Subtle signs that show you have too much stress in your life: By Dr. De Leon

I have decided that “stress does not go with my outfit. so, I am breaking up with it!” you should do the same….. after all is not the stress that kills us but our reaction to it.

I write to deal with my own stress although sometimes I just need time away from everything and everyone for a bit to recharge my body and mind… this is crucial part of dealing with life’s stresses.

We all know that living with a chronic progressive neurological disease like Parkinson’s can be quite cumbersome all on its own. but, this does not shelter us from other life stressors like dealing with family, financial burdens, ailing parents, teenage issues and so on.

I have found that the greatest stressor for me in living with an illness is the disruption in my routine weather is a positive force or not. This disruption, especially if extended, throws me into a frenzy from which it takes a few days to a week to recover. During this recovery time, like today, I can be a bit of a bear to those near me. When I am physically exhausted, worse if there is also an emotional component, I tend to feel out of sorts and extremely irritable. What makes it worse is knowing I need down time to recover but not finding the space/time to do so because there are family demands on hand which must be taken care of. I absolutely hate when my husband is off when I am in desperate need of respite because although he does his own thing and does not put too much pressure or demands on my time, there is that feeling of disappointment he gets because I don’t have my act together. then comes the guilt on my part for neglecting him when he gets such limited time to spend with me and my daughter doing family activities. Even though, I am absolutely exhausted and am in dire need of sleep, I feel obligated to get up after only 3 hours of sleep because he and my daughter have started morning early with a 6 a.m. run and are ready for breakfast by 7 a.m. And thus, the day begins with me barely functioning, stumbling, and feeling quite picked only to be made worse by my daughter asking me complex questions half an hour later even before my medicine has had a chance to kick in. so I loose it. Worse since she got up so early, she too is a bit irritable. I decide its time for everyone to go to their quiet place and recuperate.

But, why do we allow ourselves to get this way?

Surely, there are signs that warns us of impending melt down.

Failure to recognize the signs or ignore them as I do when I am in the midst of traveling to speak, finishing a book, dealing with mom’s car problems (I don’t even deal with my own) and other family drama can be extremely detrimental.

What are the signs that speak volumes of our need to calm down and regroup? the thing is that these same symptoms can be considered non-motor symptoms of PD which can cloud the picture even further. But, with a little common sense and careful observation of our symptoms we can learn to differentiate and change our course of action to diminish our stress levels.

First, increase of head aches: who does not have pain in the head especially when hungry, tired, sleepy, and with neck dystonia? massage your temples and your scalp and neck even use some mint oil extract and place in forehead and temples. This will sooth you. get facial and scalp massages. if cant afford this and hands too weak to massage yourself use a lemon and rub around your head, neck. plus citrus aroma will also be soothing.

Second, jaw pain: may not be related to dental problems or oromandibular dystonia but rather our involuntary clenching of our jaw when stressed. this also can trigger headaches. Relax your mouth and keep teeth apart when dealing with stressful activities – periodically check by stopping what you are doing and relaxing your jaw if it feels better -you are clenching and keeping it too tight. Give it a bit of massage at least a couple of times a day. Insert one finger/thumb inside your cheek and place your thumb/index finger on the outside and rub till you feel all the knots disappear. (don’t forget to wash hands first)

Third, skin irritation. Do you suddenly feel like your skin is itchy all over? is it breaking out? although we know that PD can cause skin dryness especially in scalp and also cause eczema. if you find yourself scratching a lot all of a sudden like I have been these last few days without having changed anything to your medical regimen, diet, water intake, or your hygienic products then most likely due to stress.

Fourth, Bizarre dreams. Once more, we know strange and vivid dreams are part of the disease. But, if these have been under control and nothing has changed in regards to other motor symptoms nor medications and not being consuming alcohol before bedtime, this can be another sign. usually these drams are nasty and disturbing.

Why should we care about controlling our stress?

It is important to deal with the stress because uncontrolled stress can lead to depression, we are already at risk with PD. Also, it can lead to increase weight gain by allowing our bodies to store more fat. It also increases our blood pressure. Lowers our libidos and increases insomnia both of which are already a problem. Plus, it decreases concentration and increases memory problems.

Ways to treat stress:

#1 make time for yourself– so after the melt downs – I excused myself and went to bed. nothing like a good refreshing nap to restore clarity. Do things that make you happy- I go to movies, shop, read, sing, and go out with my girlfriends.

#2 Eat well– do not skip meals or skim up on nutritious meals because these have the power to reduce the effects of stress and stir you away from sugary cravings. home cooked meals are the best- cook when you feel best and store the food. I cook at night often. Cooking lasagna in oven as I write this blog.

#3 Move about– find way to release some endorphins- shake, dance, jump, walk, exercise. I love dancing and singing best way to reenergize. Plus is a load of fun if you do with those you love like your children or spouse.

#4 Sleep- This is the second most crucial after making time for self. talk to your doctor if having problems may need sleep aid ( e.g. sonata, lunesta, melatonin), antidepressant ( e.g. Elavil, remeron), antianxiety (e.g. klonopin), or antipsychotic ( e.g. Seroquel). I personally take klonopin otherwise I could not have restorative sleep. You will feel so much better after a good night sleep and you other PD symptoms will also improve.

#5 Don’t forget to breath! when you find yourself getting completely overwhelmed, stop and close your eyes and focus on your respiration until is calm. I do this at least once a day. problem is remembering to do this when I am busy chauffeuring everyone around. working on it just like I do my stretching in the car even when driving- I must learn to quiet my breathing even when I find myself in a noisy crowd or driving.

So lets learn to stop reacting to the stressors in our lives rather become proactive in preventing and changing our attitudes by letting go of perfect and nonessential things which do not contribute to our well being.

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all rights reserved Maria De Leon




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