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?
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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