alt=Thunder clouds of stress and pain cover a person's eyes.

When Chronic Illness and Stress Collide

Last updated: June 2022

When stress presents itself in my life it tends to turn my life inside out and entirely consume my mind. Everything else of importance is thrown out the window and forgotten, and whatever is stressing me out has my full attention. I immediately go into problem-solving mode while the remainder of my responsibilities are casted to the sidelines. I’ve only just recognized this recently, and I know it’s not healthy or productive. But when chronic illness and stress collide, it can be difficult to feel like you have control over how that stress is affecting your life.

Stress impacts my sense of routine

Any sense of routine in my life crumbles in the presence of stress. Mind you, it’s already incredibly difficult as someone who struggles with chronic fatigue to have a structured, concrete routine. So, when something stressful happens on top of the unpredictability of my symptoms, I lose my sense of routine and end up focusing on purely the stressor itself and how to remove it or solve the problem.

For example, if a financial situation arises, I end up spending days or weeks brooding over it, as well as spending hours on my laptop trying to find more flexible ways to increase my income while remaining homebound. My writing, and even prioritizing my health, ends up receiving the shorter hand and I inevitably fall behind and become emotionally burnt out.

It also affects my symptoms

Of course, it’s not unheard of that stress affects many of us who live with a chronic condition. Stress weighs heavily on my symptoms. My pain ends up flaring more than usual, more specifically causing many nights of painsomnia. It also really affects my chronic fatigue and pushes me into a huge crash, causing me to fall even further out of routine and feel stuck in between feeling too ill to handle anything and too stressed out to focus on anything other than what is stressing me out. It’s a vicious cycle.

I’m practicing coping with stress in a healthier way

Stress is unfortunately unavoidable. It’s frustrating as someone who is chronically ill because, I already feel like so much of my life is out of my control. So, when something stressful arises it feels even heavier to carry. I’m realizing just how important it is to try and cope with stress in a healthier way, especially while being ill. Stress holds so much power in our lives and how it affects our illness, and clearly the ways in which I have been dealing with it have not proven to be beneficial or productive.

It's easier said than done, but the first step is always acknowledging it. Yes, stress will always present itself in our lives, there is no getting around that. Especially with all the struggles that come with being ill. I think it’s important to find a healthy way to give ourselves a chunk of time to ruminate in the thick of it, and then let it go and move forward while continuing to do the best we can.

How do you cope with the stresses of life?

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