Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Not So Perfect Storm-Stress and Chronic Illness

Not too long ago, I wrote about having an acute illness when you're chronically ill; today, I want to talk about stress and chronic illness.

Everyday life goes on when you are chronically ill. Sometimes, it would be nice if it didn't. I'm talking about all of the stressful things here, not the joyous things (although, they can be stressful in a way, too.) Over the weekend, our oldest daughter flew the coup, making us officially empty nesters. She was ready, and so were we, but it's still an adjustment. Our younger daughter has been in the ER four times since Christmas, twice in the past week. And, our son is making plans to move 1200 miles back home to finish his Ph.D. While we are happy about this, the making it happen within a few months is a bit stressful. Of course, he's an adult and will handle much of it himself. Then, we are waiting to hear about my husband's company. They are being bought out and while we are pretty confident about his position, I'd be lying if I didn't say it's a bit stressful for both of us. There's another stressor in my life that I'm not able to share at this point, but believe me, when I say, it's big! And, let's just add to the mix: Menopause! So, can you see why I'm a bit frazzled? We do have a whole lotta stuff going on!

 I'm a thinker and a list maker. There's something about gathering your thoughts and putting them down in an organized fashion that just seems to clarify things for me. But, I always hesitate to create and share a numbered list because I don't want people to think that I think I have all of the answers. I don't. I just think it's a great way to convey information in an easy to read format. Here are some of the things I've done in the past and I'm trying to do now to make life a bit easier while we are in this stormy phase of our lives.

1. Confide in someone. A friend, a clergy member or a therapist. You could even talk to all three! I know, in the past, I have. There's something to be said about talking to an outsider. And, by outsider, I mean someone who isn't walking through the storm with you. This person doesn't even have to give advice; sometimes, just having someone to listen is helpful.

2. Look for the positive. In my situation, I'm a bit sad that our daughter has moved out. But, I'm so very proud of the successful young woman she has become. We've done our job and this is where she is supposed to be at this stage of her life. Us, too. It's hard to find something positive in our younger daughter's ER trips, but I have to say that she's been blessed to have been treated with compassion in each situation. She has a good doctor who follows up with her every time she's been to the ER. And, she has a very kind and loving husband who has been there for her "in sickness and health" through their young marriage; which has, unfortunately, been more sickness than health. Our son moving home will cost us time and perhaps some money, but we will be so happy to have him back in the area after being away for the past four years. As far as my husband's job. Well, we are just happy that he has a job right now. We are financially stable and we could weather whatever comes our way. I know many people can't say the same.

3. Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions you are having. So many times we try to stuff our feelings and that doesn't really help. Of course, we don't want to dwell on things, but it's okay to feel  anger, sadness, frustration, etc they are all a normal reaction to our situation. Many times, by allowing ourselves to have these emotions, we will see things in a whole new way.

4. Focus on other things. A lot of times, there's nothing we can do about life's problems, so rather than focusing on them, we should work to find other things to occupy our mind. Find a good book to read, listen to your favorite music, work on a hobby....Doing all that we can to positively handle the issues we are facing is one of the best ways to find peace.

5. Find support through "your people". Others who have your same illness have most certainly faced some of the same problems. After all, they are human. People who have the same, or nearly the same, set of symptoms can offer ways of handling things that have helped them when they've been in similar situations. I find this comforting.

6. Listen to the experts. Whatever the challenge is, there is almost always someone who knows more about it that you do. Read books, blogs, go to seminars. Whatever you can do to gain knowledege to help give you a bit of control over things. For example, I have a board devoted to empty nesters on my Pinterest. This is where I keep all of the tips I've run across on the internet. I've been helping our son contact moving companies. We've been getting quotes and working on getting all parties involved to pin down dates to make the move. If you're having financial troubles, find a Financial Peace University course, offered by Dave Ramsey, in your city.

7. Take care of yourself. I can't leave this out. Take your meds, visit your doctor. Do what you need to do to keep your physical self as well as you possibly can. I know there's only so much those of us with chronic illnesses can do, but we do have some control. Rest, eat right and try so very hard not to stress.

How do you deal with stress? Do you find having a chronic illness affects how you handle stress? Please feel free to share in the comments or message me directly.

Here's to a stress-free week for all of us!!

"The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another."~William James

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