Stress… Stress… and More Stress!

Hello friends… I hope you’re all doing well today. I’m sorry I’ve been absent the last couple of months. Things have been… well… out of control around here. Just a bombardment of appointments, therapies, specialists, home visits, home OT; the list goes on and on! I just wanted to say thank you to every one of you reading my words and I hope they bring some peace to you or at the very least you find a sense of belonging in this world of “But you don’t look sick” people around us everywhere. We know that people and even doctors do their best to understand (or they don’t) but it’s difficult when they don’t see the disabling conditions on the inside. It’s easy to see people’s illnesses that are on the outside, but not necessarily those of us who struggle with things on the inside. Chronic pain, auto-immune disorders, depression and anxiety etc are often unseen by our friends and loved ones. Especially when you become a master at hiding it from them.

That brings me to the main topic I wanted to talk to you about today… STRESS. We all have some level of stress in our lives. I don’t think a single person to walk this earth has lived without some type of stress at some point in their life. But, what are the effects of stress on ‘healthy’ people? Social media would tell us healthy people just do a hard workout, Yoga/Pilates or go for a run to cope with stress. Maybe they spend a night out with friends or significant other. Maybe go on vacation and de-stress? I could pretend that I’m wholly pious and that prayer on it’s own completely melts my stress, but it doesn’t. I still spend time in prayer, but it’s not my only de-stress method generally. That may work for some people. Maybe even people dealing with chronic illnesses, but what if it doesn’t work for you? Before I racked up my list of diagnoses I had started running. I loved running. I’m really a swimmer, but running gave me a high and made me feel so strong and beautiful in a way I’d never felt before. Those of you who’ve read my story, know that I hit a brick wall while training for a marathon and was told if I wanted to NOT be in a wheelchair at 50 that running was out of the question.

So, what then becomes those of us who have chronic illnesses that can’t use a runners high to get out from under stress? Science tells us that stress lowers our body’s ability to fight infections, to heal, to think clearly… the list continues on. Stress puts me into a flare up almost immediately because my body lives in fight or flight mode so there’s nowhere to go but up (or to crazyville). My POTS is made worse by stress and my heart starts acting up… RA- joint issues, fatigue, pain… Fibromyalgia- muscle pain, cognitive deficits, fatigue, HS – skin flares, MCAS – Hives, GI issues, asthma flares, new/worsening symptoms, EDS – more pain, surgeries and long recoveries… Before I know it I’m on a cycle of constant flare and failed recovery. Stress, whether oxidative, situational, acute, episodic or chronic is bad for our health. But especially detrimental to anyone dealing with chronic illness. Add to that multiple illnesses and you can just pile on the level of potential for disaster on a cellular level.

As much as I’ve researched each of my diagnoses and as often as I’m at each specialist, the question they all want an answer to is what I’m doing to take care of ME and my body. Besides the two page list of meds and supplements I’m on of course. They all know that I’m a wife and mother to 8 presently… I’m pretty sure they all also find that number to be completely insane. I mean most people just stare with their mouth agape when I tell them I’m 37 and have 8 kids. Especially when I don’t list all of the labels… You know how I feel about labels. HA! I have had doctors ask if I could just ‘get rid of a few’ as if they were just things in my home taking up space. They’re children… traumatized, hurting, broken children who NEED someone to be their voice, who need someone to show them unconditional love. They need to know their needs can be met, they can sleep safely, they can play and be children and even act out and still have someone fighting for them, for their best interests. My husband and I chose this calling and I don’t feel that my illnesses magically change that call on our life. BUT, the stress of that process alone is too much to bear a lot of days. Then if you add on a teenager running their motor out of oil, juggling schedules, appointments, homework battles, school-friend drama for our girls, toddlerhood (which is a BEAST!), homeschooling said toddlers and an infant who is still dealing with the choices of an addict mother and rarely sleeps more than short bursts because she can’t breathe??? Well, it grows the stress level and there we are again at the base of this circle of never-ending rest/recovery, stress, flare and so on.

So friends… How do you avoid stress or try to minimize it’s effect on your body to avoid big flares? Do you have anything you do that works so well you’d share it with us? Please share your tips and tricks! One of mine is prayer for sure, but I love to swim, read a book outside in the sunshine or just curl up with a book and a cup of tea and take a few minutes to breathe and re-center my focus on the few things I need to get done and what can wait. Often, I make lists so I don’t forget things and it helps me to update them and see progress. I also do my best to make sure we have at least 2 days a week where we have no ‘planned activities’ so it’s open for the things that had to be bumped or (fingers crossed) a little extra rest. Let us know what you’re doing to help keep the stress under control in your day to day life. I hope you all have a restful, flare-free weekend. I leave you with my favorite MLK, Jr. quotes in honor of the upcoming MLK, Jr. holiday. Don’t forget to click the links on my page to follow me on FaceBook and Instagram for some different content and fun from other followers! Take Care and keep moving forward on your journey to wellness!

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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