Stress and Myositis
We know we cannot avoid stress; it’s simply a part of life. Whether it’s stress over our finances, relationships, job, 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 diminish 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 a stress reliever. However, I want to focus on positive ways to manage and cope with the stress of life.
Some healthy ways to help reduce or cope with stress:
- 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 list above is only a beginning; a set of helpful coping tools we may overlook as we go about living our busy 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” method 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 difficult year for me and my family due to cancer diagnoses and deaths, allowed me to put stress coping tools into real life practice. 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 those losses the stress over my 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 downright unbearable. So, how did I cope?
I tried to remain focused on each situation individually because if I thought of it all together, it was too much to handle. By allowing myself to realize that each loss was separate, I was better able to focus, make peace, and grieve in a better 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 difficult and stressful situations.
How do you manage stress in your life?
Enough about me. I would like to hear how you handle stressful situations. What techniques do you use? Meditation, massage, journaling, counseling? How does stress affect your #MyositisLIFE?