I’m Stressed Out: Tackling Stress and Lupus

I am currently experiencing lupus at a rate of several WTFs per incident. I’m operating in a level of confusion that overrides my desire to just sit quietly in pain. Sometimes, I just want to scream at the top of my lungs. Dealing with some of the stuff lupus brings in my life is STRESSFUL. Anyone else feel this way?

What is stress?

Stress, that emotional strain, and tension that demands your attention. Feeling threatened, your body goes into that "fight or flight" mode. That stress brings on a racing heart, headaches, fatigue, upset stomach, tightened muscles, and lupus FLARES. It can essentially affect every aspect of your life. Gaining control over your thoughts, behaviors, and physical body.

Are there consequences of stress?

Dealing with stress can reap havoc in your life. Don’t get me wrong, everyone will have stress in their lives. But when you don’t address the stress, the consequences can be long-lasting. In the past year especially, the consequences of stress from the pandemic have been high. According to the American Psychological Association, "When considering the physical and emotional toll of increased stress, nearly half of adults (49 percent) report their behavior has been negatively affected. Most commonly, they report increased tension in their bodies (21 percent), “snapping” or getting angry very quickly (20 percent), unexpected mood swings (20 percent), or screaming or yelling at a loved one (17 percent)."1 Many of these things that are experienced dealing with stress are more common occurrences than we realize.

What can cause stress in lupus?

Most people feel added stress levels in their lives. With lupus, I believe there are added levels of stress that can’t go unnoticed. Coping with an incurable chronic illness and dealing with pain constantly has been stressful. These stressors have played a major role in my own lupus symptom activity.

I have had to figure out how to navigate through it all. As I’ve lived with lupus, it has brought on fears about the future. Whether I will be well enough to move past the flares and pain has weighed heavy on me at times. These feelings ultimately kept me in an unhealthy state in my mind, body, and soul.

Establishing healthy habits to combat stress

To save myself, I realized I had to change my reactions. I created boundaries between me and stress. First, I began to recognize the symptoms of my stress. Was I overly fatigued, angry, or worried? Did I have headaches or did my lupus symptoms get worse? Identifying those symptoms helped me to visualize how stress affects me.

Second, I worked on identifying what caused my stress. Keeping a journal of my emotions and symptoms helped me to track stressors. This helped me be aware of triggers and gave me an opportunity to work on managing what stressed me out.

Finally, as I managed my stressors, I was able to put boundaries between the things or people that I felt caused me discomfort. I don’t know if I got it right every time, but most times I was afforded the reprieve to think clearer.

Changing our reactions to stress

Unfortunately, stress is a normal part of living. Hence, the most important thing we can do is find healthy ways to deal with it. Making mindful and productive choices to stop when you feel overwhelmed helps. Deep breathing also assists in getting you to a peaceful state of mind. The methods you use to deal with your stress will create your reactions be they good or bad. Always remember, every stress is not the same and you can learn to react differently to stay healthier beyond stress symptoms.

In conclusion, I’m still stressed out but, I’ve learned to minimize its effects on me fully. Doing this has minimized lupus flares and symptoms. What stresses you out and how do you usually handle it? Let me know in the comments.

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