Having to change the way I deal with stress has been one of the most difficult things about being sick. For most of my life I have dealt with stress by working it off through athletics. All through high school I participated in sports and regularly ran or swam away my stress. In college I was a gym rat. I worked out six days a week, I played racquetball, played ultimate frisbee, I went rock climbing, and I ran in between all my classes (okay that was a necessity, my college campus was huge). Even after I had my first child I walked to de-stress. I would put her in the stroller and would walk five miles a day. Obviously chronic illness put a stop to all that.
I’ve floundered for years on finding a new appropriate outlet for my stress. I’m not artistic so I can’t paint or write poetry to calm myself down. I love music but it ramps up my stress more than anything. I love to read but I get too emotionally involved with the characters. I find baths relaxing but they only calm my body not my mind. I’ve found that I really do have to exercise to reduce my stress, there is no other way for me. So I changed how I exercise. I now do light relaxing yoga which stretches my muscles, helps my pain, and keeps me from worrying too much by lulling me into a relaxed state (yoga instructors have such peaceful voices). I also still walk off my stress. Although I can no longer go for five miles I’ve worked my way up to walking about two miles on average. It doesn’t do my knees any favors but it really helps my state of mind and sometimes that’s just as important.