I missed yesterday’s #HAWMC post on Stress Awareness so I’m combining it with today’s topic… Travel.
Managing stress is a vital part of learning to live with chronic illness. Especially with conditions like Fibromyalgia and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS) which can be exacerbated by stress. Even for a healthy person stress can have a negative impact on your life.
So how do we deal with stress?
When I was healthy I used to deal with stress by exercising… a lot! I would go to the gym most week days and work out hard for at least 30 minutes and walked everywhere I could.
My husband reduces his stress levels by riding his bike.
Exercise has been proven to act as a natural stress reliever. The endorphins released by our bodies when we exercise make us feel good and relax.
But what if we can’t exercise? Or at least have limited ability to?
As I’ve mentioned previously, my exercise routine is no where near as extensive as it used to be so I’ve had to discover new ways to minimise and manage stress.
I still walk when I can (although this is no where near as often as I like), and I still do some yoga each day. This alone is not enough to keep my stress levels at a manageable level.
These days, I’m more likely to manage my stress levels by stepping back and finding a way to relax. I have hot baths, meditate, and generally avoid situations I know will be too stressful for me.
When considering stressful situations I take into account the physical, mental and emotional impact a situation could have. I have to avoid and minimise extremes in any of these aspects of life in order to maintain my health. I do this through pacing.
Travel and Stress Management
Travel is one area of my life that has had to completely change since the ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia. When I first fell ill, we had been planning an African safari for the next year. That obviously hasn’t happened and probably will not happen any time in the foreseeable future.
Although I’d love to go see the African wildlife and have a wonderful adventure with my husband, I know that the holiday we had planned would be too stressful for me. There would be the physical stress from actually travelling to the destination and the many activities we had planned that required walking and hiking. There is the emotional stress of becoming overexcited by the prospect of the adventure and the mental stress of planning the trip and making sure everything is planned properly.
Instead of big adventures like this, our current trips tend to be shorter and closer to home. We’ve done a couple of trips to bed and breakfast accommodation within an hours drive of home, and others (sometimes as short as over night) where we’ve driven somewhere and camped for a few nights.
These smaller holidays are more relaxed as we don’t plan out the details in advance. Because we don’t have to travel so far the stress of physically getting to the location is less, so I need less time to recover before I can participate in actual holiday activities. With these types of holidays we can decide what to do on a day to day basis based on how I’m feeling. We make sure we have activities we can do that are less taxing on my system, like audio books to listen to. We also allow for periods of rest between any larger activities and if there’s something that my husband would like to do that is just too much of a physical stress for me, we find a way for him to do it while I do something else.
The key to stress management for me is to pace myself and to allow for flexibility. This helps in every day life as well as in situations that may be out of the ordinary like travel or large social events.
What’s your key stress management tool?