Of course, the best way to deal with stress, is to solve the problem that is causing stress. But that isn't always possible. Everyone in our group was able to identify sources of stress that were constant, and had no solution. As someone in the group said to me, "You can't leave your body behind."
Whether it's your own or a family member's chronic illness, or another problem that doesn't have an easy or practical solution, there's often causes of stress that can't be fixed.
It's no wonder that many people, like me, use food as a means of dealing with stress - some of us binge eat, others don't eat enough. In many ways, it's not as bad as using dangerous drugs to cope, but it's still not healthy, and it can still have fatal consequences. (Obesity-related illness is a major killer, and, let's face it, if you're reading this site you've probably got enough health problems without adding any more.)
If it's not possible to deal with the cause of stress, to fix the problem, then it seems the only way to deal with it is to deal with the results. Instead of having stress hormones giving us fight or flight messages our bodies can't do anything with, we need to encourage our bodies to produce the kinds of hormones that tell us everything's fine and we don't need to worry.
We can help ourselves to feel happier, more content (and less likely to feel on edge and to eat to calm that feeling).
For many people, exercise helps with this. That's not always an option for lupus patients. Doing what exercise we are able is good for a number of reasons, and regulating those stress hormones is only one of them. It also makes a difference to joint mobility and overall health.
Sometimes, the way to deal with the stressors that we can't change, is to take a tip from small children - to announce that we're just going to "run away". To simply take a break from the cause of the stress.
We can't take a holiday from our bodies, but we can take our minds away from our stresses for a while.
Here's some suggestions for "running away" from stress:
- Read a good book. Slip into a fantasy world, and forget reality for a while. (If money for buying books is a problem, remember council libraries are free.)
- Watch a movie or a play.
- Try writing fiction, create your own fantasy world.
- Arts and crafts can give you something to focus on, where you can have a sense of achievement, and create something worthwhile.
- Pets can give you something to focus on beyond your own stressors.
- Meditation and prayer give the opportunity to let go of the stress, to relax, to feel that you are not carrying a burden alone.
- Put on some favourite music and dance.
- Play an instrument.
- Have coffee with a friend. (It's just as good having coffee at home as it is to go out to an expensive coffee shop.)
Do all of these things sound obvious? Yet, it's easy to go on and on for weeks even months without doing any of these things, or anything else that makes you happy, takes you out of yourself, or gives you some sense of happiness or achievement.
It's possible to have stress just build up and build up and build up, to get depressed, or to engage in self-destructive behaviours, like binge eating, to try to deal with how we feel. It's much better to try to release the pressure in some healthier ways.