My Body's Natural Stress Response Only Makes Me More Anxious

My Body's Natural Stress Response Only Makes Me More Anxious

It is truly hard to lose your hair when the media tells you that women with thick hair are the beautiful ones. Women with thin or balding hair are often hidden from the media.

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Stress...it might be the only constant in our lives. And how we deal with it can change, but how your body deals with it, is often out of conscious control.

I have an anxiety disorder. This means that tasks that most people do not find stressful or anxiety-inducing can and do make me anxious. I get anxious over buying groceries or taking a shower. I obsess over what time to go bed at night and in what order I should do my chores in.

My anxiety is pretty bad and I am working on it. But my body has a natural response to chronic stress: it makes my hair fall out. I don't mean I pull my hair out; that is a conscious response to chronic stress although it is equally as important.

I notice that my hair falls out when it feels more brittle, won't get as soft in the shower, and clogs up my brush more quickly.

My hair began falling out when I had my eating disorder at the age of 13. At the time, we (as in my family, doctors, and myself) all thought my hair was falling out due to a lack of nutrition, which was probably partly true. I thought once I recovered from the eating disorder, my hair would gain back thickness and stop falling out; this didn't happen.

My hair is thin. It wasn't when I was little but after puberty, it became thin. But it does get thicker and thinner depending on the level of stress I am under.

It is truly hard to lose your hair when the media tells you that women with thick hair are the beautiful ones. Women with thin or balding hair are often hidden from the media. Hair care commercials show hair thicker than humanly possible and talk about how to get your hair that thick. Hair loss commercials talk about how you can regrow your hair. Having the hair you currently have is never acceptable.

I have often been embarrassed about my hair. It is hard to do certain hairstyles with my hair because I don't have enough of it. I would love to dye my hair a crazy color, but I can't risk the bleaching process.

It is time for the media to stop making people with thin, balding, or no hair feel as though they are less or not beautiful. Hair does not define beauty.

I have decided to take a stand against my negative self-talk towards my hair and towards myself. I have spent a great deal of money on hair thickening serums and special hair care products and all that accomplishes is to make me stressed about how much money I am spending.

I am working to have a positive outlook on my hair. While some days I just want to shave my head, and that might be a super cool fashion statement, I cannot let my stress win.

So I like to look at the little victories. A little victory for me is that I know my hair falls out when I am stressed; therefore, I can recognize when life is becoming overwhelming and I need to take a step back.

For all of my readers with thinning, balding, or no hair... you're beautiful! You're perfect. And you do NOT need to spend money purchasing hair care products that are not even proven to work. Just flaunt your differences because they make you, you. And I will try to do so, too.

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A Love Letter To The Girl Who Cares Too Much About Everyone But Herself

You, the girl with a heart full of love and no place big enough to store it all.

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Our generation is so caught up in this notion that it's "cool" not to care about anything or anyone. I know you've tried to do just that.

I'm sure there was a brief moment where you genuinely believed you were capable of not caring, especially since you convinced everyone around you that you didn't. But that just isn't true, is it? Don't be ashamed of this, don't let anyone ridicule you for having emotions.

After everything life has put you through, you have still remained soft.

This is what makes you, you. This is what makes you beautiful. You care so deeply and love so boldly and it is incredible, never let the world take this from you.

Have Your Voice Heard: Become an Odyssey Creator

You are the girl who will give and give and give until you have absolutely nothing left. Some may see this as a weakness, an inconvenience, the perfect excuse to walk all over you. I know you try to make sense of it all, why someone you cared so much about would treat you the way they did.

You'll make excuses for them, rationalize it and turn it all around on yourself.

You'll tell yourself that maybe just maybe they will change even though you know deep down they won't. You gave them everything you had and it still feels as if they took it all and ran. When this happens, remind yourself that you are not a reflection of those who cannot love you. The way that people treat you does not define who you are. Tell yourself this every day, over and over until it sticks. Remind yourself that you are gold, darling, and sometimes they will prefer silver and that is OK.

I know you feel guilty when you have to say no to something, I know you feel like you are letting everyone you love down when you do. Listen to me, it is not your responsibility to tend to everyone else's feelings all the time. By all means, treat their feelings with care, but remember it is not the end of the world when you cannot help them right away.

Remember that it is OK to say no.

You don't have to take care of everyone else all the time. Sometimes it's OK to say no to lunch with your friends and just stay home in bed to watch Netflix when you need a minute for yourself. I know sometimes this is much easier said than done because you are worried about letting other people down, but please give it a try.

With all of this, please remember that you matter. Do not be afraid to take a step back and focus on yourself. You owe yourself the same kind of love and patience and kindness and everything that you have given everyone else. It is OK to think about and put yourself first. Do not feel guilty for taking care of yourself. You are so incredibly loved even when it doesn't feel like it, please always remember that. You cannot fill others up when your own cup is empty. Take care of yourself.

Cover Image Credit: Charcoal Alley

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A Day In The Life Of A College Student Who Has Anxiety

You know it isn't a big deal, but your anxiety doesn't.

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You wake up an hour earlier than you meant to, and you know you'll be falling asleep halfway through your first class of the day, but you can't sleep now. Not since you've seen that your alarm will be going off in an hour anyway. You can already feel the twisting in your stomach, the anticipatory anxiety as you contemplate your plans for the day.

You climb out of bed and walk over to your dresser, where you keep the bottle of pills that keep you from having panic attacks between classes. The medication really does help sometimes, but it's hard to suppress something like anxiety. All you have to do is let yourself think about anything—a certain person, a plan you made with a friend, a memory, even a song. Boom, your stomach hurts and you feel those familiar trills in your chest, the jitters in your fingers, the numbness that makes you think maybe you're going to have a heart attack this time.

You take the pill with a couple sips of water, then get dressed. Your outfit for the day is already lying out on the top of the dresser—you can't fall asleep at night until you've got everything ready for the morning. You leave your residence hall 45 minutes before your first class. Not because you plan on getting breakfast (you can't eat in the mornings because anxiety turns your stomach into what feels like a vat of boiling acid), but because you're too anxious to show up to class right on time. What if you fall on the way? What if a sidewalk is closed? What if the bus doesn't show up? There are too many variables for you to justify leaving anything to chance.

You are tired when you get to your class building, but you can't just grab a cup of coffee. That caffeine would turn you into even more of a mess, and that isn't what you need today. You're all too familiar with the chest pain and trembling that comes along with caffeinated drinks. Just water for you today.

Once class starts (30 minutes after you reach the classroom), you feel okay. Finally, a reprieve from the feeling that you're either going to vomit or experience a chest explosion. Obviously, you prepared for class. Your homework is done, although the quality of your work really depends on how bad your anxiety was when you did it—did you spend time really trying to comprehend the work, or did you just do it as quickly as you could so you could tick that assignment off your to-do list?

At lunch, you know you should eat, so you grab a plate of whatever they're serving in the dining hall today. Your friend already has a table, bless her, so you set your plate down and push your broccoli around while you wait for your stomach to settle. You take small sips of water in the meantime, listening to your friend talk about her day.

"Oh," she says, "are we still going to that concert tonight?"

Oh no. At some point in the great race to do all your homework last night, you'd forgotten to jot down your concert plans in your planner. A stupid mistake.

"Yes," you say, pretending everything is okay, but already this spontaneous change in today's plan has ensured that you won't be eating lunch today.

Your last class is a small one, a discussion-based class. You rarely work up the courage to speak, and that poses a problem for your participation grade. It isn't that you don't have anything to say—you read the class text and always find interesting points in the reading. You just feel an encroaching panic attack whenever you consider speaking up, and you're too nervous to inform your professor of your anxiety. Participation is only 15% of your grade, so you can still get a B even if she gives you a zero for not speaking up. You use this rationalization to convince yourself you don't have to talk to her.

You have three hours between your last class and the concert, so you decide to spend two hours studying and give yourself an hour for dinner with your friend. You're finally a little hungry, so you buy a bag of chips from the little store by the Student Union. You snack on these while you study, but the closer you get to the concert, the more anxiety you have.

The concert is at six, and by five o'clock you can barely breathe. You're very aware that it's just a concert, and you're probably going to enjoy it. You know your friend will be there, so you won't be alone. You know it isn't a big deal. But your anxiety doesn't care. You can rationalize about it all you want, but your chest will still ache and you'll still feel lightheaded.

When you meet your friend at the dining hall again, you realize your anxiety has been a little alleviated now that you're not alone to think about the concert. You're able to eat an entire ham sandwich and a salad. You and your friend finish up dinner and you're feeling better. So long as you're not stuck in your anticipation, you're fine.

At a quarter to six, you and your friend head to the building where the a capella group will be performing. As you expected, the concert is great and you enjoy yourself. It's over at 7:30, so your friend heads back to her apartment and you return to your residence hall. You shower and then sit down to do some more homework. Now that you're done for the day, you can eat, so you snack on a banana and a granola bar.

When you've done all your homework, you brush your teeth and set out tomorrow's outfit. You take another of your pills. You spend several minutes trying to make sure you haven't forgotten something important, then you get into bed. You don't have any extraordinary plans for tomorrow, but for some reason, as soon as your head hits the pillow, you feel that familiar turning in your stomach.

After 30 minutes of hopelessly lying completely still in an attempt to tire out your overactive brain, you sigh and get out of bed. You rifle through your dresser and grab your bottle of melatonin. You take one of the tiny tablets, then get back under your covers. Tomorrow will be easier.

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