Protecting My Health Against Stress Is Essential
The world demands my constant attention. Everything that comes across my news feed is presented as an emergency. The pressure to know the latest and greatest is at an all-time high. That doesn’t help my stress levels, though. It only adds to the growing list of issues I already have to deal with on a daily basis. Chronic illness isn’t conducive to unnecessary stress.
As Stress Awareness Month wraps up, maybe it’s time to reevaluate my priorities. Just because the world tries to drag me into everything it deems an emergency doesn’t mean I have to engage. I can choose what I pay attention to.
Since the pandemic, I’ve had to set stricter boundaries around what I take in. After growing up with cystic fibrosis and receiving a double-lung transplant in 2017, I’m used to isolating for my health, but I’ve become especially good at shutting out unnecessary causes of stress since COVID-19 began.
I’m cognizant of what I’m watching and listening to, as well as whom I’m talking with. I have to guard my mind and heart because everything affects them, which, in turn, negatively affects my physical health.
Stress exacerbates physical and emotional symptoms of my chronic illness. I become more tired and get worse headaches and an upset belly. I’m more prone to infection and get run-down because of sleep deprivation. Stress makes me lie awake in bed at night with a million thoughts running through my head.
Stress made me sick on several occasions before my double-lung transplant. CF exacerbations were often brought on by a financial crisis, relationship issue, or job-related challenge. On top of health stress, the weight of regular life was too much.
Stress creates a sense of urgency, making me believe that I have to solve my problems and everyone else’s immediately. As a result, I get triggered easily and react rather than respond.
Stress doesn’t take time off. It creates the illusion that it will go away if everything is worked out right now, but in actuality, once I deal with the present stressor, the next one moves in. And the next, and the next. It’s a vicious cycle that will keep repeating if I don’t deal with it appropriately.
One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned on my health journey is not to stress about things I can’t control. Between my health decline and respiratory failure pre-transplant, I learned quickly that life is rarely in my control. It turns out that control is an illusion.
Accepting the situation rather than fighting it helped ease my stress. It’s not that I denied my grief about being sick; I just didn’t allow it to create hopelessness within me. Feeling emotions is healthy, but allowing the things I can’t control to overwhelm me and create existential doom is not.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I don’t need to match others’ stress levels. Escalation, stress, or high blood pressure won’t solve the world’s problems. It doesn’t mean that I care less; it means that I’m more careful about what I respond to and how.
I don’t have the luxury of immersing myself in everyone else’s lives or every global issue. Living with a chronic illness carries enough stress. I don’t need to compound that with the weight of the world.
In this moment, I take a deep breath (because I can now) and release everything I can’t control. It is well with my soul.
Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.