Worry and nervousness is a very normal response to tough events and stressful situations. These can be useful. They alert us to potential dangers and let us know there is a problem to be resolved.
When we ignore our problems, or are unable to resolve our problems, we can experience anxiety. Unfortunately, if we do not reduce our anxiety, our anxiety can grow, sometimes in a "somewhat irritaional way" - amplifying pain, fatigue and sensitivities.
When I am feeling really panicked and overwhelmed, I practise deep breathing techniques like those demonstrated by Dr Weil here
If possible I also go to a quiet safe zone for a 10 minutes or so for a short mindfulness break.
(note deep breathing is not always a good idea if you are in a highly polluted environment and experiencing chemical sensitivity induced anxiety reactions, in these cases it is usually best to leave)
I practice Yoga or another gentle mind-body exercise at least once a week
Research shows yoga is not only good for reducing anxiety (it increases our natural calmer - GABA), but it also helpful for reducing fibromyalgia related pain.
I take regular mindfulness breaks throughout the day
Taking regular mindfulness breaks even for just a minute of two, has been shown to reduce anxiety and pain and improve sleep (often significantly) in as little as 6 to 8 weeks. A good way to remind yourself to do this is to download a mindfulness app and put it on your phone or computer. If you do not use a phone or computer, make mindfulness a habit by practicing after each time you eat.
I have a number of stress reduction techniques to draw upon, and I practice at least one each day.
Effective for reducing pain, anxiety, psychological stress and fatigue are mindfulness meditations, other meditations, progressive relaxation, self hypnosis, pain reduction visualisations and "non toxic" creative pursuits like digital photography, colouring or drawing your daily life, the sustainably creative way.
I have developed a support network to share my anxieties with
A problem solved is a problem halved. However, just sharing your problems instead of taking actions to solve your problems will do you a disservice and may even keep you stuck.
I know my 4A's of stress management and draw upon these when I need to.
I follow these 10 commandments for reducing stress when very fatigued (or not!)
Kindly provided by a ME/CFS patient, endorsed by Dr Sarah Myhill. (see here)
I keep a gratitude journal or a visual "happy picture" journal
These help me stay more focused on the positive, which helps improve my moods and reduce inflammation and pain.
I seek help when I need to
Anti-depresssants can help most people feel better, but they are not well tolerated by people with impaired liver detoxification (e.g. P450 cytochrome) and must be started on a very low dose to test for tolerance in those with medicine sensitivity. Fortunately Mindfulness Based Therapy is proving to be as effective as anti-depressants without the side effects and a much more reduced risk of relapse. (* note people with very severe ME/CFS and low levels of cortisol) may find therapy very overtaxing if not done in a slower and more supportive way)
Heightened anxiety is a very normal response to being in pain.
When you are in pain, your brain perceives the pain as a threat to your wellbeing.
Unfortunately, you cannot fight or flee from your pain, when it is chronic, nor do medicines make it go away completely. Instead it needs to be managed and eased by many small recovery steps over time.
Your brain does not understand this. It is impatient. So it turns up the volume of your pain and anxiety to get your attention and let you know it is "pissed"
Pain, anxiety (and discomfort!) are intricately linked. There is no escaping this.
While this may sound like bad news, it is actually good news. Because if you can calm your anxiety, your brain will get tricked into thinking you are doing something and not only reward you by turning your pain dial down, but will relax your stress HPA axis - helping to restore normal core functions like digestion, detoxification and energy production.
Grabbing a quick fix and mood booster (like a cigarette, a glass of booze, some caffeine, a high fat sugary snack or even some recreational or non prescribed drugs) can also achieve this too. But these things will only dull your pain and anxiety for a short while, then they will return. Usually with more force than ever before!
What is more these "unhealthy" quick fixes and mood boosters become less effective over time, meaning to get the same benefit you have to do them more and more.
Ultimately, you and I both know this is not good for you.
A controlled study of the effect of a mindfulness-based stress reduction technique in women with multiple chemical sensitivity, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia
Tara Sampalli, Elizabeth Berlasso, [...], and Mark Petter
Enviromental Health Clinic Womens Health College Toronto
A new view on hypocortisolism.
Fries E1, Hesse J, Hellhammer J, Hellhammer DH.
Does hypocortisolism predict a poor response to cognitive behavioural therapy in chronic fatigue syndrome?
Roberts AD, Charler ML, Papadopoulos A, et al.
The Brain that Changes Itself Dr Norman Doidge
Mindfulness-Based Interventions in Context:
Past, Present, and Future
Jon Kabat-Zinn, University of Massachusetts Medical School http://www-psych.stanford.edu/~pgoldin/Buddhism/MBSR2003_Kabat-Zinn.pdf