Try to Reduce Stress

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: June 2023

Treating the physical symptoms of lupus is not enough to control the disease. Stress reduction plays an important role in helping you live better with lupus.

The BLESS study in South Carolina produced exciting results on how stress reduction can help people with lupus. The study followed a group of African American women with lupus as they learned to better manage stress. Over 6 weeks, the women attended classes to learn and practice:

  • Ways to deal with problems like fatigue, pain, frustration, and isolation
  • Using exercise to build strength, flexibility, and endurance
  • Best times to use their drugs
  • Tips for communicating with family, friends, and their health care team
  • Nutrition to support their health
  • How to judge new treatments

After 6 weeks, stress reported by the women who went to class was much lower than those who only received a pamphlet. Self-reported rates of depression, limits on social activities, distress about their health, fatigue, and pain were all lower. Four months after the class, these women continued to report lower rates of depression and higher rates of well-being.1

Types of stress management

The types of stress management fall into 2 main categories:

  • Methods to manage pain, fatigue, and depression without the use of drugs or with fewer drugs
  • Ways to streamline your life so you have less stress that may trigger flares or make managing flares more difficult

No one stress management technique works for everyone. You may have to try several methods before finding the right combination for you. Some of the most common ways people with lupus reduce stress include:

  • Relaxation
  • Exercise
  • Mindfulness and meditation
  • Biofeedback
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Good sleep habits2

What is mindfulness and meditation?

Mindfulness is the act of paying attention to the world around you and how you feel in that moment. It is easy to stop noticing the world around you or your own emotions. Stopping to notice a pretty fall leaf or a child’s laughter can bring you joy. Learning to tap into your feeling helps you understand yourself better, which can help you manage stress.

Meditation is very similar to mindfulness. With meditation, you focus on a certain thought or object to clear your mind and calm your emotions.

What is biofeedback?

Biofeedback is a technique you can learn to control some of your body functions. A simple example is when you breathe deeply and slowly to calm yourself or slow your heart rate. More advanced biofeedback techniques require training and practice.

Biofeedback helps people deal with many physical and mental issues such as pain, headache, anxiety, and high blood pressure. It sometimes helps people reduce the need for drugs.3

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a short-term type of therapy focused on practical problem-solving. CBT encourages a person to understand and change the way they think about issues in order to improve their life. An example would be thinking about what you can still do rather than how lupus limits you.4

Tips for reducing everyday stress

You can help yourself stay as healthy as possible by learning to practice self-care. Like stress reduction techniques, no one method works for everyone. Here are some ways to manage your life with lupus:

  • Learn to say no so that you do not over-spend your energy
  • Prioritize what’s most important and do those things first
  • Ask for help at home and accommodations at work
  • Prepare ahead of time for major activities
  • Replace negative self-talk with positive, supportive thoughts
  • Schedule enough time for sleep
  • Exercise regularly
  • Join a lupus support group
  • If you are isolated, volunteer2

No one can get rid of all the stress in their life. You can, however, find ways to reduce some of it and handle life’s ups and downs better.

Many people with lupus report they get flares during stressful times. It does not matter if this stress is caused by a major event like divorce or minor everyday hassles. By teaching yourself to stay calm or avoid stress, you help yourself reduce pain and other symptoms you may face.2

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