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So what happens now? Part 2: Dealing with the physical stress of illness
by Andrea Martell

As discussed in the first part of this series, illness can cause a lot of stress in your life, even after diagnosis. The best way to prevent further illness is to stop that stress right in its tracks. I spoke of dealing with the emotional stress of illness. Now I would like to explore the problem of physical stress during illness.

It sounds like a strange subject to tackle doesnít it? I mean if youíre physically ill than your body is already under physical stress. That would be true. What you might not know is that the emotional stress I spoke of in the last article can add to your physical stress and your illness without you even realizing.

One of the physical stresses can be your demand to be ďas you were beforeĒ without giving yourself time for recovery. For many people, it is difficult to be sick. The feelings of loss can be overwhelming, and in the denial stage we often try to recapture our old lives. To give you a personal example, when first diagnosed with thyroid disease. I took my pills, and I thought my life could go back to normal. I even called the thyroid medication my ďlife pillĒ. What I didnít realize at the age of 22 is that the pill was a treatment and not a cure. I thought my health would magically return and everything would be fine.

Everything was not fine. I returned to university. My energy did not return as expected and the doctorís office remained my hangout for the next several years. The constant stress was in itself physically draining. The way I figure it, the physical stress of being ill was actually making me sicker!

Now let me make this clear. Iím not saying ďItís just stressĒ or ĎItís all in your head.Ē As Iím sure youíve noticed, Iím not a doctor. Iím a 27 year-old-woman who is familiar with what itís like to struggle through life with illness. What I am saying is that added physical stress put upon your body from all the other stress (emotional, financial) your illness is causing in your life can make you sicker. So relax, itís NOT all in your head.

The important thing is what you can do about this extra physical stress. The truth is sometimes when your sick you forget to take care of yourself. Here are some tips to help you through.

1. Get lots of rest.

2. Get some exercise. 

This will depend on your illness and your disability. But even just the tiniest bit of exercise will help your overall health because it reduces stress. For example, I go through long periods of weakness in which I can barely get out of bed. At this point, walking a block is impossible. So what I do is that I take a nice warm bath, and while resting comfortably I do leg stretches. Itís not a lot of movement, and itís not going to burn calories, but the leg stretches keep my muscles from atrophying and reduce the stress on my body from feeling weak all the time.

3. Eat well. 

Avoid sugar. Eat whole grains, protein, fruit and vegetables.

4. Drink lots of water. 

Water helps clean out lots of nasty toxins and refreshes your body. So stay away from caffeine and sugar if you can.

5. Have a little fun. 

Oh, I know. Itís so hard to have fun when you feel so horrible, but trust me, finding the simplest ways to have fun will be good for your physical well being. To give you an example, when Iím too weak to move around much I watch funny movies, TV shows, or read funny books. The laughter takes my mind of how weak Iím feeling. Even if itís only for a little while.

6. Be kind to yourself. 

Donít be hard on yourself for what youíre going through. Itís not your fault.

7. Find time to do things that are non-illness related. 

Give your body a rest from thinking about illness.

I know these things sound easy, but in our fast paced world these suggestions are quite hard. The best advice I can give you on how to reduce the physical stress of illness is to ďtake care of youĒ. Give yourself time to adapt to your new life, but donít let your illness define who you are.

Part 3 of ďSo what happens now?Ē will discuss about how to deal with the financial stress of illness.

Related Articles:

So what happens now? Part 1: Dealing with the emotional stress of illness
Getting sick and then spending years of money and time fighting for a diagnosis and treatment is enough to knock the wind out of anyone's sail. Disability is stressful. Emotional stress. Physical stress. Financial stress. You name it. You got it.

So what happens now? Part 3: Dealing with the financial stress of illness
Financial stress can be present in our lives no matter what our health status is, but the fact remains that ďhealth is wealthĒ. Being sick or disabled is expensive. 


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