Above All, Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself

This week, I was given a very important reminder: No matter what’s going on in your life, take some time for yourself and manage stress.

What happened?

I was diagnosed with shingles.

Now, I realize that when it comes to health issues, shingles is relatively minor.  I just have to take some meds, do my best to not scratch at the sores/rash, and I should heal up just fine.  There are so many other worse things that could’ve happened and I’m extremely lucky that I seem to have a mild case with my rash on my side and not my face.

But how did it happen?  Shingles is primarily an older person’s disease, right?  The vaccine is only approved for people older than 50 so why me?  I should have decades before its something to worry about, right?

Well, apparently, shingles can strike young adults who are severely stressed or immunocompromised.  In fact, the first thing my doctor asked me after making the diagnosis was, “Have you been stressed lately?”  Two minor surgeries, some other minor medical issues, moving, three jobs…  Yeah, I’ve been stressed.  Paired with my lack of exercise lately and my poor sleep lately… voila!  Shingles!

Granted, the stage of shingles before the rash is a general feeling of “blergh” and not wanting to do anything, nerve pain, and poor sleep.  (I’ve been waking up multiple times in the middle of the night; now, I know that was likely to the nerve pain.)  So, it’s possible that this contributed to me not exercising, but the real truth of the matter is I messed up at managing my stress.

The diagnosis was a wake up call.  I cut back on hours at two of my jobs, started doing breathing exercises every morning, afternoon, and lunch, stretching a lot, and incorporated more animal-based protein into my diet (I figure I need it right now to help with the healing process).  I make sure to sit and “zone out” for a few minutes every couple of hours and if I catch myself stressing out, I take deep breaths, look at pictures/videos of cute animals, and remind myself “Everything will be alright.”

This post is a reminder to my not-so-distant-future-self-actually-in-the-internship and to other future interns to take care of yourself.  No matter what, take time out of everyday for yourself.  Do something relaxing every day, even if it’s just staring at a wall.

And maybe get a fish.  Can’t have a dog yet, but having a fish helps to reduce stress and lower blood pressure.

Some useful links about shingles:

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