Ooook! Diving into my first intention for 2014 and it starts with this here blog.  I’ve said it more times than I can count, and it’s certainly not new news, but blogging is most certainly a slippery slope. It’s often hard to know what’s right and not right, or too personal, to share. That rings even more true when your blog is the face of your business.

But in the fall of last year I really started to crave a more authentic space. A balance between sharing food, career inspiration and style, and some more down to earth posts that could (hopefully) make us all breathe a little easier. Posts that allow us to let our hair down, connect like close friends, and keep it crystal clear my life is far from perfect. That doesn’t mean I’m planning on some sort of “authenticity” series, where each week I talk a challenge or rough patch in my life. I simply want to be a little more transparent and a little more vulnerable in hopes of serving you all better, because I truly believe we can best serve others when we’re candid and authentic about our own life experiences.

So to kick things off, I’d like to share a specific struggle I had towards the end of last year…

On October 17th, 2013 I was sitting in this event. I was wiped out and blurry eyed, but excited to see all my hard work come to fruition. Yet towards the end of the day I began to notice a pain in my eye sockets and weird fuzzy feeling on the sides of my face and forehead. I chalked it up to exhaustion but several days later the feeling was still there, and despite how much Advil I took it didn’t go away. I thought perhaps it was a migraine? But I wasn’t sensitive to light or nauseous. I wasn’t exactly sleeping well, but I trudged forward, feeling like I didn’t have any time to stop and breathe. In truth, I was so gripped with anxiety and fear of failure, that hitting the pause button was not at all an option in my mind.

A few weeks later the feeling eventually subsided. We were now in mid November. I celebrated my birthday and things felt pretty cheery. Shortly after my birthday though I came down with a cold/virus. Something that knocked me out for close to a week. Granted it’s winter on the East Coast and it’s not unusual to get sick, but my inability to sleep more than 6 or so hours at night (consistently waking up at the crack of dawn in a state of worry) made what should have been a two or three day illness linger for a week. But eventually I did get better and moved on. At that point it was Thanksgiving, and it felt so good to have a little breather. I vowed that after the holiday I’d make a balanced routine a priority. I’d get back to the gym (something I’d let slip for weeks), keep my eating in check, and make good sleep the most important thing. I also started seeing a therapist again at that point, because my anxiety truly began to feel out of control.

The week directly following Thanksgiving, I began to feel a pain in one of my back molars.  It literally felt like my back left molar was coming out of my gums.  I furiously began researching tooth abscesses and root canals, convincing myself I would need a root canal. I called my dentist and moved up my cleaning to have everything examined. After a pristine check up and the hygienist telling me she saw nothing wrong with my teeth, the doctor came in. I explained my problem again, stating I was sure my tooth was moving out of its socket and that my teeth weren’t aligning properly anymore.  She glanced around,  felt the sides of my neck and face, and then turned to me and said “How’s your sleep and stress levels?” It took every ounce of self control I had at that moment to not burst into tears. Nothing was wrong with my teeth. In addition to being a night grinder (which I wear a mouthguard for), I was now gripping and locking my jaw during waking hours, causing my teeth to feel this way. I was so relieved nothing was wrong with my teeth and that I didn’t have to spend precious dollars on a root canal, that I kind of glossed over what got me there. And then I got sick again. Same cold virus, twice in four weeks. I felt broken. I dreaded sleep, felt like I could never do enough work wise, and constantly felt like there was something to fear. And all the while my body was beating me up for it. It had to be my fault, right?

But then, the pattern hit me. From roughly October 15th to December 15th, my body experienced four physical reactions to anxiety. Again, sometimes we can’t avoid getting sick, but I’m quite confident that my inability to get sufficient sleep (fueled by anxiety) caused my immune system to be less than stellar, making me more at risk of getting sick. I used to be the person that never got sick, and I’ve been sick more times this year than I can count. It wasn’t until a noticed that pattern, that I really realized how bad my anxiety was. Up until that point I’d kept telling myself that because I was so fortunate, I didn’t have the right to acknowledge these issues. I kept thinking “Maybe these issues weren’t even issues… maybe I just need to suck it up and deal. Isn’t that what everyone else is doing?” But looking back, it’s become clear it was that exact thinking that lead me to prolong this unhealthy pattern.

I know I’m not alone in suffering from anxiety. Achievement and success is such a double edged sword, and often what propels us can end up taking control and wreaking more havoc than good in our lives. While it was a really rough eight weeks, I’m almost thankful for the experience. It was like a shock to the system on so many levels; a wake up call that my lack of self love and care can really do some serious damage to my mind and body. It’s a constant challenge… being easier on ourselves, offering more forgiveness, and feeling really good about exactly where we are. But if 2013 has taught me anything, it’s to pay attention to those signals, and work to value myself more and more, each and every day. Because that’s truly the only sustainable way to seek success.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you! Have you ever struggled with anxiety? Are you working to take better care of yourself in 2014? If so I’d love to hear how. And I hope if you are or have been in the throws of anxiety, my experience brings a little solace. We’ve truly all been there, whether it’s anxiety or some other personal struggle. Here’s to living (and blogging) more authentically in 2014. xoxo

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  1. Anastasia

    Thank you for sharing, Clara. Reading this definitely struck a cord. It will sound trivial and cliche, but what honestly helps me get past the first level of anxiety (I haven’t experienced it quite as strongly) is repeating to myself “This too shall pass” while I take deep breaths. Reminding myself that everything in my life is temporary relieves me from attaching too much to situations and possible failures.

    • Clara

      Hi Anastasia- that hardly sounds trivial :) I’ve tried that a bit with “What’s the worst thing that can happen” but somehow that feels too negative. I’ll definitely give your phrase a try. xx

  2. Well, to be honest I’ve never been a balanced person. I’m not sure if I even know what is to feel really calm and fresh. I always struggle to manage all my tasks (in which I never really succeed) - in school, work, relationships, household… - and not to yield to exhaustion. I (almost) always feel stressed, anxious, tired and not good enough in anything I do. I think that this feeling originates from my childhood which wasn’t very peaceful… But, well, I’m getting 26 in few days and I should be over it (but I’m not).
    You’re on a good way to make yourself comfortable again in your own life :-) Keep going and be happy!

    • Clara

      Thanks so much for your support, Lucie! I think we all feel the way you do and it’s important to remind ourselves, and hopefully take comfort in the fact, that we’re truly not alone. xx

  3. Anxiety manifests itself in so many ways. I went through a similar situation last year. For almost 6 months, I went from doctor to doctor trying to figure out why I was constantly sick, my stomach hurt, and I had 0 energy. Finally an immunologist told me that it had to be stress, depression, and anxiety. Self-care is so important! Even for us busy overachievers. :)

    • Clara

      Hi Kim! The physical manifestations are SO crazy! But also a huge eye opener. Thanks for your support :) xx

  4. Stress has so many health implications: weight gain, digestive problems…so many! The sad part is I think many of us have ‘gotten used to’ the side effects. Such a great post- thank you for sharing!

    • Clara

      So true! We’ve totally gotten used to the side effects- that’s what allowed me to let it go on for so long. Thanks for your wise words!

  5. I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate the honesty and sincerity in this post! It was actually about two years ago that I started having the same exact pain with my teeth, as well as really bad headaches. Once my doctor told me that it was from stress, I immediately started seeing a therapist. I just felt awful that I had let myself do that to my own body and wanted to take back control.

    Working through my anxiety has helped me inmeasurably. Once I became aware of it, I even turned down a job at a world-class PR firm because I knew the stress would be uncontrollable. That was a very tough decision because I’ve always equated my success and value to my work life, which was a major inducer of my anexiety. However, in order to better take care of myself this is something I have been working on. I’ve even started working part time to focus on the things I love and bring me joy, rather than stress. So know you’re not alone!

    • Clara

      Shawn- thank you so much for sharing. I know that exact feeling of feeling so awful about what you’d let yourself do to your body. It’s literally heartbreaking. I hear you on the work thing too. We so live in a “the busier the better!” type society, but it can really cause us to not take good care of ourselves. Thanks for your support! xx

  6. Such an openhearted post, thanks for sharing! I’m glad that you have realized your anxiety and are working to improve that and your life. I too have taken 2013 to accept my anxiety, and the normalcy of it, and that it’s okay. I’m making this the year I learn to breath through my frustrations and anxious moments, but also learn to to treat my body right and give it the proper attention it needs, as we all tend to put ourselves on the back burner often times. I hope the best for you in the coming year, I always enjoy reading your posts, as I learn and take away something each time, looking forward to many more great ones to come! All the best - Diana

    • Clara

      Thank you so much, Diana! Your support means so much.

  7. Thanks for your honesty and this post. I struggle on and off with anxiety although mine manifests itself differently than yours. I am learning better ways of managing stress. Saying no more often (this can be difficult because I’m a people pleaser), listening to guided imagery a few times a week, getting moderate exercise and trying to eat healthy, and stopping “what if” and other worry thoughts have been really helpful.

    • Clara

      Oh do I know those “what if” worries! And yes, I’m working on saying no too. Great tips!

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  9. Christina

    Thank you for sharing your struggles in this post. It is such a double edged sword to have high expectations of yourself - as you said, it can both motivate you to do great things and push you to put too much pressure on yourself. I faced almost an identical situation this past year with my jaw - because of an increase in stress in my life, I started clenching my teeth at night and then eventually realized that I was holding tension in my jaw during the day as well, which lead to almost constant headaches, not being able to sleep, etc. It has helped me to become more aware of this so that I can make a conscious effort to relax, and has also forced me to realize that taking care of myself and being nicer to myself is so, so important. Cheers to a healthier and happier 2014 to all of us!

  10. Julia

    Thanks so much for sharing, you’re so right that the way we truly help each other is by being open and honest about our experiences. I have dealt with anxiety as well, and one way I’m tackling it in 2014 is my New Year’s Resolution. It’s a bit unspecific and vague, but I hope will really improve 2014 for me. It is to enjoy my life more. Nothing crazy, just moment-to-moment try to enjoy. To stop looking at my life as the same as my to do list and to enjoy it, because who knows when it’ll be over?

  11. Last year, I noticed a weird spot on one of my back teeth, and subsequently a bit of pain. I, like you, was sure that I had a cavity (I’m terrified of getting a cavity) so went to the dentist. She took an xray and found nothing, suggested I was stressed. I think she was right - and it was definitely a wake up call to relax and just try to take life in stride.

    Also, I appreciate the topic of this post. I once read a blog where the author wrote about her sickingly picture-perfect, fairytale life. Every single day!

  12. La Torontoise

    Clara, I read your post a few days ago and was touched in many ways. My vacation ended and I was busy traveling, but as I’m now at home I take the time to write. Yes, paying attention to ‘those signals’ is my priority for 2014, too!
    Since Nov 28, I’ve been struggling with flu symptoms that seemed to never disappear completely; even in my vacation place, I had to run to pharmacies every once in a while and I felt like I was catching all kinds of flu viruses that other people around me might have had for just a few days. After the summer, my work got extremely hectic, and as my husband was on business trips, I operated in a single-parent mode most of the time. My sleep deprivation has become a kind of systematic; I was sleeping no more than 4.5 - 5 hours every night. Months in a row. I winded up with a huge problem in my immune system… My two weeks of Christmas vacation seem to be no longer enough to recharge my batteries. Although this time, I took a very relaxed approach to life in my vacation place, on the last vacation day I felt like I’d need other two weeks to get the right level of energy. Struggling 40 days with health troubles had been a sapping journey.
    I’m actively thinking now about redesigning parts of my life to avoid the situations where magnificent vacations alternate with period of extreme work hectic. Could barely bridge the time between the last two vacation trips…

    I agree with Christina: Cheers to a healthier 2014 to all of us!

  13. Christine

    Hey Clara! Thanks for sharing. Your blog is wonderful, I’ve been enjoying it for over a year! I’ve struggled with physical manifestations of stress in the past too (like WAY too many of us), and found that yoga is such a nice release. Not like intense, bendy, sweaty, classes or new-agey stuff, but Tara Stiles’ you tube videos are AMAZING! She’s all about being easy in your body, and so many of the clips are around 15 to 20 minutes. It’s worked wonders for me. Just wanted to share! Here’s to a healthy, genuine 2014. Much love!

    • Clara

      Hi Christine! Thanks so much for the sweet words about my site, so glad to have you as a reader. It’s so funny you bring up Tara Stiles’- my boyfriend just discovered her videos and swears by them! I’ll have to try them! xx

  14. Oh, my dear… I’m so sorry to be reading all of this about the season you’ve had. Not only are these things a struggle to deal with individually, but managing your own business and a blog and keeping a healthy relationship all certainly add to the pressure. Adding you to my prayer list, and (I know you know this but) please call me if you ever need to chat! I’ve learned a few tricks about talking myself down off of those ledges, and just love you so much that I don’t even want to think about you in pain.

    Big Hugs, and thank you for sharing your heart with us here… Solidarity in going through struggles together! XO

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