Stress is good, it hones your perception, it gets the adrenaline pumping and it sharpens your senses. But, if you have a chronic illness like fibromyalgia or multiple sclerosis then stress is, very definitely, BAD. For that reason, this article looks at ways to reduce stress.
Like many of the writings I begin on this blog, they start with a fairly random event in my day-to-day life of Internet browsing, web-site management and general health concerns.
This topic has been no different, and does not follow any of the generally accepted rules of blog writing. These rules-of-thumb are normally considered to be:
- Evaluate the subject
- Research the topic
- Plan the writing
- Compose the post
- Review the composition
- Promote the final version
Now, on the odd occasion where I follow these guidelines, it can be a relaxing, therapeutic, almost cathartic occupation. It keeps me busy, but not in a frenetic way. It provided me with a sense of purpose and a feeling that I may be making a difference.
But, if I don’t follow the rules the outcome is inevitably stress.
I don’t need to reduce stress, I need to avoid stress.
It is beginning to seem that every way I turn, I am confronted by stress! When I check my Twitter feed, when I log-in to Facebook and even when I check out my Pinterest followers, I see posts relating to stress and anxiety. Am I stressing over stress or is it just a sign of the hectic life we all lead these days.
I am sure I am just obsessing, but even so, the end result is the same. I can feel my wellness decline in direct proportion to the stress I feel.
Identify stress triggers
Before we can look to reduce stress we need to understand what the causes of stress might be. I see many references to the stress of living with a chronic disease but I seldom see reference to the disease itself being the cause of that stress, but it most certainly is.
For me, there are a number of factors I can directly attribute to my feelings of stress:
- Near constant pain
- Self-imposed targets
- Child Care
- Inability to work
Pain is my normal, but pain is not normal it is a constant distraction from the goals I set myself in my attempts to live a normal life. Because of this I create my own stressful environment which I can control.
I am a Blogger and I feel guilty if I am not working on my latest killer post. But let’s face reality, none of my posts are killer posts, mostly because I cannot devote the time and effort to the proper research and investigation needed to compose and produce a detailed, interesting post.
Is it important that I produce a new post every day, or even every week? I should say “YES, I have an adoring audience waiting with baited breath for my next creative masterpiece.”. But the reality is “NO, if I never produced another post it would go completely unnoticed.”
Am I demeaning myself? Am I belittling myself by taking the view that I do not matter? Yes! I created this Blog with the intention of being upbeat and supportive for my multiple sclerosis community. Feeling sorry for myself is not helping to achieve that goal.
Having a bad day
Truth be told, I am having a bad week. And it may turn out to be a bad month, but it will pass. And after it has passed and I am back to something nearer normal, I can resume my writing and who knows, I may even be struck by a surge of creative genius and actually produce that killer post.
But what is important, is that I need to get things into perspective. What is important, no what is crucial to my health; writing this Blog is not absolutely essential. Eating healthy is essential, exercising my failing brain is essential, finding ways to reduce stress is essential.
We all have bad days, off days, days we should forget and write-off to experience. Which is fine, we are all human, fallible and fragile in one way or another.
Invisible Stress Factors
What causes you to be stressed will be very different to what causes me to be stressed. The cause of stress, I find, is often very unpredictable. The inability to identify the source of the problem makes it extra difficult to reduce stress.
I could be having a very pleasant day with my grandchildren. They are great, and I am so proud of them but, it is not until they go that I realise how drained I feel.
Watching the clock is another trigger. It should not matter; I am retired, I have nothing that must do done, I can take all the time in the world. But, despite my earlier comments I still feel I need to accomplish tasks withing a certain time-frame.
Is it important that I finish this post today? Is it important that I go for lunch at exactly 12:00?
Of course not. None of these things are important. But, I still set these stupid targets for myself.
Chill out man! The more I stress about getting things done, the worse my chronic illness becomes. And the crazy thing is, I know it, but I still do it.
So, quit while you’re ahead. Exactly, it is time to sign off from blogging for the time being, to find something more relaxing with which I can fill the time.
Not only do we need to identify these stress factors, we need to find a way to reduce our anxiety.
Put your life into perspective
What is important in your life? What is really important? I moot that what is important is what may prolong your life, what may improve the quality of your life.
If you can reduce stress you can achieve all of these things with the minimum of effort.
No, I am not advocating that you become a couch potato, that would be a bad thing. It may reduce stress but it would not improve your fitness.
Perhaps, the most important thing I have come to realise is that it does not matter. That of course is a very generic statement as some things will always matter.
I have a list of jobs, in my blogging business, that would frighten a Chinese Laundry, to coin a highly inappropriate colloquialism.
But, this is the important thing, they do not matter! If I do not accomplish these tasks, my business may suffer, I may lose income and I may begin to lose members of my audience.
AND, these things matter a great deal from a business perspective. But from my health point of view, they do not matter.
The beauty of blogging is that, for the most part, you set your own schedule. If you are not sufficiently positive today, TAKE FIVE. Come back tomorrow, you will be a different person tomorrow.
If nothing else, you will be a day older and, hopefully, a day wiser.
Watch a David Attenborough nature programme; educational, informative and relaxing! Did you know that the animals with the lowest metabolisms tend to live the longest lives? Fascinating and worth thinking about.