Did you know that April is stress awareness month! We all deal with stresses in our lives but for lots of us who live with chronic illness or specifically chronic pain stress can be a trigger. For those of us who deal with CRPS we try as hard as we can to avoid extra stress because it sets off flare ups. The more stress we have, the worse the flare ups seem to be in most cases! When I was first diagnosed nine years ago I really didn’t understand just how big an impact stress had on my illness. As I became more educated I started to understand that the more stress I had in my life, the worse off I was going to be when it came to dealing with my symptoms.

For those of us dealing with CRPS the greater the stress the more our nervous system wants to get wound up really tight. That tightness that our nervous system experiences translates into increased pain as I mentioned before. Stress however isn’t always as a result of a stressful situation, it can be anything that tenses up your nervous system. So for me it can be large gatherings or noise that fire up my nerves and make my stress level worse. Pain then feeds off of this and it just sets off a chain of events that just keep snowballing.

In order to escape that stress I had to find ways in which to take my mind off the various triggers that cause the stress in the first place. So for me dealing with it was to isolate myself in ways where it didn’t allow stress to creep in and set off that chain of events. When it came to family gatherings it meant limiting things to a certain amount of time or picking and choosing the things I do to avoid extra stress. When it all gets to be to much then I have to isolate myself away from everyone, where I can allow peace and quite to replace the stress that my nervous system was experiencing. Often I will use music or deep breathing excersises to do this. It isn’t always easy to get things to calm down but it can but if your persistent and do this on a routine basis then your nervous system can responds to it.

So how do I escape stress? My love of photography! Its the perfect distraction from my pain. When I get out there with my camera I get lost in what I’m doing, and there isn’t a stress in the world. For half a minute I’m able to cast aside the stresses, and try and forget about the daily pressures I feel in dealing with chronic pain. Or the doctor’s appointments that happen every week. Its a chance to spend some time alone and just forget about everything best I can. Its stressful in itself dealing with all the day to day that you have to when you live with CRPS!

Is there and easy escape? I really don’t think there is because of the type of illness CRPS is. With your nervous system always running at a mile a minute its hard to calm things down and calm things. After the same time I do think its possible to distract yourself and bring the stress down. Things that bring you lots of happiness and joy from within are great distractions. Sometimes its just a matter of getting out there and trying different things to see what works. The one thing I do know is that you will never figure out what works for you if you don’t try.

For those of us who live with chronic pain or chronic illness there are lots of ways to reduce stress. Once you’ve found what works for you then its a matter of building it into your lifestyle. It may not bring results overnight so you have to stick with it and see the long term results that can happen. Believe me when I say that finding things that work for me have helped me a lot in how I’ve been able to successfully control my stress level better than I did!