Trying to find a doctor who will help you
Going without sleep for long periods of time
Trying to manage the impacts of illness on your relationships
Dealing with feelings of guilt
Not being able to get done all the things you need to
Always having more medical bills to pay
Dealing with feeling like a failure
Managing new symptoms and trying to find out if they’re related to your conditions
Being sick is just straight up stressful. So how are we supposed to deal with that? Before I got sick I worked out my stress when I was exercising. Post sickness I tried yoga to see if it would have the same impact, it didn’t. When I’m stressed yoga is just pointless. As the yoga instructor tells me to stretch my body in impossible ways and to simultaneously relax, all I feel is rage and annoyance and stress because I can’t do it right. Because those positions are NOT relaxing unless you are a human version of Gumby.
I’ve also tried meditation, which can work sometimes, but not when I’m stressed. My thoughts are way too persistent to allow any form of meditation. As I’m being told to empty my mind all my mind can do is focus on all the things that are stressing me. All the normal, not stressful thoughts are gone and all I can think is OH MY GOODNESS I’M SUCH A FAILURE, I CAN’T DO ANYTHING RIGHT! I CAN’T EVEN MEDITATE RIGHT. WHAT IS WRONG ME WITH ME? WHY CAN’T I STOP THINKING? WHY AM I SITTING HERE WHEN I HAVE SO MUCH TO DO? As you can imagine, that’s not productive.
I suppose if I drank that would temperately relieve stress, but I don’t, and I’m not about to start now. That’s probably not a good long term strategy either. Stress eating is not really a good idea, considering I only get a limited amount of exercise and I’m trying to take better care of my body. I do find it relaxing to be in nature, but I live in the suburbs of a city with 4 million people so the nearest nature is some distance away.
So how do I deal? With a long list of various coping techniques that sometimes work in conjunction with each other.
Reading– A good novel always helps me to get outside my own problems and focus on something else.
Helping someone else– Sometimes I need to stop focusing so much on myself and think of someone elses problems. It helps me to realize that while chronic illness has taken over my life, plenty of other people have significant problems to deal with too.
Sunlight– While I can’t enjoy actual nature, it helps to go outside in my backyard and soak in some sunlight. Sun almost always improves my mood, and an improved mood helps me to deal with what is stressing me out.
Friends– Laughter is always the best medicine, which usually comes when I spend time with friends. It just helps to connect with other people.
Music– Music has always had the power to sooth my soul. Listening to calm music helps me to relax.
Unfortunately there isn’t one easy solution for stress caused by chronic illness. The important thing is to find what technique works for you and to make sure you apply it when you can feel yourself getting overwhelmed.