Everyone on planet Earth feels stress. In small doses, it’s harmless and can even be good for us. For someone living with a chronic illness, stress is often one of many triggers. By this I mean, one of many daily elements that cause the symptoms of the illness to become worst. Learning to recognise stress is the first step in gaining some control.
When we get stressed, our adrenal medulla takes over the brain and puts it into a state of readiness for the “fight-or-flight response“. This is a natural response that is supposed to help us survive dangerous situations. When our bodies start to go into the “fight-or-flight response”, several things happens:
- Our breathing gets more shallow bringing in more oxygen into the body.
- Our heart beats faster, pushing oxygen throughout our muscles getting ready to exercise and your muscles get tense.
- Our brain concentrates on the now helping us make quick decisions.
Unfortunately, all of these physical changes affect chronic illnesses and can make our multiple symptoms worst. These physical responses are generally quite rapid and are caused by surges of adrenalin and cortisol coursing through our bodies. So how do you recognise fast enough to do anything about it?
Well, if you practice watching for the first signs of stress, you can catch the response early enough in the process, before your brain is completely overtaken and therefore can reduce the effect on your body.