Every year, around October, I start seeing Christmas décor on store shelves and am reminded that the holiday season is slowly creeping up. To be clear, I love the holidays. I love the food, the time spent with family, the gifts, etc. – all good things. I am painfully aware, however, that with the holidays comes an increased level of stress and I suspect I am not alone in feeling increased levels of anxiety during the season.
There are a number of stress factors that are magnified during the holidays. Whether it’s finances, finding the perfect gift for a loved one (or many loved ones), or having to spend time with that uncle you just can’t stand – stress can build up quickly. For those already dealing with the pain from Neuropathy, this stress can unfortunately aggravate the pain and make our symptoms worse.
Knowing how stress affects your body and how to manage it effectively can help minimize its impact. Within our peripheral nervous system is the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). When stress occurs, the SNS triggers our body’s fight or flight response. Through a release of stress hormones, the body experiences various changes including increased heart rate, dilation of blood vessels, digestive changes and a spike in blood glucose levels. The more stress we experience, the more wear and tear we put on our body through this stress response – weakening many functions and potentially resulting in illness, depression and pain.
To minimize the impact of stress on your neuropathy (and health, in general), create a plan for coping with and managing it in constructive ways. Here are three simple tactics you can use to relieve stress before it builds up to a tipping point:
Identify Positive Stress Relievers
Whether we recognize it or not, we all have methods for relieving stress that we’re already doing. Unfortunately, not all of our methods are positive. For example, stress eating might help us to feel better but ultimately can negatively impact our health. Identify stress relievers that can alleviate stress without negatively impacting you in other ways. It may be exercise, a hobby, reading a book, etc. Find something that allows your mind to relax and unwind and make it a daily habit, if possible.
Eliminate the Excess
In today’s world we’ve managed to make ourselves busier than ever before. For many, being “busy” is a badge of honor. Unfortunately, our packed schedules and daily doings often lead to unneeded stress. Simplify your daily schedule as much as possible. Pay attention to which things elevate your stress and if it’s within your ability to limit or eliminate them from your life, do it.
Breathe The Stress Away
Deep breathing can help restore calm to the nervous system and relieve anxiety. More often than not, when we’re under stress our breathing becomes more rapid and shallow – thereby reducing the amount of oxygen being pulled into the lungs. The body needs oxygen in the blood and if we ignore poor breathing it can have an adverse effect on our health.
Focus on taking slow, deep breaths in through the nose and then exhaling slowly through the mouth. For optimal calming effect, exhale for a count or two longer than your inhale. For example, inhale to the count of three and then exhale to the count of four. If you want to take it one step further, try yoga, which combines both breathing and stretching and can have immensely positive results on both body and mind.
Whatever the source of your stress, managing it and turning it into a positive will not only minimize its impact on your Neuropathy but will also reduce your risk of developing many of the other health risks associated with stress. How do you manage stress in your life? Share your experience below or leave a comment on our Facebook Page.