5 Steps to Overcome Stress with Chronic Illness
by David Gay
Hands shaking, lack of appetite, head ache… This was me three months into my first job after college.
I had just walked out of a 2 hour meeting. The topic: What did I do wrong on the project?
Getting into my car, I remember trying to hold back the tears as “the world as I know it” was coming to an end.
What I didn’t realize was that I had the full support of my boss. I was in his good graces, and the alleged “poor performance” was really just someone else covering for their mistakes.
Fast forward- 3 years later after my diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis. Wow I have learned that stress has a huge impact on chronic illness. You are in a constant battle with negative thoughts, and most of the time they win – at least that is how it was before I learned to handle my stress.
Below are 5 tips for handling stress with Chronic Illness. These 5 tips alone saved my sanity and possibly my life.
1) Mindfullness and Meditation
The first step in controlling your stress is controlling your mind. I started meditating one year after I was diagnosed, and within one week I was noticing a difference. Meditation is physical exercise for the mind. Ever find yourself constantly thinking about what might go wrong with your illness? Meditation is the key.
Pro tip 1: My first lesson in meditation was that your mind will wander while you meditate. THAT IS OK. Each time your mind wanders, bring your thought back to your breath. Each time you have to bring your mind back to your breath, it is like one rep lifting weights at the gym. You are bringing clarity and control over your thoughts.
Pro Tip 2: Start with the app Headspace. It is completely free and a great starting point for meditation.
2) Move Your Body
Now that you have worked out your mind, it is time to work out your body. The biggest lesson I have learned on my chronic illness journey is that not every day you will be able to “work out”. The main goal is to get off of the couch and do something that will move your body. In the deepest depressions, moving the body is the first step to bringing happiness and positivity to your mind. No matter how small the movement, get up and start working on a new you.
Pro Tip: Exercise in the morning is proven to be the most beneficial for your overall health. Check out this article on “The 6 Benefits to Being a Morning Exerciser”.
3) Write it Down
One of my favorite sayings is “a journal is like windshield wipers for your mind”. Write down everything that is making you stressed. You will be amazed at the result of getting it on paper. The last time I had a major flare up, I journaled about it every day. Not only did I write about what was stressing me out, I also wrote about how I was going to fight chronic illness until the day I die.
Pro Tip: Check out this article on how a journal is a chronic illness fighter’s best friend.
4) Take 5 Seconds and Make a Decision
Thanks for Mel Robbins, I now follow the 5 second rule any time I don’t feel motivated. Stress has a tendency to steal my motivation. What Mel recommends is that any time you don’t feel motivated to do something, you start a countdown backwards from 5. By the time you hit 1, you take an action to do the thing you are de-motivated to do. Sounds to simple to be true? Read my article on how it changed my life here.
Pro Tip: Have trouble waking up to your alarm clock? Try counting down from 5 and making your self get up. It works wonders (once you hold yourself accountable).
5) Find Something You Love
Anytime I am stressed, I realize that i need time doing my favorite thing – playing guitar. Once I get my guitar in my hands, my mind relaxes and all of my troubles go away. What is your favorite activity?
After polling the Cant Stop Me Community, below are the top 5 activities Chronic Illness Fighters do to reduce stress:
Listen to Music
Read a Good Book
Hang out with Friends and Family
Watch a Movie
Go on a Date
What do you do to reduce stress? Post your comment below!
With strength, hope, and minimal stress we can fight this together.
22 Oct 2017 - Tips for the Diagnosed