Stress is undoubtedly a part of all of our lives to some degree or another. It doesn’t discriminate between healthy or ill, and it also doesn’t discriminate between patient or provider. Each can experience their own kinds of stress. Regardless of your occupation, position in life, status or nearly any other quantifier you may wish to place on stress, you are not immune to it.
However, it would be fair to say that those who are chronically ill, or those that deal with chronically ill people, may subject themselves to higher levels of stress by nature of their illness and the limitations it may place on their lives and the lives of those around them.
Add to that the financial burden of medical needs not covered by insurance, if you even have access to health insurance, and compound that by the fact that if you are unable to work as you could before your illness or injury that you are now also potentially struggling with the loss of income to one degree or another.
Considering that many chronic illnesses are not curable in the aspect of that given treatment they will go away and you are saddled with a lifelong condition that may or may not be able to be well managed with medications or other treatments. Just the uncertainty of the future can add stress. Couple that with the fear of the unknown and grieving your former ‘self’ or maybe more accurately your former healthy self, and you are at an even greater risk to suffer from the effects of increased stress.
Chronic illness can often be accompanied by depression for any or all of the reasons mentioned above. While depression and stress can often be treated to varying degrees with medication these are not without side effects of their own, which could add even more stress. Realizing that stress can manifest itself in physical ailments, symptoms, or even diagnoses related to the increased stress such as high blood pressure just to give one example, it is imperative that you recognize how stress may be affecting your mental, emotional, and physical health.
Stress and its effects will not go away simply by ignoring them or wishing them away. There is also no one right way to manage stress. Stress, as with many things in life that we may experience, is an intensely individual process and managing it is no different. The key is not to ignore it and to speak with your health care provider(s) about it and the options that may exist for you.
Some people prefer to talk to someone like a close friend, a therapist, or a clergy member. Others prefer to practice meditation or some form of mindfulness to focus on relaxation. Others find yoga, tai chi, or even acupuncture helpful. For some, it may be a combination of any or all of these along with pharmacologic interventions when warranted.
Left unaddressed the depression that often accompanies chronic health issues, and the stress that compounds those feelings can lead to feelings of hopelessness. This is a very serious concern for once someone feels hopeless the risk of suicide can increase. I’m not a statistician so I don’t know how much it increases. What I can tell you is I’ve witnessed far too many people in both my personal and professional life reach this point purely because they did not want to bother somebody.
If you truly feel that way and are even contemplating whether suicide is an option for you it is already way beyond the point where you need to get help! Hopefully, you have been able to address your feelings before they have gotten to this point in their severity, but it not there are still options for you.
Pick up the phone, call someone, explain your situation, and ask for help. Call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255, or visit their website at http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org, or if you feel as if you truly need emergency assistance call 911. This information applies to those in the United States, but the website listed also has information for international options to obtain help.
You don’t have to go through whatever it is alone, and I sincerely hope you never need to avail yourself of these services in the paragraph above and that you are able to address your stress before it gets to that point. However, I’ve both known and seen far too many people who did not reach out for help before choosing what they felt was their only remaining option. Suicide is not the answer and leaves a devastating and often lifelong trail of destruction in its wake.
How do you manage your stress? How do you help those close to you manage their stress? Please take a moment and let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you! You are NOT alone!