Chronic Stress Management

Stress management is something that I have to constantly be aware of. If I become too stressed out all of my C’s start rearing their ugly heads and attacking what’s left of my insides. As a mother and a wife, not a day goes by that is completely stress free. Chronic stress is just how my life is and always has been. As I’ve mentioned before, music plays a crucial role in helping to calm my anxieties. However, on especially bad days I have to take my stress management one step further. I put my ear buds in, pick out the appropriate tunes, and proceed to a few select places.

back deck

My closest refuge is our back deck. From there, I can sit back and stare at the clouds rolling by, taking my worries with them. I’ll watch the birds in the nearby trees and silently tell them my troubles for them to fly away with. I’ve spent hours in this meditative state, forgetting about the world and eventually returning to my family at peace.

steps

When it’s raining (since our back deck’s overhang isn’t water proof) or when the current stress is something that I physically need to get out, I change my locale to the front. I’ll grab my Moleskin notebook and blue pen and head out the front door to the steps. Our apartment complex is fairly quiet and these steps provide a safe haven where I can sit and write out all my feelings. These writings range from incoherent ravings of a mad (literally angry) woman to tear-stained pages of uninhibited sadness. I always sit on the second step, out of view, in case someone was to look down the corridor, I won’t be disturbed. These steps of solace provide me protection not only from the weather but from my emotions that could be damning to certain relationships. Therefore, I consider them one of the more important places that I retreat to.

At particularly stressful times, I have to venture a little further into the world. There are just some times that call for physical release. On these occasions, I’ll walk about ¼ mile to the entrance of our apartment complex. There sits a black metal bench overlooking a pond and fountain.

pond - fountain croppond - ducks crop

Granted, the bench is rather unpleasant but, anything hard that I sit on since my surgery usually is. Nevertheless, the tranquility given by the sound of the water and the sight of the ducks that reside there is worth a few moments of being uncomfortable. I’ll usually stay for 30 minutes to an hour before making the walk back home. This combination of physical and mental liberation does wonders for my stress levels. By the time I return through the front door, I’m too tired to waste energy on stress and my mind has had the chance to be cleansed. At that point, what’s truly important to me has room to thrive… the love I have for my family.

Prior to diagnosis, I tried to tell a friend that “lack of fun” made my stomach hurt worse. She, of course, laughed at me because she didn’t understand what I was trying to convey. However, I knew, even at that young age, that stress was making me sick. It’s taken me a long time but, I finally have ways to cope. I hope that you’ll find ways to combat your stress as well. “Sick” or not, chronic stress is detrimental when left uncontrolled. As selfish as it may sound, sometimes you have to put yourself first.

(Side Note: This post was inspired by The Daily Post)

**Listening to 10 Years & Coheed and Cambria**

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Comments
30 Responses to “Chronic Stress Management”
  1. Amanda says:

    Good post! I have such a hard time managing stress. It’s easy to let it take over our lives. I’m not good with meditation at all, but I find yoga helps me quite a bit. Also, soothing music.

    • asizCreatives says:

      Thanks! It’s definitely tough at times, that’s for sure. I’m glad to hear that you do have a few outlets though. Everyone needs something, in my opinion. Thanks again!

      • Amanda says:

        We do all need something! My goal is to be able to turn off my stressed and anxious thoughts, even for a short period of time. Sometimes they’re all consuming.

      • asizCreatives says:

        I completely understand! And there are times when even my little retreats don’t work. But mostly admiring nature does the trick thankfully. I think that stems from all my hospital stays and staring out the window. I wish you luck finding something that does the trick for you 🙂

  2. frizztext says:

    “… I always sit on the second step, out of view,…” – you’ve written a wonderful tribute to your favorite place!

  3. Good post about dealing with stress. I’ve recently had such a bad patch of it that I’ve lost my drive to write. I know that it’s temporary but I do find it disturbing anyway. I’ve never lost my writing like this. But other things I do to revive myself when feeling completely stressed out is to change what I read to lightweight fiction or nonfiction. No heavy duty literary reading. I try to read funny books, too. Or good books about dogs or cats. I’ve been writing on Facebook but I’m going to stop a lot of that for awhile. It’s not an acceptable alternative to writing. And maybe I’ll turn back to blog writing (instead of the FB posting). I feel like telling the story of what got me into this terrible place right now. I am moving out of it but only with the help of an antidepressant. I don’t like taking them, especially long-term. Not acceptable. Nature and music both uplift me, and I am going out and walking more now, and winter is slowly coming to a close. Thanks for sharing your methods, Shay. You inspire me to hang in. -Dana

    • asizCreatives says:

      I’m so sorry to hear that Dana. I unfortunately know all to well what it’s like to lose the drive. It happens to me more than I’d like to admit to. But to not let my blog suffer (and to not hear it from hubby because I’m not posting regularly) I’ll post something easy, like the recipes. Not a whole lot of thinking required there. 😉 By doing that it forces me to get back at the keyboard and thankfully just the act of typing will sometimes get the creative juices flowing again. I envy you with the reading to deal with stress. I’d love to be able to do that but I can’t keep my mind focused on what I’m reading and end up having to reread it 3 or 4 times. That, in turn, aggravates me and I become stressed out more. When I started blogging, and consequently got on twitter, I pretty much stopped using FB altogether. I’ll get on it maybe once a month to clear out notifications or respond to a direct message but that’s it. So I’m biased. I’d much rather have you here than there 😀 I really hope you get your groove back and look forward to reading about what’s been going on. You know that I’m always here for you! Take care! TTFN ~Shay

      • You know what happened, Shay? Because I told you I was going to write a blog about my current issues, and told that to someone other than myself, I did it! Yep! I need to edit it, but it’s okay. Not great, but that doesn’t matter. I did it – that’s great!
        I forgot about your not being able to read much. (Have you had LFTs and an ammonia level done recently? It could tell you something about the disease progression – PSC)
        But you know, I’ve played music all day today, too. Just put my iPod on Play All and let it roll. That eases everything. You and I certainly share that! Not the same music, but that doesn’t matter.
        You know what? I just went back to you post on stress today and was looking for something. But then I read your last sentence and that answered everything – As selfish as it may sound, sometimes you have to put yourself first. Perfect. I’m writing that on a card, decorate it and put it on my refrigerator this week! Thanks, dear one. I’m here for you too. 😀 Dana

      • asizCreatives says:

        That is awesome Dana! I’m so happy to hear it! Of course, I’m always happy to hear from you, 😉 but still. Nope, no levels checked recently. The last time was in November… I know, I know. I’m gonna get checked out sooner than later, I promise.
        I wouldn’t be so certain that I don’t listen to your kind of music. That is, of course, if it’s from the 70’s. Just never been able to get into that decade but, every other decade since the 20’s is up for a try! 🙂
        You are so sweet. Every time I hear from you I smile! When you get the homage finished email me a picture. 😉
        TTFN ~Shay

  4. Diane C says:

    I sure understand what you mean about stress. My chronic ailment is osteoarthritis. I came by it honestly – my mom suffers with it too – and I have probably had it since I was 20 (now 52) although it wasn’t diagnosed until I was 28. I have it throughout my body but the place that it really hits me when I am stressed is my neck and upper back. Last October the things that cause me stress (mom with dementia, 19 year old daughter moved back home and trying to figure out her life, working full time as a high school teacher, and commuting 1 1/4 hours one way every day) and by the beginning of November I was done. I could hardly move and I was bursting into tears at the drop of a hat. My doctor put me on leave from work for 2 months and forbade me to see my mother and told me to tell my daughter she had to get her own apartment. I did all those things. But the thing that I did that was most healing was the quiet alone time I spent in introspection. For me, the stress came because I was trying to be all things to all people and when I couldn’t I berated myself internally and took on tremendous guilt. That alone time made me see that I had to take care of myself, and that I wasn’t in charge of other people’s lives. Letting go off that helped me to let go of the stress too.

    • asizCreatives says:

      Wow! That is a lot of stress to have to deal with. I’m so sorry to hear it but glad that you were able to eventually find some peace. I’ve not really talked about it yet but, I have arthritis and severe joint pain that manifested as a result of the Crohn’s, PSC, and Celiac. So, I definitely feel your pain, so to speak. I’m also glad to know I’m not the only one it’s taken years to realize that you have to take care of yourself first 🙂

  5. Great post and photos. Been poking around a bit and your story and creativity are powerful. Thank you for sharing!

    • asizCreatives says:

      Thank you so much!

    • Ps. If you would like to submit any photos to our online photography gallery, and share about your Chronic Stress or other mental health issues, we would be happy to have you as a contributor! Between myself and others close to me I can sympathize and/or empathize with much of your story. That can’t be easy, but you are very inspiring! Please check out the submission info on the site or e-mail me any time. Take good care! D

  6. Adam says:

    I invented a system to track my chronic stress levels once I realized that stress was the sole trigger of my symptoms. You can try it out at http://www.TrackMyStress.com (it’s free). This is only the first stage (without around-the-clock time tracking). I now take no meds and haven’t flared up in years. I also have hypertension – same thing, I take no medication and my BP is under control.

    It’s very low-tech – users take a moment each day to assess their work & sleep levels. They have three options to choose from and simple guidelines are provided. These assessments are then converted into a stress level score based on a patent-pending algorithm, so that users now have a way to track their stress to a number – just like they would their weight, cholesterol or blood pressure.

    Users also take note of their symptoms and, over time, can identify in what general range they started becoming symptomatic (we call that their threshold for stress). Then, to the extent that they can manage their activity level to stay below that threshold, they will reduce the frequency and severity of their symptoms, not to mention be more productive and focused on their goals because they won’t be as preoccupied with health problems

    I always say it’s not a silver bulltet, it’s not an exact science, but it is a game changer!

    Take care, AD

    • Thanks Adam for stopping by and introducing me to your story and what you have to offer when it comes to stress. Being able to track your stress levels like you would BP or exercise is genius.
      I can’t honestly say that it’s something I’ll stick with (keeping a log of my BP is stressful enough) but I’m definitely intrigued and willing to give it a try.
      I’ll be back in touch to let you know if your site changed my mind 😉
      Take care and good luck with this! 🙂
      ~Shay

      • Adam says:

        Yeah putting the BP cuff on is a pain in the butt, not hard but inconvenient. Although you have to log in every day to use the website, I find that people do stick with it. It’s not like as soon as you sign up you’ll be like “Oh my G-d, I feel so much better”, but it is one of those web apps that as you amass more data, it becomes more valuable to you.

        It’s much easier then, say, tracking everything you eat. That’s for sure. (I have a practical solution I’m working on for that too). Also, the journal of symptoms, major accomplishments and stress events are meant to help you paint a fuller picture when you look back several months or years to find your threshold for stress. I’m hoping 6 months from now, I’ll have the system do that for you (I emphasize we’re in the early stages of product development). You can be as specific as you want, but I think it can be anal retentive to be too specific given its purpose. You want to know just enough to understand what you were going through at the time, did you make smart decisions about how you spent your time looking back in hindsight, etc.

        One other thing to keep in mind – although I never promise specific results, I know in my case it has saved me a ton of time (and $$) over the last 6 years. Taking no meds means I don’t have to order the meds, pick them up, pop the pills each day and I only go the doc once a year at this point and get my blood drawn once a year. Same for my BP – I was diagnosed with hypertension back in 2007, but my blood pressure is under control without meds. And of course I don’t have to worry about side effects.

        So for me it’s a trade-off of spending a few minutes (at most) each day on the website versus going down the conventional path – a trade-off I’ll take any day 🙂

        Wishing you good health and success!

      • I completely understand. And you make very valid points! It’s absolutely a trade off and hopefully will end with success for me as well.
        Just out if curiosity, once you get through the beginning stages and gain some momentum, do you plan on making an app that coincides with the website? Cause let’s be honest, it’s much easier to open an app (which syncs with the website like Dropbox does) then fighting slow computers or Internet connections. Again, just curious.

      • Adam says:

        Yes, you are absolutely correct – this screams for a mobile app. Being a start-up, I’m practically broke and trying to figure out how to pay my bills short-term and continue with this project. This is my life, so… I’m pretty encouraged by the feedback so far though. And I’m getting encouragement from others about my perspective on things. For example, I’m not really focused on finding a cure for IBD like everyone else. I mean, don’t get me wrong, a cure would be great, but what I’ve always been curious about is WHY I flare up WHEN I flare up, and it blows my mind that others aren’t that interested in that. Do they think it’s just a random occurrence?? Who knows…

        I think of AutoPilot as the introspective Facebook – an interwoven network of daily activities, health, goals, and stress events. Like Facebook, it’s nearly impossible to do a mobile app first. So I’m taking the same approach as they did – starting off slow, start with a website, then go to a mobile app.

        I’m also going to be starting a meetup group soon here in Baltimore called Stress Busters. It will focus mostly on work-life balance issues (chronic stress), but also on relaxation techniques, acupuncture and other what I call Whac-A-Mole strategies (alluding to the arcade game). Also nutrition and other subjects as it relates to stress… Depending on the response, I’d love to expand into other cities. Let’s remember, there’s a lot of ailments that are triggered or worsened by stress, not just IBD.

        Thank you for the encouragement!

        p.s. The website is about as simple as it gets, so if you’re having trouble downloading that, then you need a new computer haha

      • That’s great that you’re so passionate, broke not so much but great nonetheless. It truly is a wonderful concept that I’ve never really seen before and wish you nothing but the best in the future.
        Also love that you have a group in the making. People meet for every thing else, why not stress? Again, all the best for that endeavor as well. 🙂
        ~Shay

        Oh it’s not the computer, it’s the lack of bandwidth at the moment. C’est la vie. 😛

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