If you're living with a chronic illness, you're in the right place.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Stress: What it Does to Your Body

5:28 PM Posted by Skyler Schuyler , , , ,
As we continue to explore anxiety and the impact stress, I thought this would be an ideal time to discuss some of the physical symptoms that stress can have on your body. Simply put: stress leads to distress – so much so that 77% of Americans experience physical symptoms caused by stress. Distress of your body manifests itself in various ways for each person. For some, it can resemble a headache or migraine, it can upset your digestive tract, increase your blood pressure, reduce sleep and even cause chest pain. Some research has suggested when your body is in distress, it may exacerbate (bring on or worsen) certain illnesses and diseases. Additionally, when people try and use tobacco, alcohol or other drugs (including prescriptions) to relieve stress, the long-term effect may be more harmful than helpful for your body.  

Looking at some basic statistics, 44% of Americans have reported feeling more stressed than they did five years ago; three out of four doctor visits are for stress-related ailments; work stress causes 10% of strokes; the basic cause of 60% of all human illness is caused by stress; more than 40% of people stress eat; 44% lose sleep each night due to stress; and stress increases 40% of heart disease, 25% risk of heart attacks and 50% risk of stroke. 

Examining physical symptoms more closely, the American Psychological Association in 2014 reported these statistics for those who expressed physical manifestations of stress. They included:
  • Fatigue – 51%
  • Headache – 44%
  • Upset stomach – 34%
  • Muscle tension – 30%
  • Change in appetite – 23%
  • Teeth grinding – 17%
  • Change in sex drive – 15%
  • Feeling dizzy – 13%
Psychological symptoms following the distress of physical manifestations included:
  • Irritability or anger – 50%
  • Feeling Nervous – 45%
  • Lack of energy 45%
  • Feeling as though you could cry – 35%
With these numbers being so high, it’s no wonder that 3 out of 4 doctor visits are stress-related! It’s important to understand the impact that stress and anxiety can have on your body. Sometimes, we do not even know that we are stressed or contribute physical ailments to stressful situations in life. Being mindful of your body and the reaction it has to daily events can offer insight of how to manage stress. Please see the previous blog for helpful suggestions/ healthy lifestyle changes to reduce your anxiety and stress.

Also, there is an interesting video available online (via Netflix, YouTube) titled: Stress, Portrait of a Killer. National Geographic takes a look at thirty years of research and examines scientific discoveries through field and lab research to prove stress is not just a state of mind, but measurable and dangerous.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Mental Health Round-up

3:00 PM Posted by Stephanie Horgan , ,
Recently, I've been noticing a lot of articles about mental health online. May is only a few weeks away, and it will be National Mental Health Awareness Month. Here's a round-up of some recent articles I enjoyed and wanted to share about this topic.

Why the World Needs the Mentally Different
This is a blog written by Glennon Doyle Melton, an author and speaker with a history of mental health illness herself. I admire her honesty and humor, and in this post she has a wonderful perspective on what those who are "mentally different" bring to the table. She says, "What we who are mentally different need is respect. We know we need help managing our mental differences, but what we ask for is a shift in your approach to helping us. Instead of coming at us with the desire to change us because we are inconvenient to the world- come at us with the desire to help us because we are important to the world. We want you to see that with a little help, we can be your prophets, healers, clergy, artists, and activists. Help us manage our fire, yes, but don't try to extinguish us."

In Sickness and In Mental Health
This is an audio episode of a program on NPR in New York called Death, Sex & Money. It features the story of a couple who were married for three years, when the wife started experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder. It chronicles her recovery and inpatient stays, as well as their decision to have a child. I appreciated the honesty of this couple who had no idea this was going to hit them a few years into marriage, and the openness in letting others see what their journey was like.

MLB Teams Nurture Players' Mental Health
Three teams in Major League Baseball hired sports psychologists or mental health coaches. For major league athletics, I am pleasantly surprised at their recognizing of the needs of the players on and off the field. So far the Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, and the Washington Nationals are the teams on the front lines of this new holistic approach.

Last but not least, I'm including a fluff article about Celebrity Quotes that will Change the Way You View Mental Illnesses. It includes a list of various celebrities who have faced mental illness in some way, which I feel will help decrease the stigma for all the people who admire them and think they have it all together. My favorite quote from this article is by John Green, a young adult author. "I take medication daily and have for many years. I also try to exercise a lot, because there's some evidence that exercise lessens the symptoms of anxiety, and I try to use the strategies that I've learned in cognitive behavioral therapy to cope with my illness. But it's a chronic illness and it hasn't, like, gone into remission or anything for me. It's something I live with, something that I've integrated into my life. And we all have to integrate stuff into our lives, whether it's mental illness or physical disability of whatever. There is hope. There is treatment.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Coping with Anxiety

5:42 PM Posted by Skyler Schuyler , , ,
It’s just past midnight and you find yourself wide awake at night; restless, worried and looking at the clock. There’s a long list of chores to be done at home, but you still need to pick up dinner, get the kids to practice and return a phone call. Your boss informs you several people have called in sick today and now you have the responsibility of three people. – The majority of us have all been there; experiencing the symptoms of anxiety in our own way. But how do you cope with anxiety when it creeps up on you unexpectedly?

Because anxiety develops and presents itself in various ways for everyone, being mindful of its symptoms is the first step to combating anxiety and feelings of stress. Symptoms include excessive worry, sleep problems, irrational fears, muscle tension, chronic indigestion, self-consciousness, panic, flashbacks, compulsive behaviors, excessive sweating and increased heart rate. When you find yourself trying to manage any level of anxiety, it is a good idea to remind yourself of what you can actually change (what’s in your control) and accepting the rest (what’s out of your control).

Also, it can be helpful to take a personal time-out. Having time for personal reflection such as listening to music, meditating and practicing your own relaxation techniques (taking deep breaths, counting slowly to 10) can provide you with an opportunity to take a step back and look at your stress from a different perspective. Eating right and getting enough sleep are easy steps to reduce your anxiety. It may seem easier said than done, but it’s important to eat well-balanced nutritional meals which help boost your energy, limit your amount of alcohol and caffeine and get plenty of rest to revitalize your mind. In addition to eating healthy meals and sleeping more, you should explore different options of daily exercise. Sometimes your body needs to release energy that builds inside you. Excess energy can increase your levels of anxiety and make your symptoms of stress feel much worse.

Sometimes you just have to accept that your best is not always going to be perfect. Challenge yourself to be proud of what you have accomplished and release your desire for perfection. Humor is also a great way to reduce tension. Give yourself a break and try to use laughter as a form of release. While choosing to have a positive attitude can be difficult, it can replace negative thoughts and cognitions you may be experiencing. Finally, if your levels of anxiety allow, try to get involved more. Being active in your community by volunteering or joining clubs can help you build a positive social network and provide you an outlet from your anxiety and stress.

While there are many other coping strategies to reduce tension, anxiety and stress, these are a few ideas that are more basic. – Try and discover what works best for you. In order to reduce undesirable anxiety, you have to learn what your triggers are and talk to someone if your feelings become unmanageable. Remember you are not alone and almost everyone has experienced anxiety in some form another. Hang in there and use those coping skills!