Stress and chronic illness symptoms. Sort of like Batman and Robin, peanut butter and jelly, tea and sympathy? But do they have to be…
Yesterday (a gorgeous summer Saturday here in Gloucester), I had a busy morning that sounded great when I was planning it : early morning kayak with my husband, Jake, food shopping at a local farmer’s market, cooking up a storm for a few hours and then a day with family.
I hadn’t counted on not getting a good night’s sleep and feeling wound up around the “rescue” dog that my daughter had just brought home. Scruffie has a bad habit of baring his teeth and a kennel cough. I could feel the worry in my body even as I tried to stay calm - for her sake. Would this dog be a problem for her as she goes into her senior year of college?
I also hadn’t counted on feeling so sick so quickly.
Usually exercise like kayaking helps when I’m wound and tired but I hadn’t meditated or done any of my usual “energy” work which is pretty routine for me. I didn’t have time — sound familiar? I was rushing to finish the peach cobbler ( too sweet!) when the fatigue hit, just when my brother and his wife arrived. My eyes always go dry when I get tired and they were burning. I spent the rest of the day struggling to not “zone out” because of the utter drag in my body — what I call the “MS feeling”.
After a lot of sleep and rest today, I’m wondering about this phenomenon. Was it just the physical activity? Or did the wound up energy from worry and pushing against a deadline - what many people refer to as stress - bring on the symptoms?
The kind of thing that happens frequently when you’re at work.
Stress. So much is written about it. People with chronic illness pay an inordinate amount of time thinking about it because doctors tell them that stress makes them worse. And in fact, they find their symptoms are worse when they’re under stress. And some people do get sicker under stress. And work for most people is pretty stressful.
But what is stress and is it always bad? I say this because I want to get my arms around this so that it’s more than a noun but a mental state that we can identify and manage.
FYI: Because I believe that we can develop our capacity to improve how we respond to what comes our way, I offer some stress reducing techniques that I’ve learned from my coaches and teachers and adapted for people with chronic illness in my Keep Working with Chronic Illness Workbook. But you have to make it a routine so you get the positive effects! (Full disclosure here. I try, but don’t always succeed, to practice what I “preach”.)
How do you define stress? Does it make you feel temporarily worse or does it really make you sicker? And if so, is it just about work for you or does it happen in all the places in your life? Do you find that there is stress that is good for you and doesn’t bring on symptoms? Come on - let’s talk about it? Rosalind aka cicoach.com