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4 Ways I Manage the Emotional Stress That Comes With Chronic Illness

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Like so many of you, I’ve searched and researched to find new or better ways to manage my dragon – this illness and the story that comes with it. Beyond doing the best I can to take care of my body and taking care of my mental health, I specifically strive to manage how I handle emotional stress. No one is spared stress in the world in which we live, so what can we do to avoid the destructive energy of emotional stress when our nervous system is already mortgaged?

This is my biggest challenge: Staying open and trusting that no matter what new event disturbs my very much needed peace of mind, I can handle it without causing myself harm in the process. I believe that panic and anxiety cause our bodies more harm than most life situations. They create havoc in our body, our relationships and feed on every tiny bit of joy that makes our lives worth living. Without joy, there is no peace and often some of us cannot contribute to the world around us – not even with a warm smile.

I’ve put together a few strategies that help me focus on staying open and trusting. If you haven’t yet given them a try, I hope you’ll give yourself a chance to do so. For me, it’s very much a work in progress; I believe it’s the work of a lifetime.

1. Stop

This is what I tell myself, “When an event disrupts or upsets you, just stop, take a few deep breaths, and let those shoulders drop a bit.” In other words, calm down. I know you’ve probably come across this one. It’s easier said than done. Don’t give up because you don’t succeed at first!

2. Show Up

Our mind doesn’t do “here” and “now,” so the only way to get it under our control is to be consciously present. What is happening in the present moment is what we are to focus on and not the “why,” “not fair,” “always me,” “sick of this,” “what am I going to do,” or the “what ifs.” Showing up and really being in the here and now, if only for a moment, is a huge step toward lasting inner peace. I have found that when I do show up, I am able to let go of the “poor me” story that keeps going on in my mind and I can get back to the matter at hand. I can better manage my life situation when I can actually see that it is just that, a situation. It is not my whole life and it does not define me.

3. Stay

Because of the stories it firmly keeps in our subconscious, our minds can race and look for ways to get away or out of an uncomfortable situation. That is what causes some of the stress! Our mind doesn’t know the way out without causing pain and damage. Because we are not our mind but the “being” that is able to see the bigger picture, we can become conscious. We can become present. We can tell our mind to be quiet, but of course, that doesn’t work. When my mind just won’t stop, I like to tell it, “Go right ahead but I’m not listening to you.” You see, as soon as we are conscious that our mind is racing, we are present in the moment. I believe consciousness or presence don’t know “fight or flight,” they only know peace. So, staying in that uncomfortable moment allows us to learn to trust ourselves as we let our thoughts flow on by, as if on a stream. We may not be stopping them but we can let them go!

4. Let It Be

Whether our stress is triggered by physical pain, money matters, relationships or other issues, we can choose how we think and act. Our emotions stem from what we’re thinking and will dictate our actions, so it all starts with how well we listen to our inner voice – our real self. In the stillness of that moment of conscious presence, we can see our situation for what it is. We can let it be and stop fighting it. It is what it is and no amount of worrying and resistance will change it! The world is not our enemy. Things happen. That’s life.

Accepting a situation doesn’t mean that we have to like it. It means that we can see it for what it really is and that we are willing to manage it as best we can, at our own pace, in our own way.

Getty Image by Ridofranz

Follow this journey on Marianne Granger.

Originally published: April 4, 2018
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