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I Had No Idea How Stressed I Was Until I Got Shingles In My 20s

B & J

Anxiety and stress are deadly.

You hear it all the time: how you need to relax, how you need to de-stress and how you need to take care of yourself.

But then, trying to find time to de-stress makes you even more stressed, and when that's combined with the idea we're always supposed to be "on the go," you think you can just put your mental health on the back burner.

That idea, however, is completely false and can take a serious toll on your heath. Take it from someone who used to believe she just could ignore her stress and anxiety.

I had my first panic attack in college.

I didn't think I was "stressed,” but clearly my body and mind felt different. I was up late, trying to get my online exam done before 8:00 am. And like most college students, I was running on little sleep.

I was staring at my computer, and all of the sudden, I felt my chest get extremely tight, and my breath started becoming frantic and inconsistent.

I was extremely light-headed, and I began to panic. I quickly called my mom and told her something was wrong.

"I can't — I can't breathe," I cried on the phone.

My heart felt like it was going to explode out of my chest.

My mom told me to slow my breath and put my head in between my knees. She walked me through how to calm myself down, and she explained I was having a panic attack and that it would pass.

I had never felt so helpless in my life. It was terrifying.

Though my mom was able to help me through that panic attack, it wasn't the last experience I had with debilitating anxiety.

I thought after I graduated from college I would be “stress-free.”

I soon realized, however, that post-grad life is far from relaxing. The summer I completed college, I got shingles. Yes, I got stress-induced shingles at only 22 years old.

After one job interview, I felt anxious, and my back became itchy. I soon felt little bumps, and then they wrapped around my entire back to the left side to my chest.

For weeks, I had trouble lying on my back, and I had to cover myself in ice packs while I slept.

Even after my shingles "healed," I still had pain in my back for months. So whenever I felt anxious or scared, the nerves in my back would light up.

The stress and the constant pressure to be perfect — getting my dream job, paying my bills and being a successful adult — made me crash. All of that stress built up for months, and I ignored it, which wreaked havoc on my health.

It was a huge wake-up call. My doctor told me I needed to make big changes, and I decided to take back control of my life.

So, I became serious about my yoga practice, and it ended up saving my mind and body. I know it sounds clichéd, but I found what worked for me.

I learned about controlling my breath, and meditation and different poses helped me in everyday situations when I felt anxiety come about.

Now, I am studying to become a yoga teacher because I want to help people the way yoga has helped me. It has helped me deal with my stress and anxiety.

I've learned to live in the present and let go of certain worries. I've stopped stressing about the things in the past I can't change and the things in the future I can't control.

At the end of the day, I'm thankful I had that panic attack and that I got shingles.

Even though it was one of the most painful, rough summers of my life, it put everything into perspective. It forced me to take care of my mental health.

I understand life is never going to be perfect and that some things inevitably will go wrong. I still get stressed, but I no longer let it consume my life.

We all have moments when we feel overwhelmed, but it's about controlling those moments. It's about acknowledging our emotions and letting them pass.

Find what gives you a peaceful state of mind and discover what releases your anxiety and stress. Maybe it's kickboxing, or maybe it's just watching your favorite TV show for an hour to decompress.

Every aspect of our lives has some type of stress and anxiety. It's all about finding peace in the midst of chaos.