Stress or Anxiety – How a Stressful Escape Cleared the Confusion

Nada Sisalem is a digital marketer with a passion for leveraging the increasingly powerful and ever-changing digital sphere to shed light on the issues that impact us most.

An escape. Indeed, that was the aim of my first experience travelling solo to Indonesia. I was escaping from, what I believed at the time, was stress I experienced from work and personal life challenges. So, I decided to book my flight tickets, pack my bags, and fly to Bali on my own for a yoga and meditation retreat. In my mind, it was the ultimate escape from the feeling of constantly being on alert, from hearing the sound of my own heartbeat in my ears, from the thoughts that just refuse to stop.

While it was a beautiful trip, I can remember being stressed the whole time. As it was my first time travelling alone, I decided to kickstart the journey by launching my own YouTube channel and documenting every.single.thing. Literally. Despite being a complete novice to video shooting, I somehow managed to hold myself to the standards of professional YouTube vloggers, stressing about my hands shaking while walking to the yoga house and not getting the right angle captured…and let’s not even begin to talk about the lighting. All of a sudden, what I was escaping from was somehow reborn and recreated in a country that is hours away from home. I did not pay it too much attention, until I realized that I booked my flights a day early and found out about it two hours before my flight was supposed to depart. Oh, and did I mention I also already checked in at the time? I could hear ringing in my ears, I was choking on my heartbeat, and the trail of negative thoughts poured down on me like cold water. I froze. I was, for moments that felt more like hours, swallowed up in self-hatred.

How could I make such a stupid mistake? So many questions and so many harsh thoughts bombarded and bruised my mind for what truly felt like a catastrophe, until they were interrupted with a phone call from my Mom. I vented out to her and the thoughts began to subside, my heart rate slowed down, and I was able to manage the situation. In retrospect, this was a silly occurrence that, while stressful, can be easily managed and moved past. It did not feel that way, though, not to me. The mistake loomed over me and the thoughts lingered for a long time after. That’s when I realized that what I had been feeling wasn’t stress at all. It was anxiety. And let me tell you, it was very debilitating.

That was me on a yoga and meditation retreat. In hindsight, it is a bit ironic. 😊

In the workplace, a simple meeting invitation or a “let’s talk” email was sometimes warped in my mind into a lot more than the catch up that it was. I would often end up creating scenarios of what the meeting would be like and anticipating the conversation that was about to happen. The problem with those scenarios and those predicted conversations is that they were never in my favor; they were never kind. It’s mentally exhausting and emotionally draining to always be on the lookout for the next bad thing that could happen. And, as I was always baffled about how my stress was different from the stress experienced by others, what certainly didn’t help was that I could not find anybody that I could relate to. Was anyone else experiencing this kind of stress? I had no idea what it could be at the time because mental health is not often spoken about in the Middle East and North Africa, in my opinion. So, I decided to push the stress and those thoughts as far away from me as possible and I made it a mission of mine to laugh. I found refuge in laughter, because it allowed me to laugh my anxiety away. That’s why I try to keep laughing, always.

To anyone reading this and has been experiencing anxiety in and out of the workplace, all I want to say is that you’re not alone. You’re #valuable, unlike what your anxiety might be telling you.

LinkedIn – Nada Sisalem

Twitter – @SisaNada

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