These events include getting pulled over by a cop, prolonged physical pain, large and unexpected bills, medical procedures, etc.

So yesterday, I went to the dentist for x-rays, a regular cleaning, and to check on the very mild and infrequent pain in one of my bottom teeth. As it turns out, that particular tooth that was causing pain is cracked underneath an old filling.

As soon as the doctor started explaining the procedure to fix it (the process of getting a crown), I got incredibly anxious and had to fight back tears. What’s ridiculous? I’m not afraid of the drilling or filing or any of the actual work on the tooth. I’m afraid of the numbing needles. In my experience, the sudden, sharp pain from the numbing needles are much worse than any other pain associated with dental procedures. I need numbing for the numbing.

So I was already feeling vulnerable and anxious when the treatment coordinator sat me down to go over the cost of the procedure, telling me that my insurance wouldn’t cover the crown and it was going to cost $1200. That is a really crappy place to be: Completely blindsided by the $1200 bill, but unable to leave a cracked tooth untreated.

I walked out of the dentist’s office, got into my car, and burst into tears. Does this sound familiar? It was a similar experience to the one I had back in October after getting pulled over for speeding.

Between all of that and the continuing issue of pain in my wrists and shoulders, I was a hot mess when Erik got home from work. The rest of the day was a total loss. I sent Erik off alone to our dinner plans, used what little energy I had left to make a Whole30 approved dinner, ate it, then laid on the couch for two hours without moving until Erik got home, and then promptly went to bed and fell asleep at 9:30pm.

I have learned that the only thing I can do when things like this happen is to be as gentle with myself as possible. My list of things to do include:

  1. Taking a bath.
  2. Putting on my comfiest pajamas.
  3. Snuggling a husband or a dog (whichever is closest at hand).
  4. Laying in the comfiest spot on the couch or in bed watching TV or reading a good book.
  5. Eating delicious (and good for me) food.
  6. Going to bed early.

Usually after I’ve done some or all of these things, especially going to bed early, I wake up the next day feeling much better and more prepared to face whatever the stress may be. I’m still incredibly nervous about the numbing needles in store for me on the 10th, but I don’t need to worry about that today, right? (I just have to worry about not biting down on anything too hard!)

How do you handle unexpected stress?

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2 thoughts on “Handling Unexpected Stress

  1. I have the same response. Phone calls I know I have to make, car repair, any sort of request from another human . . . It can all make me lose traction. I use deep breaths, but mostly I write or clean. I have control over the page and my space.

    • Thanks for visiting Shawna! I’ve gotten into the habit of asking my husband to make as many of the phone calls as I can avoid making personally. But sometimes I just can’t avoid it. Getting it out of the way first thing in the morning seems to work best for me.

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