Stressing about not stressing

I’m afraid that circumstances beyond my control interfered with my writing last week. You see, I was busy collecting frequent flyer points at the hospital. And I was heavily medicated with narcotics. In the midst of cancelling our long-planned vacation, I was forced to address the growing, months-old hematoma on my knee. After involving every doctor I know and more last week, a plastic surgeon excised my unseemly lump last Friday.

This operation was no small feat. I needed to go off my blood thinners, I needed a platelet transfusion, and I needed scans to rule out other causes for the increasingly painful ugliness. And here I am, on my couch, elevating my leg and, as per doctor’s orders, trying to keep my blood pressure down for the immediate future.

So, in my unending curiosity, I did some internet health research–shame on me–on factors that elevate blood pressure. Let me share these with you. Perhaps you’ll find this information useful someday.

Small brown dog looking overwhelmed.

That’s me, cool as a cucumber.

You probably know that stress can increase blood pressure. Just think of someone who is boiling mad and how red her cheeks get while she screams at you. Thankfully, I am a very calm person whose stress rolls off her back, so this is not an issue for me. (As if.) If I don’t pick up the phone this week when I see your number on my call display, please don’t be upset. Just know you obviously cause me stress and I don’t want to raise my blood pressure by speaking with you. I’m just avoiding you to promote my own healing. (N.B.: blog followers do not fall into this group.)

Smoking and alcohol consumption increase blood pressure temporarily and over the long term. I do not indulge in either of these, although every so often I dream that I am having a cigarette. I’m not sure what this dream means since even dreaming about smoking makes me cough and gag.

Drinking alcohol is out of the question, as you know. I did have a rare cup of coffee Saturday morning to counter the effects of several days of sleeplessness, not realizing that caffeine too could cause a spike in blood pressure. Perhaps I should have done my research first. Oh, no! Does this mean no chocolate this week? Let’s just pretend we didn’t know that.

Use of illicit drugs, such as amphetamines and anabolic steroids, can also raise blood pressure. If I’m too square to smoke or drink, do you really think I’m going to be abusing street drugs? I’m much too uptight for that.

I didn’t realize that sudden or strenuous exercise can raise blood pressure. What a bummer, since physical activity is my Prozac. Having to lounge on my couch while I heal is killing me. In fact, not exercising will most certainly add to my stress and increase my blood pressure. Maybe I should be exercising to keep my stress down. Do you think the doctor will agree?

Finally, over the long term, weight gain can increase blood pressure. Well, if I’m stuck on the couch, stressed because I can’t exercise, do you really think I’m going to maintain my usual slim physique? I’m not hopeful, especially since the first thing I turn to when I’m stressed is food.

Just thinking about reducing my stress is stressing me out. There’s no hope for me. I’m off to the gym, you can’t stop me. But first, where did J. hide the darn chocolate?

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