Managing Stress Is Sticky When It Comes to Lupus
One of the most difficult things about watching my mom live with lupus was realizing that she was dealing with a condition that can easily be exacerbated by stress. Unfortunately, with her being a single parent and serving in executive-level positions for a good portion of her career, stress was nearly unavoidable. It came to play a part in her everyday life. When she would become stressed, she would undoubtedly begin to experience symptoms of a lupus flare.
When this would happen, her daily tasks would become more difficult to complete, which would ultimately cause more stress—and the cycle would continue. While I could never begin to fully understand the pain and difficulty she has, I would often try to do the best I could to help her manage her stress.
Understanding symptoms and stress of lupus
Very quickly it became important to pay close attention and learn to identify her stress. She may have had certain physical manifestations of her stress like being headachy, tired, or irritable. She may have had the propensity to fidget more or not have much of an appetite. However these symptoms would present, it was important for me to be able to understand the physical symptoms in order to know when her stress levels were beginning to increase. It was important to be able to understand these signs because I learned that one of the most harmful things that she could do was to attempt to ignore her stress in hopes that it would go away. This was never successful. Instead, we found that it was imperative to acknowledge the stress and try to trace it back to its origin.
Recognizing and managing stress
Another interesting problem that was presented while I attempted to be more in tune with her stress, was that I would notice that she would try harder to hide her signs. While I understood her reasoning (wanting to appear strong during her times of weakness), it became difficult, at times, to meet her in her time and place of need. We have learned over the years that there are, of course, many techniques for identifying and managing stress. We found that it was vitally important to understand that not all coping techniques will work for everyone.
Through the years we have developed a balance that required me to be more alert and attentive and for her to be more transparent with how she was really feeling. Handling stressful situations, thoughts, and feelings were ultimately about quickly identifying it and knowing when to apply what works.
I look back on that time as one of my most valuable lessons. I was able to see that when a person is feeling stressed (and are inherently selfless), they can often lose sight of themselves. While they will know how they are feeling, they also know that others would typically lack the ability to fully understand those feelings. During this time, we both learned to navigate a delicate balance of acknowledging her emotions and stressors, with feeling the need to seek external validation. In short, she was becoming more vulnerable which was a very different mindset from the traditional persona of strength we were used to.
Have you written a letter to your local congress representative to advocate for lupus research and education funding this year?