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A Chronically Ill Person's Response to Doctors Who Say 'Don't Let Yourself Stress Out'

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Stress! It’s the cause of a ton of physical and emotional issues, for example: anxiety, high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, heart attacks, and in many autoimmune diseases stress is the catalyst that causes a ton of complications and makes your present symptoms worse. In scleroderma this is true as well. Stress can cause a Raynaud’s flare up or heart palpitations. Mostly it makes your already painful symptoms worse and might cause some new symptoms to pop up.

So the doctors all say “alleviate the stress in your life.” “Don’t let yourself get stressed out and upset.” Well, I hate to burst their rationally educated bubble, but extracting all the stress out of your life is literally next to impossible. And I’ll tell you why: Having a chronic terminal illness alone causes people stress. They have to worry about eating right, getting enough sleep, making sure they take all their prescribed medicine at the correct time and that it’s the correct amount, and making sure that the prescription refills are called in so as not to run out of pills.

Then theres the task of getting transportation to and from all of the doctor’s offices for monthly checkups. Oh and making sure it’s the right day and time so the office doesn’t mail out a missed/late appointment fee. Next there’s wearing the proper clothing for the day depending on the weather outside. If it’s cold, layers it is. If it’s windy or raining, snowing or hailing, wearing the right items to venture outside is key to protecting the body from getting a virus or possibly phenomena and this is just a taste of all of the things people like me who are living with systemic scleroderma have to worry about on a daily basis just to get out of the house.

Eating is a whole other dragon to slay. Many have to follow strict dietary rules regarding what you can and can not eat. You have to worry about if this box of cereal is gluten-free, or that all the fruits and vegetables are organic and fresh not canned or frozen. Passing up all the chocolate cookies and all products that have caffeine in them because of a heart condition prohibits having it. The list of do’s and don’ts goes on and on. That in itself can be extremely stressful and can cause setbacks.

What a lot of people don’t seem to understand is that living with a chronic/terminal illness, and it doesn’t have to be just an autoimmune disease, is a jumble of complicated. Rules mashed up with trying to have as much normality in our lives is very hard. I go through a rainbow of emotions on a daily basis — worry, happiness, anxiety, sadness, physical pain, anger and fatigue, just to name a few. I’m sure if you went around and asked a handful of “normal” healthy people they would have stress in their everyday lives, too. It might not be to that degree but it’s stress nonetheless, making my point that it’s nearly impossible to live a life free of stress valid.

Thus leading to my original question: how can we live a life free of stress? The answer is quite clear we simply cannot. Living 100 percent stress-free is completely unrealistic and quite frankly unobtainable. Making a conscious decision to minimize the amount of stress we take on and trying to overcome the emotions that lead to stress by releasing that negative energy in a positive way is the best solution to exterminating the stress bug from daily life.

You could meditate, or take up yoga. There’s classes on almost anything imaginable baking, drawing, gardening, sewing and so on and so on. Some people like myself have pets. I have two beautiful very lovable cats that help me to relax and decompress. Music is a big de-stressor for me as well as quilting, painting, and reading. Whatever it is that makes you happy and gives you some sort of release for all the junk we pile onto ourselves daily is the key. It can do wonders for you health, your relationships, your overall emotional and physical demeanor is 100 percent better than having to carry all that negative junk around with you for who knows how long.

Let’s face it, there is always going to be stress — most caused by other issues and some caused by pressures we put on ourselves. If we can find a constructive outlet for that stress, then stress can become one less thing on your plate to worry about. Which as far as I’m concerned is a great thing!

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Thinkstock photo by Hemera Technologies

Originally published: May 12, 2017
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