Stress and 12 Ways To Cope With It.

Recently I’ve been feeling pretty sick.  Having vertigo regularly and having migraines daily again is taking a toll on me.

The stress in my life has increased significantly and “chronic stress has a significant effect on the immune system that ultimately manifest an illness.” (Mohd. Razali Salleh 2008)  I don’t know how many doctors have told me that I need to control my stress.  Unfortunately, that is much easier said than done.

Stress comes in all shapes and sizes.  We have major things that cause stress, like someone close to us dying, or being diagnosed with a chronic illness. We have little things that cause stress, like a traffic jam or being late for an appointment.  We even have stress from good things in our life, like moving into a nicer home, or having a baby.  Every moment of stress can cause havoc on our health.  Chronic stress is caused more by the big things, the things that don’t just go away, but the little things can build up and be “the straw the broke the camels back”.

In mid April we moved from this a tiny little duplex that I felt very uncomfortable in to a larger house with a beautiful backyard.  This relieved one huge bad stressor on me and created a new happy stressor, but a stressor none the less.  It has been 2 months since we’ve been in this house and we still aren’t settled in, this causes me a lot of stress because I know if I was not sick, this would not be the case.

At the beginning of May we had a friend move in.  Someone who is going to be helping us out and we are hopefully going to be helping him out.  No matter how smoothly this move-in was, no matter how much we all love each other, no matter how good the situation will be, it has caused stress.  Suddenly I have someone else in my home and I’m not used to that.  I’m not used to people seeing me sick.  I haven’t been around many people at all for the past few years and suddenly there is someone living with me.  I’m not used to sharing my space with anyone other than Stuart.  This has caused a huge amount of stress.  It’s unintentional, I didn’t expect it, and I’m sure it will ease, but right now it’s there.

My father’s health is declining.  He lives over 3 hours from me.  I can’t just jump in the car and go see him. I can’t spend this precious time with him.  I can’t help care for him.  I can’t help my sister.  About the only thing I can do is give my sister encouragement.  I can text her and listen.  That isn’t real help and It breaks my heart.  The guilt is overwhelming, so is the stress.  This is the first time since I stopped driving that is has caused me such anguish.  I know even if I could drive I’m not well enough to care for someone who is ill, and I’m feeling guilty about that too.  Guilt is a huge stressor.

Of course, the fact that I’ve been sicker is a major stressor too.  A huge Catch-22 huh?

A little fairy, something I created. Creating is a great way to relieve stress.

A little fairy, something I created. Creating is a great way to relieve stress.

What can we do to reduce the effects of stress?  Well there are a few things, many of which are hard to remember when you are in the throws of being sick.  However, there are things I try to do, they include:

  • Meditate:  I usually use guided meditations, there are a lot of apps out there to help you with this, and you can find many of YouTube.  There are different guided meditations that help with different things.  I often do the body scan meditation, I’m so used to this one I can do it without the aid of a guide.  You simply focus on a part of your body, I start with my feet, and move on throughout the body paying attention to what each part is saying.  Don’t judge, and don’t worry about doing anything, relax into it if you can, but mainly just note it and move on.  For each part really pay attention.  For example, right now as I focus on my feet I notice my toes are a bit chilly, my heals are pressing into the floor, an old ankle injury is causing a little bit of pain, but nothing that should concern me; I’ll stay here for just a bit to see if there is anything more I need to pay attention to, then I’ll move on to my calves.  For some people this can be uncomfortable, getting in touch with their body can bring back repressed memories, be aware of this and take care of yourself accordingly.   This is just one example of a meditation I often do, there are many, feel free to practice this any way you feel comfortable.
  • Deep Breathing:  This is pretty simple but can be a great stress reliever.  Simply stop and focus on your breathing.  Put your hand on your belly and feel the breath fill up your abdomen and then go out.  Do this for about 5 minutes, or just take a few deep breaths when you need and carry on.  I find this very cleansing.
  • Some me time:  Find time just for yourself.  I take a hot bath with Epsom salts and sometimes candles.  It’s a me time.  Some people are not comfortable with this, if it isn’t for you, don’t do it.  See if you can find something that is just for you that you consider self care.  Paint your nails, put lotion on your feet, have a nice cup of tea …. these are all things that I like to do, find your special thing.
  • Stay in the moment:  When we are under a lot of stress it’s easy to build things up in your mind about how bad things are going to continue to be.  Stop and try to focus on this moment.  The future hasn’t been written yet, things will never stay the same.  When I’m having a vertigo attack I try hard to stay in that moment.  It’s a rough moment sometimes, but I know it will end.  I can deal with anything for a moment.  I wrote a whole post about that, Living In This Moment.
  • Bitch:  I don’t mean to wallow in your misfortune, but reach out to someone you trust and just let it all out.  Maybe get some advice.  I hold things in way too much so, I feel better when I talk to a friend and just let it go.  I have a good friend who never judges and gives great advice, sometimes I even take it.  🙂
  • Exercise:  This one is really tough for some of us.  It’s very tough for me.  However, the release of endorphins when you exercise will make you feel better.  I try to do stretches, and walk as much as I can.  Don’t let it stress you out if you can’t do this, I often can’t, just do what you can, doing something good for ourselves makes us feel better.
  • Eat Well:  Again, doing something good for ourselves makes us feel better.  When I’m under a lot of stress I often binge eat.  I crave sweets and I’m literally hungry way more often…like all the time.  I’m trying hard to munch on things that are good for me.  When I do this I feel better about myself.  When I give in and eat a lot of junk, I get even more stressed out.
  • Laugh:  How can you feel stress when you are laughing?  Watch a funny movie.  Read a funny book.  Play.  I play with my dog, she always makes me laugh.  My husband often makes me laugh too.  Laughter has really saved me a number of times.  I have been spiraling into a deep depression, but finding things to laugh about helps.
  • Listen to Music:  I can’t do this one because a lot of music sounds weird to me since I got my cochlear implants, however music can soothe your soul.  Just lay back and turn on some tunes.  Listen to relaxing tunes to calm down, peppy tunes to help you get moving, happy tunes to make you smile.  Music can melt stress away.  (My husband and I often sing out loud and make up silly songs, this makes me laugh.  I’ll also hum to calm myself.  So even though I can’t hear music it is a big part of my life.)
  • Create:  Write, paint, draw, color….do anything that gets your creative juices flowing.  When you get really involved in creating it can produce the same positive effects that meditation can.
  • Have sex:  Perhaps a little Too Munch Information here, but I feel it’s worth a mention. Having sex, talk about an endorphin release!  Not only does sex release endorphins it makes us feel close and secure in our relationship.  The feelings that are released during sex can be a great stress reliever.  (masturbating can be very releasing too)
  • Be Grateful:  When we stop and take note of the things we are grateful for instead of focusing on the things that are going wrong it can be very cathartic.  Sometimes you may feel you have nothing to be grateful for, but we all do.  Chances are if you are reading this you don’t live in a war-torn country, you have a safe place to live, you have enough food to eat, clean running water….  We take so many things for granted, but we have so many things to be grateful for, take a moment, step back, and think about things you are grateful for.  I try to list 3 good things every day.  3 things I’m grateful for.  You may find this practice very helpful too.

How do you handle stress?  Any suggestions for me and others?

I admit when I’m under a lot of stress I have a hard time implementing my stress relieving techniques, but just sitting here listing them makes me realize that I have ways to help myself and it has given me the incentive to get busy and try more of them.

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15 thoughts on “Stress and 12 Ways To Cope With It.

    • I also find water very soothing. and I can exercise easier in water. double stress reliever. Unfortunately I don’t have access to a pool very easily.
      I get a great amount of stress relief from furry babies. they are the most mindful beings I know.

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  1. I find the biggest thing that helps me is just accepting things the way there are. Forgiving myself for being a physical mess, I guess. I couldn’t help my brother and sister when my folks were in a car accident in Florida and my dad died last year. My mom had a long recovery with setbacks. I can’t travel. My aunt recently died. My son, Dagan, has had to have surgeries in Minneapolis. I wasn’t able to make Ian’s first birthday party right here in town and might not make his second, either. Playing the “wishing things were different” game causes stress and guilt. Doesn’t change anything. Just makes you miserable…and those around you miserable. And, you’re right–it can be a vicious circle. Forgive yourself. Accept. If it was someone else would you be as hard on them? Right? 🙂

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    • Thank you Rita. I need to have someone talk reason to me.
      I do understand this in my head, it’s my heart that hurts so.
      I admit I have a hard time with the guilt. I have to work on that.
      What do you say to someone who is being the caregiver when you want to be able to help but you can’t. I know I keep saying I wish I could… way too much to my sister. I just don’t know what else to do…or say.
      I do wish I could help. I want to be there so we can go through this together. This isn’t fair on her. She has no one to help her. I keep putting myself in her place the thinking she must hate me. I know she doesn’t and she understands, or tries hard to. I don’t really feel that anyone understands, I think that is a problem. I feel I’m judged because I can’t help. I shouldn’t care what others think, but I have been. I know I need to stop judging myself so much. I need to be gentle with myself. It’s very hard.
      again, thank you

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  2. Although the sound of water would not be of help to you; watching it might. Many of the indoor meditation foundations are either over priced or chintzy, but the idea is the calming. I like watching as much as hearing water flowing. Of course, I don’t have one of those machines.
    I listen to and watch the fish pond here and listen to next door, the sprinklers, and I used to have a sound machine.
    Doing creative things is good — I was researching the coloring books before they became big. I tell myself stories — I mean like chapters in a book about a character who might only loosely be me, and try to keep them in circumstances difference than my stresses (which sneak in).
    You and the people who commented have proved an excellent way to deal with street.
    I wanted to reblog, but couldn’t find the reblog button.– maybe it’s just me.

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    • I see you found how to reblog it. 🙂 thank you, it is the highest compliment.
      I too find water a great stress reliever. Going to sound all new age here, but as a Cancer, water is very cathartic to me. Being around water makes me feel more in tuned with life and myself. It calms me and brings me to center. I wish I could live near the ocean.
      I’ve had one of those chintzy fountains you speak of, it didn’t last long. 😛
      I’d like to have a water feature in my yard, but since we rent, that isn’t going to happen.
      My big rejuvenator is the tub. Surrounded by water, it is most relaxing. Unfortunately I’m not able to do that as often as I’d like.
      I must find a way to get around water more.
      Thank you for bringing it up.
      and thanks again for the reblog.

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  3. This sounds so much like my list 🙂 So sorry I have not been around. I’m still catching up thanks to some unexpected bumps with the new diagnosis. I am so glad the move happened, and I know you’ll get settled soon. It is so important for us to give ourselves a break with these things when vertigo is at play. I’d do so many things if the world weren’t spinning when I wanted to do them.

    I recently wrote up some of my favorite physiological mindfulness exercises: http://bit.ly/1Ua5oQ4 . They are all similar to what you describe. Accepting the moment is so helpful, from there I find I can change it.

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  4. GREAT list above, W. I need to find some way to feature it when I go back to the Low Stress Tolerance Series (right now it’s PTSD and Impulsivity). But since you asked:

    My favorite de-stressor has long been getting up to my neck in hot water – bubble bath, Epsom salts, and a bit of moisture-keeping whatever stuff, my water-proof neck pillow, a few candles and sometimes music (but not in this apt. – no available plug).

    TinkerToy, my little 20-month old, 10.5 # Shih Tzu, is the best stress reliever EVER, however (unless, of course you also count the Shih Tzus in my past). He is my instant hit of mindfulness – the world disappears when I look into his little fur-face. He gets me outside and makes me laugh every single day – several times. He makes sure I take fetch-breaks inside, and is always ready to play frisbee outside (he runs and brings it back – my way of making sure he gets the exercise he needs – especially on days when walks are shortish).

    He sleeps in his little donut bed right next to my head at night (following a snuggle-fest ritual he initiated when he was only 4 months old), and he has now learned to lick my face to awaken me sometime between noon and two PM (and you know what an improvement that is for me, right?)

    We’re aiming for noon – but, at noon, it’s difficult to get him outside immediately now that it is so HOT! (He’s no crazier about summer than I am)
    xx,
    mgh

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    • Madelyn, I think I should have listed time with animals. Especially our furry friends who live with us. I get the same joy from my dog, she is such a sweet creature, she also makes me laugh so very much. And my cat is the most mindful creature I’ve ever met. (I’m so glad Tinker-Toy can wake you up! Yay!!!)
      Just watching the wildlife in my backyard also calms me.
      I think animals in general…unless you are afraid of them…are very calming and can relieve a lot of stress.

      You know I love my baths. I’m not getting them like I want, but I love them!

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      • I understand that, with vertigo, you have to be careful about bathtubs. But I’m glad you have the same response to your fur and feather friends. Nuthin’ better, huh?

        When I have been REALLY down, my pets have actually given me proof that ALL is not rotten, rotten, rotten. 🙂
        xx,
        mgh

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        • The bath isn’t all because of vertigo, sometimes it gets to me, but I do have hubby to help me out. the big problem is that we don’t have a tub in the master bathroom and I’m not comfortable taking a bath in the other bathroom very often. (read not at all) It’s actually making me very sad.

          I agree with the pets. Kiki is lying at my feet right now, knowing I have such unconditional love gives me hope. And she is just so much joy. As you said, she makes me laugh every day, often many times a day.
          As I was meditating today Max came in and curled up at my feet. I didn’t realize it until I opened my eyes. I felt he was meditating with me. We then has a good snuggle.
          That has been the good parts of my day. Now I just need to make sure the bad parts don’t over whelm them. Unfortunately, that’s been hard today.

          xo
          w

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          • I hope you feel better, my dear friend. I have a bit of free-floating anxiety today myself. You focus on Kiki and I’ll focus on TinkerToy and let’s both do our best to let the bad parts take a back seat for as long as we can.

            I can relate to your problems with the tub in the other bathroom. I have a similar “not comfortable” feeling about new or different bathtubs. I have to actually force myself to use them. It’s really difficult when I am visiting in someone else’s home – a bit easier in hotels. It’s not logical, but I feel oddly “exposed” – unsettled somehow – almost like I don’t know how unfamiliar bathtubs operate. Weird, huh?

            BUT . . . since I realized that showering is too much anxiety-producing stimulation for me while taking a bath in a deep tub calms me, I do have to FORCE myself (or spend my life unclean – lol).

            xx,
            mgh

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