We know we cannot avoid stress; it’s simply a part of life. Whether it’s stress over our finances, relationships, employment, health, or the health of a loved one, stress takes a toll on our body. For those of us with chronic autoimmune diseases, such as the idiopathic inflammatory myopathies, generally referred to as myositis, stress can be even more damaging.
It has been shown that stress can affect our immune system, cause disease, and increase inflammation. With this information, it is important that we learn to better cope with the stress in our lives.
There are many ways to cope with stress. Unhealthy ways include keeping our emotions bottled up or using drugs and alcohol as stress relievers. So what are some healthier ways to manage and cope with the stress of living?
- Avoid people who seem to stress you (when you can).
- Learn to say NO when you are overworked or being taken advantage of.
- Express your feelings rather than keeping them inside.
- Compromise when possible and focus on positive thinking.
- Try to adjust your schedule to better manage your time.
- Learn to forgive others and to forgive yourself as we may feel guilty for trying to focus on our own needs.
- Keep a journal to help release your emotions.
- Try and connect with friends and family to talk through some of the issues that are stressing you.
- And, of course, try and eat healthy and get a good night sleep.
The above list is a beginning; a set of helpful coping tools we may overlook as we go about living our busy, interrupted lives.
We must remember to focus on our own well-being. When I am overstressed and unfocused, my muscle disease, polymyositis, and the several other chronic illnesses I have, quickly become worse and I find myself in a flare.
For me, dealing with stress was always an “at the moment” approach rather than a well-thought-out plan. I was continually moving from one issue to the next without much thought and certainly without learning anything of value. If 2012 taught me anything it was my way did not work, and I needed to employ a long-term strategy in how I cope with stress.
What have been the major stressors in my life?
The year 2012, a stressful year for me and my family due to cancer diagnoses and deaths, let me put stress coping tools into real life use. My father, grandmother, two uncles, and my partner’s grandmother, who was like my own, all passed away. My step-father had a major heart attack, my mom was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer with mets to the brain, and my cousin, who is the same age as me, was diagnosed with cancer.
Add to these losses the stress I was dealing with regarding my own health and finances, and 2012 was a very trying year.
As we all know the stress of losing a loved one is difficult on its own. The stress of losing so many loved ones in a single year, on top of the other major issues in my life at that same time, seemed unendurable. So, how did I cope?
I worked to remain focused on each situation individually. If I thought of all of this collectively, it seemed too much to handle. By letting myself focus on each separate loss I was able to make peace and grieve in a healthier way.
I did not turn to negative thinking, as easy as it would have been. I carefully remained positive and on alert, should unhealthy ways of coping try to sneak in. I tried to learn from each situation and hold on to the healthy coping tools that worked so I could use these again in later challenging and stressful situations.
How do you manage stress in your life?
Enough about me. I would like to know how you handle stressful situations.
What techniques do you use? Meditation, massage, journaling, counseling?
How does stress affect your #MyositisLIFE? (Answer in the comments below)