To Reduce Anxiety, I Remind Myself That Pain and Stress Are Related
This week has been busy. After all the rain we’ve had in the mid-Atlantic region recently, the ground is soaking wet, but we’ve finally had a few days in a row without rain, and the sun has been shining. It’s been amazing!
I’ve tried to take advantage of that by doing some spring cleaning and catching up on chores that have gone by the wayside during the rain at the private horse farm where I live. There’s always work to be done on a farm: fences to repair, cobwebs to take down, flowers to plant.
Like many people with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, I have a co-diagnosis of anxiety. I’ve worked incredibly hard to learn how to manage it, particularly over the last several years. However, there have been times recently when I can feel my stress and anxiety levels rising because I have so much on my plate. My day job, farm work, writing this column, and the stress of living in a pandemic can get to me sometimes.
When that happens, I use some of my favorite tricks to help reduce stress. I remind myself that I’m incredibly blessed to have a job that I enjoy, a neat living situation, and the ability to connect with others in the rare disease community by writing this column. Everyone is experiencing the stress of COVID-19, and in many ways I’m more protected than others because I work at a job that takes the situation seriously. I’m thankful each day I go to work that I feel about as safe as possible, given the circumstances.
Doing farm work in thick mud, however, has been grueling. The ligament I pulled in my hip continues to bother me as I continue to aggravate it every day while taking care of the animals. I got so stuck in the mud the other day that when I tried to work my boot out and it wouldn’t move, I actually felt my hip start to pull out of its socket. While that was an extreme moment, it showed me just how hard my tendons and ligaments are working to try to keep me together as I trudge through the mud.
All that extra work has really set off my pain. I’m not sure that there’s anywhere that doesn’t hurt, and I’ve been sore in places I didn’t even know existed. I was supposed to have my regular massage last week, but Kim, my awesome therapist, had a freak accident and dislocated her knee while bending down to pick up a load of laundry. She’s out of commission for at least a week or two. Hopefully she’ll be feeling better soon. As someone with a propensity for injury, I sure know how she feels!
This week also has been a great reminder that my physical pain level can have a great impact on my anxiety level. I noticed long ago that when my body hurts, it has a direct effect on my mental health. While that’s obviously not great, knowing that has been beneficial.
I started to wonder why I was feeling so much more anxious this week than last, if my responsibilities haven’t changed. Then I realized that it correlates with an increase in my pain level. Making that connection actually helps me reduce anxiety, as I can remind myself that it’s my pain talking; everything else is still the same.
Pain and anxiety are never fun, but they’re both part of living with EDS. Recognizing their triggers and how they interrelate is an important part of managing them. Knowledge is power. And each day, I choose to find ways to use that knowledge to help me rise above my EDS.
Note: Ehlers-Danlos News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Ehlers-Danlos News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Ehlers-Danlos.