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Old 08-20-2004, 05:24 AM
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ewriggs ewriggs is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia
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Cyn, you are going to get through all this just fine! The coping skills are learned, and you probably will have to try several kinds of coping skills to find the ones that "work" for you. I'm sure you know a lot of them, but I'm gonna list 'em anyhow:

Things to do when a stress situation arises:
  • Slow deep breathing with relaxation - Before reacting to the next stressful occurrence, take three deep breaths and release them slowly. Actively "make" your muscles all relax.
  • Visualization and imagery - after taking the slow deep breaths and relaxing, think of a very peaceful, comforting image - a place, an event, a time you felt very safe and comfortable
  • Warm / hot bath - longish - use bath salts or oils if desired
  • Aromatherapy - there are certain scents that are intrinsically relaxing, and there are probably specific scents that bring you comfort. Identify your "special comfort" scents and keep sources of them around to use to help break up stress. Candles, potpourri, perfumes, spices/herbs, etc, can all be easy-to-keep sources of comfort, stress-breaker scents
  • Venting to someone - or here!
  • Asking someone for a hug (if you can stand the pressure on your body - there are times I can't stand even to be touched)
  • Get a massage (same caveat as before!)
  • Go to the chiropractor
  • Read a book
  • Pray
  • Take a walk
  • Go shopping for something totally frivolous and fun
  • Take a nap
  • Have a cup of tea (not coffee - coffee jazzes us up, tea tends to soothe)

Some things you can do preventively
  • Gentle exercise - regularly - daily (this is cumulative - Exercise not only stimulates release of endorphins, the body's natural stress-fighters, but it also helps lower cortisol and other stress hormone levels. You'll also be healthier and better prepared to deal with both physical and mental demands. And it will help with future stress!)
  • Prioritize your commitments and responsibilities - Differentiate between you mandatory obligations and those commitments you made due to guilt, to satisfy others, or to fulfill unrealistic expectations of yourself. Learning to say 'no' can help you reduce the stress of excessive demands on your time and energy.
  • Work on time management - organize your life so you have as much time as possible to accomplish what needs to be accomplished. Schedule in rest periods and naps. Go on a disciplined sleep schedule - going to bed at the same time each night and getting up the same time every morning.
  • Wear clothes that are comfortable, do not pinch or bind, and are soft against your skin. It is amazing what a difference this has made for me. I use a Bounce unscented sheet in all the dryer-loads of my clothes and the reduction in the nagging little scratchy feelings of "rough" fabric has really helped!
  • Whatever else you can think of!

There are many websites that help with time management, list additional stress reduction strategies, and give detailed "how to" for things like visualization and imagery, meditation, etc.

About.com has many, many pages in this category for a start.

Something I have found that helps a lot with getting better sleep is the use of a sleep mask - and one in particular:
Hibermate from Complete Sleep Systems

The Hibermate has made a big difference in the kind of sleep I get at night, how often I wake up, etc. Not only does the mask provide total darkness, but the little ear pillows muffle noises (but I can still hear the smoke alarm, phone, and doorbell). It is very soft against my face, too, and after the first couple of times using it, didn't feel "weird" or anything.

Another thing that has helped me a lot is my sheepskin. I didn't think I needed one, but my ol' curmudgeon heard it might help and I broke down and got one. It is *wonderful!* I have fewer fasciculations and spasms with it. Search the web for the best deal. I got mine from a site in New Zealand. Even with shipping, it was much less than getting one from the US!

We have a big water bed with a heater. When I sleep on a "hard" mattress, I don't sleep well, I am chilly, and I develop "sore spots" on my joints where they rest on the mattress: shoulders, hips, knees, etc. Some people can't adapt to them, but we've slept on this since the late 70's and I'll scream if someone tries to take it away from me!

Keeping my feet warm with thick socks helps, too. If I notice my feet being chilly during the day, I put on some warm socks and it is amazing how much more relaxed I can be! I sleep in them all the time in the winter, and at least twice a week in summer!

I have a small crocheted lap afgan that I keep handy to keep my legs warm, and I keep sweaters and a happy-color shawl nearby in case my arms or shoulders get chilly. Even in the summer I am apt to wear a sweater to reduce cool air currents on my arms. This in turn reduces muscle cramps and spasms.

We have a treadmill and an exercise bike that I try to get on at least 4 times a week. I really notice it if I don't. The exercise sometimes is agonizing while I'm doing it, but I try to keep my goal in mind - less pain, fewer muscle spasms, less stiffness, better sleep the rest of the week. I don't "push" it too much. I exercise for about 10 minutes 3 or 4 times a day 3 or 4 days a week. I'm not "perfect" and I miss days, but I keep going back and working at it. When I'm in flare, I cut down on my speed and cut back to 5 minutes, but I try to exercise even "through" a flare. I didn't believe my Dr when he first mentioned it. Exercise always threw me into a flare. But when the ol' curmudgeon had his second heart attack and was resisting going to cardiac rehab, I told him I would go too and "do" it with him. I flared for about a week, but I got over it, and started generally feeling better and being able to be more active more of the time after about 2 weeks of it. Believe me, I **know** exactly how hard it is to do this - especially since it hurts no matter how slowly and gently I do it. But I've been gritting my teeth and "just doing it." I stretch carefully first each time, and stretch again every 10 or 15 minutes and yet again at the end. The stretching makes a big difference in how I react to it.

If I can keep myself feeling physically and spiritually comfortable, I react better to the sudden stresses that come up.

Hope some of this is helpful.

Cheerio!
Elizabeth
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