Stress, inflammation and autoimmune disease symptoms are tightly linked

Jul 6, 2023 | Diary | 0 comments

SI Pain: 5/100 | Rib Pain: 0/100 | Concrete Back: 14/100

We know stress, inflammation and autoimmune disease symptoms are tightly linked.

They are for every human being, regardless of whether they have an autoimmune disease.

Both yesterday night and this morning, I noted small, stress related physiological reactions.

It started last night. It had rained heavily for hours and I noticed a new leak in our kitchen roof at around 11pm. Our roof has caused problems since the day we had it rebuilt 7 years ago.

Every day when we look up there’s a water stain, or drip, or problem. The builders come to look at it and say it’s a ‘mystery’. They rip things up, re-seal it and re-paint it and say it is fixed. Yet, sure enough, a few weeks later the problem returns in a different place.

It shouldn’t be a big deal. It’s not that ugly. It’s very rare that we have to put a bowl down to catch drips… any yet I still find myself getting stressed by it.

It’s a ongoing, low level stress that chips away for years. A seemingly never-ending problem that won’t, or cannot be, fixed. A bottomless pit of time and money. Having to have workmen around the house over and over is awkward when you both work from home (and you are both quite introverted, quiet people!)

But all of this seems so bland and meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Sure the roof is dripping a little but it’s small fry when you zoom out. We can afford to pay the electricity bills and do the weekly food shop, we have a bed to lie in. We are so so lucky.

So when I feel frustrated by things like this I also feel guilty (“how dare I let something like this be a bigger deal than it is”).

But then it struck me…

We don’t get to choose our stress.

However big or small something is in the scheme of things, it doesn’t change the fact that this is still a form of stress. The constant nagging problem nibbles at the corners of your mind have an impact on your body.

I felt it last night.

It was almost instant when I heard and then saw the drip from a new location on our roof.

I went to bed feeling stressed and upset and it took me a while to get to sleep. What’s causing the leak this time? How am I going to get the builder back? When will this end?

When I woke up my pelvis felt tight like a drum.

It wasn’t painful but I was on edge.

There is a clear correlation between stress and autoimmune disease symptoms

Stress, inflammation and autoimmune disease is not a ‘new’ correlation.

We knew all of this already but it’s interesting to tease out the details. Because it isn’t always what you expect.

If stress is going to trigger my AS I want or expect it to be real stress. Not meaningless rubbish.

But I’m learning that you don’t get to choose and that’s ok.

Identify what’s causing you then (and this is important) remove your own sense of judgement from the equation. Now you can do something about it, instead of brushing it under the carpet.

There is a positive angle to this and there was in my story.

I did a long stint of work in the morning then went out for a walk.

During the walk my limbs felt tight.

But then I remembered that this was probably the stress, so I decided to try and get absorbed by the walk. I listened to a good podcast which allowed me to drift away and sit outside my day to day thoughts and this provided some relief.

I also went to get a black coffee. The small treat gave me another small sense of relief. A happy shock to the taste buds, a caffeine hit.

I then compounded this further by focusing on something I love.

Whenever I go walking, I have my camera on me and today I noticed something out of the corner of my eye that I wanted to take a picture of. A weird juxtaposed bundle of things by a derelict building that I often walk past (I’m a total nerd).

I took my camera out and got lost in the creation process. I was in the moment. I was framing things. Roof leaks couldn’t be further from my mind. I had the thrill of capturing something unique and fleeting that I know will look different tomorrow.

Just as sure as the stress of the leaky roof created that fizz and stiffness in my lower spine, the act of getting lost in something pleasurable caused much of the stress (and the AS symptoms that go with it) to melt away.

I wanted to highlight this because it is so easy to get locked into a certain train of thought…

Of only thinking about and focussing on diet, exercise or supplements when it comes to managing our autoimmune disease symptoms.

Even when we do factor in stress, there can be a tendency to lean towards only identifying big obvious stress events. Like losing your job or breaking up with someone.

It is the under-the-radar stress that we need to pay attention to

It is cumulative stress.

My roof problem is small and meaningless in the grand scheme of things but it has an outsized effect on my day to day life.

Three people I know passed away in the last few weeks. They were not close to me personally (“So sad as it is, I don’t deserve to feel upset of stressed by this”, or so I thought) but they were close to friends who I really do care about.

Like it or not, they are still things that affect me. And these things can combine to set up a snowball effect of stress that can come at you from different angles.

If we can get good at identifying this and accepting stress in whatever form it takes we can get better at helping ourselves.

We can try to find relief in whatever form works best. Whether it is talking to someone, having a good cry or writing about it in a diary. Whether it is taking a series of positive actions. Like going to watch a comedy or spending time with a friend who makes you laugh.

What doesn’t help is being oblivious to it.

If you find yourself wallowing and ruminating stress festers and grows in that same rut and routine. It sits in your brain, it effects your body.

Stress doesn’t always have to look like a gut wrenching advert for a charity, one where we see the saddest and most heartbreaking moments.

It can be bland and mundane. It can seem meaningless but it’s not meaningless.

Your experiences are important. What make up your life and the challenges within impact you. What you worry about and think about are not always things you get to choose and you certainly don’t get to decide whether something should be stressful or not.

I got to grieve again yesterday at one of the funerals and this was a release. I also spoke to our builder first thing this morning and that helped. Now we have a date for them to come and look again.

I will do yoga on my phone app this evening. On Friday I will go to to sauna and cold exposure and I will feel good after that. After work I will then go into town with my camera and I will take lots of photos. Maybe I will visit an art exhibition. Stress won’t dictate the narrative.

Your stress relief might look different.

Maybe it is working on a sudoku puzzle. Maybe it’s doing gardening or going for a nice long walk in nature. Maybe it is looking at an engineering problem. Maybe it’s reading a good book.

We are all different and there is no right and wrong. What we do have are the tools to have awareness and to reflect and to do little steps to help ourselves.


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