Thursday, May 8, 2014

Fear of living

We are driving three hours tomorrow to visit with family for the week-end. Not only that, but while we are in town, we will do even more driving and socializing so that we can see our kids and other family. I was having a couple of pretty good days when I got the bright idea for this roadtrip. Now, I can barely get out of bed, my pain is through the roof, and I even have new symptoms I'm trying to manage.

Fight or flight

Those of us living with chronic illnesses understand the damage of this most basic function. We have been blessed with the ability to gain super-human strength for those occasional times in life when we threatened. The problem with many chronic illnesses is that we get stuck in fight or flight mode. Being continually stressed, whether it's from daily life or chronic illness, is pure poison for our bodies! So what's the answer?

Stress - Reality or perception?

Does it matter?? It's all about perception because if you believe you can't manage a situation then you will feel stressed.

I used to thrive on stress at work. Why? Because I felt I was: a) capable of handling it, and b) I felt in control of it. However, as life went on, other stress factors pushed me into a constant state of negative stress. Add severe chronic illness to the mix and my body simply could no longer cope. I recognize that my ability to manage stress is vitally important to my health. I can also see how chronic illness made this almost impossible. Why? Chronic health conditions can themselves make it more difficult for us to manage stress! When you see the rates of depression with various illnesses, you see just how big a problem this is. It is important to also note that depression can be a symptom, not just an effect. For example, one of the symptoms of hypothyroidism is depression.

Now what?

My biggest hurdle right now is that I know what happens when I push my body to do more than it can handle. I have a history of cause and effect, and to ignore that and push blindly on is foolish. So, now I have to learn how to mitigate the added stress on my body. Some of the things I will be doing:
  1. Wear dark sunglasses or even a sleep mask for the drive down.
  2. Increase my pain medications slightly - This will help ensure that the vibration from the road don't trigger a flareup (it sounds weird, but it has happened). **do not exceed your prescription limitations**
  3. Refrain from conversation - This one is particularly difficult for me as I love chatting with my hubby on roadtrips.
  4. Lie down in a dark room for at least 30 minutes after we arrive - Again, particularly difficult for me as I want to visit with everyone.
  5. Spend as much time on a couch as possible - Thankfully our family understands my weird health needs and are more than happy to accommodate.
  6. Talk less, listen more (see #3).
  7. Take lots of rest breaks - This is where my walker becomes invaluable as I can stop and sit down anywhere I am.
  8. Breathe - Have you ever noticed your breathing? I know that when I'm in the middle of a flareup, my breathing gets very shallow. This only makes the stressful event even worse! Take slow deep breaths, focus on things that bring you peace and joy, believe that you will get through this moment in time.
  9. Pray and ask for prayer - I have many people praying for me. My hubby and another friend of mine are incredible prayer warriors. I turn to them during times of intense pain/fatigue; times when I just don't feel capable of praying for myself. It helps every time! 

Where to go for help

Talk to your doctor, find a therapist, read books, meditate, look for joy in the smallest of things! Do things that make you feel better and stay away from things that don't! I know this sounds overly simplistic, or even impossible. We can't always stop doing things that stress us out - that is why we must learn how to manage the stress in our lives.

I know I will survive this trip. I just need to honor my body's needs instead of blatantly ignoring them. There's a lesson in there.

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How does stress affect your health? How do you manage the stressful times in your life? What can you add to my roadtrip list?

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.   James 1:2-4

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