One woman’s story.
Our bodies react to stress in ways that can cause serious health problems. One Our Health Matters’ reader has been fighting an ongoing battle to manage her stress and improve her health.
Kate started experiencing severe stress at her job a little more than 10 years ago. As she endured an increasingly stressful work environment, her mother experienced a life-threatening illness and Kate became her primary caregiver. The added responsibility caused her stress level to spiral out of control, and she began experiencing serious physical symptoms.
The first symptom was a change in her blood pressure. “I had never had blood pressure problems,” she says. “I am a blood donor, so I regularly monitor my blood pressure. My numbers usually stayed between 100/60 and 110/60. Before I knew it, my blood pressure had risen to 140/92, and I was experiencing panic attacks and severe anxiety.”
In addition to the elevated blood pressure, she also dealt with chronic pelvic pain and bladder issues. “I learned from my doctor that the stress I was enduring caused previously treated pelvic injuries to flare that were extremely painful. I also never knew that stress could cause bladder issues,” Kate explains. “This whole journey to manage my stress has been an educational experience.”
The cost of treating her stress-related health issues significantly impacted her pocketbook. “Even with health insurance coverage, I incurred thousands of dollars in out-of- pocket expenses for doctor visits, therapy and medications,” says Kate. “I realized that I had to make some changes in my life to improve my health. I knew that if I didn’t get a handle on my ability to deal with stress, I was going to be disabled or dead.”
Healthier lifestyle choices have been a big help
Kate has adopted these healthy habits to help her better cope with her stress.
- Eating healthy foods
- Practicing yoga
- Limiting alcohol intake
- Getting proper rest
- Focusing on positive thoughts
Another important adjustment Kate made has been to consciously tune out television and mobile devices before bedtime. “The light from these devices impacts my ability to sleep and I just couldn’t shut my brain off,” Kate explains. “Turning off these devices allows me to wind down mentally and focus my thoughts on peaceful rest. I find drinking warm milk or just hot water to be soothing, too.”
Even though Kate still deals with pain as the result of her chronic health condition, managing her stress has helped to relieve the immense suffering she once endured. “I know that I will never win the war on stress, but I am definitely doing a better job of winning the battle. All I know is that I feel much better.”
Kate,* not her real name shared her story.