“Lower back pain is completely normal,” the indifferent E.R. doctor said to me as he was writing out a prescription for pain medication.
He ignored my comments that I don’t take medicine and refused to actually examine me.
Not once in the 3 minutes I was in his presence did he lay a finger on my body OR even listen to the words that were coming out of my mouth.
I was not supposed to feel like this.
I was only 27 years old.
Yet, here I was… in the emergency room of a hospital in Southern California feeling as if someone was violently sticking a knife into my lower back – REPEATEDLY. I dealt with the pain for days as I walked around hunched over in pain.
But then I couldn’t take it anymore.
All it took was a simple question from one of my staff members asking, “Are you ok?”, to make the weeks of frustration and discomfort come pouring out.
Driving home from the hospital with nothing but useless pain prescriptions left me feeling defeated. I felt broken. WTF was I going to do now?
It wasn’t until a parent at my school (I was a Director of a school at the time), who was a chiropractor, indicated to me that the source of this pain could be stress — STRESS!
No freaking way. I didn’t believe it. This HAD to be an injury.
Fast forward to a few weeks later and having given my 2 weeks notice at my job… VOILA – the pain was GONE. I’m not talking about feeling a little bit better. I’m talking 100% G-O-N-E.
The source of my nauseating and excruciating lower back pain?
STRESS AND ANXIETY.
Lesson freaking learned my friends. Anxiety and stress are no joke and can manifest in your body in mysterious ways! You need healthy ways of dealing with that anxiety including exercise, therapy, healthy nutrition, kava pills, a job you actually look forward to, and a balanced lifestyle.
The Recovering Perfectionist
I’ve always been a go-getting type of person. I’m the quintessential Virgo: exacting, supreme attention to detail, critical, industrious, methodical, efficient, and born to serve.
While these traits served me well in school and securing a decent job post graduation, the constant pressure I put on myself to “be industrious” was continually anxiety producing. Throw on top of that my fondness for all things personal development… I was always striving to do more, be more, achieve more.
That was until I had my “F*ck THIS sh*t” moment and decided to start living the life I had been daydreaming about in my head while pretending to give a shit about the job that was sucking the life out of me.
Thus, my road to becoming a recovering perfectionist began.
The Gypsy Soul
So, what was that daydream dancing around in my head all of those “industrious” days in the office?
In the interest of not turning this article into my first novel, I’ll give you the Cliff’s Notes version of what happened next.
- I quit my job.
- I moved from California back to Pennsylvania to live with my mom for 8 months to decompress and save money for travel.
- I bought a 1 way ticket to Europe.
- I traveled as a merchandise girl with my friends band for 3.5 weeks around England.
- So far so good. Travel life suits me.
- I traveled in Europe for 16 months straight before coming back home for a break!
- Now it’s been over 4 years later and I’m still living this “travel life”!
And you want to know the best part of it all? I’ve NEVER had that horrific back pain again (aches and pains of course but nooooooooothing like that debilitating pain).
The Travel Chill Pill
Now, I’m not saying that travel is a cure all for stress and anxiety… but it sure as hell helped chill me the F out. Witnessing how other people live all around the world has shown me that there IS another way to do this thing called life.
I ended up falling in love with a gorgeous and charming man in Italy, which led me to spend about 8 months in total soaking up the Sicilian lifestyle.
Sunset Vespa rides along the coast? Check.
Eating gelato in the town square listening to street musicians playing the accordion? Check.
Snorkeling, swimming, and spending countless hours at the beach? Check.
Drinking local wine and having long family lunches in the countryside every Sunday? Check. Check. Check. Check. Not gonna lie… there was a lot of wine to be had some of those Sundays.
Ok, I’m sure you get the picture. I felt like I was living on set of a romance movie!
It was all about that sweet, sweet life… la dolce vita!
Top 3 Ways I Greatly Reduced My Anxiety Traveling to Italy
Let’s just get right to it… sinking into the sweet life in Sicily was all about:
The combination of these 3 were transformative to my overall well being in sense that it completely shook up my perception of what it means to be “productive” and “successful”.
One – Sun
- Never underestimate the power of some vitamin D and fresh air to set ya straight. I’ve always been the outdoorsy type but making it an intention to spend time outside EVERY DAY was the all natural “chill pill” I had been looking for. Furthermore, whenever I was feeling even remotely stressed or “off” I would throw myself deeper into nature by going on a hike, swimming in the sea, or just getting lost wandering around town. Being in Sicily amplified this because so many cafes and restaurants offer outdoor seating and there are endless tiny streets to explore!
“Nature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty.”
– John Ruskin
Two – Siesta
- It took me quite a while to get used to this 3 hour midday break that most Italians take. But let me tell ya, once I finally stopped my judgemental Virgo brain from telling myself I was “being lazy”… I fell in looooooove with the siesta. Shops closed, people went home from work to cook (yes COOK) lunch, and then take a rest after. G-e-n-i-o-u-s. It’s a period to spend time with loved ones and recharge yourself for the rest of the day. And here I thought it was totally normal to shove food into my mouth while standing in front of my desk in between the million tasks I had to accomplish that day. WHO would have thought that this was – and IS – a possibility!
“If you get tired learn to rest, not to quit.” – Banksy
Three – Salute!
- Salute translates into “CHEEEEEERS!” and will always bring back good memories of celebrating with people. Italians sure know how to enjoy a meal and take their good ol’ times eating, drinking, chatting, and sharing. I can’t tell you how many times I sat around a dinner table for 3-4 hours! There was NO rushing, no stress, no pressure… just pure enjoyment. I learned to slow down, take in the moment, and have “no worries”.
“The more you celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”
- Oprah Winfrey
So, there ya have it. Book your one way ticket to Italy, fall in love with a beautiful Italian person, and eat and drink all of the delicious things.
It’s as easy as that to reduce your stress and anxiety…. kidding, kidding… as I know this isn’t the most practical advice ( but it IS a possibility).
No matter where you are in this world, you can easily take advantage of the sun, siesta, and salute vibe by:
- Getting outdoors. Period. We are ALL capable of that.
- Taking a rest when you need one. SLOW down. Breathe. Observe. Appreciate.
- Celebrating your life. Spend time with the ones you love. Explore and meet new people. Be thankful!
And now we come to the end, my friends. And something about writing this article really put me in the mood for pizza.
Do you have experience dealing with stress and anxiety? Any tips to share with others? Share your thoughts and experiences with us on social media.
Written by Lindsay Smith.
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