We’ve all heard this phrase before. Usually, after ranting in confidence to a compassionate listener regarding ALL the difficulties in our lives.
The truth is, stress, both good and bad CAN kill you. Whether in the form of a heart attack, stroke, or by advancing an already aggressive disease state like cancer or Crohns and Colitis, this invisible enemy can eat you alive! I say invisible, because oftentimes stress is there and we do not identify it as such. Perhaps the level is low, or conversely, you are so used to going 100 miles a minute every day that is seems normal to you. (The latter sounds like someone I know, but I’m, SHE’s working on it!) Stress is a normal physical response to demands placed on the body. Not all stress is bad (i.e. fight or flight, the night before a test, job interview). However, with chronic stress, the same nerve chemicals seen in “fight or flight” situations and the above can suppress other body functions. Immunity is lowered and your DIGESTIVE, EXCRETORY, and reproductive systems stop working properly. See http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress
In the years since my Crohn’s/Colitis diagnosis I can’t tell you how many times random people have stated that stress causes IBD (Irritable Bowel Disease). I do not believe this to be the case at all (and to date there is no proven evidence of this). But, I DO believe, have SEEN, and EXPERIENCED how stress can certainly trigger a flare of IBD. The greater the stress, the harder the flare. I used to get annoyed when family or doctors said, “Calm down”, and moreso with “Control your stress”, like it was just so simple to do! I recognize now, that sometimes, it is just that simple. Everyone’s situation is different and our abilities to cope or escape either mentally or physically depend on many other factors. But wouldn’t you agree that the bulk of our day to day aggravation is controllable?
For example, I was sick. Again. Juggling medicines, three small children, work, charity work, crazy family drama, and mood swings…can’t forget those. I thought I would jump off of a roof at any moment–I’m not joking! I knew something had to give. If I could at least minimize or ELIMINATE the unimportant and trivial elements in my life, it would help me sort out the big issues. I literally sat down and made a list of what makes up each day of my life, similar to a schedule, then started chipping away.
Now, this helped, but wasn’t enough. I did not realize that HOW I responded to my stressors was still wreaking havoc on my body. “What do you expect me to do?”, I asked my doctor. “Ignore it??”
“No, do not ignore anything”, Dr. Fergang explained, “Channel it somewhere else–away from your gut. You hold all your emotions in your gut”.
I was to use positive affirmations and look at my problems/stressors as entities of their own as opposed to an extension of me. Very hard to do, but not impossible. Honestly, I felt the results within days.
I have mentioned on this site before, that our path to wellness is not entirely conventional. It is probably going to take a combination of therapies to get you/us well. Healing doesn’t often come in a bottle of pills or an IV. Add other methods to your plan: a workout program, an evening walk, massage, meditation, maybe a new hobby. What helps YOU to calm down? What is more important than YOU staying healthy?