Our topic yesterday in my Chronic Illness/Chronic Pain Support Group meeting was Stress Management. We talked about symptoms, causes, feelings, even a bit about what influences how an individual copes. We focused on stress related to living with chronic illness and pain. We have all the stresses of living in this world that everyone else has, but on top of that, we have to cope with symptoms of the illness itself, side effects of meds, doctors' and other appointments, keeping track of meds and prescriptions, and the list goes on. We have more stress, but because of our illness, we may have less resources with which to cope.
We spent the bulk of our time talking about how to manage our illnesses and cope better with stress. The group is scheduled to run from 4:30-6:00, but we generally end around 6:30. Yesterday, some of the people didn't leave until close to 7:00. We talked about all kinds of things, both illness and non illness topics. One of the people asked me specifically how I cope. I came up with three things.
The first one is that I have learned not to let things get to me (much). For instance, if I am driving and another driver cuts me off, or is going too slow for my taste, I used to get annoyed, and curse, etc. This response had no impact on anyone but me. I realized one day that I would get to my destination the same time, no matter how I responded. If I got angry, I would arrive at my destination out of sorts. If I just said "It is what it is", or some other comment of that ilk, I would drop the incident from my mind, maybe sing with the radio or focus on the book I was listening to on CD, and I would arrive at my destination in a good mood. I seldom get my buttons pushed, because I don't respond to it. This ability sure makes life smoother and more enjoyable. This does take some practice, and the real trick is to catch yourself before you react, step back and think about what response would get you the best outcome. I think my occasional meditation and mindfulness practice helps in this area.
Another management technique I use is that I take each task in its turn, and don't worry about the future. Over the past two weeks, I have had a series of things I had to prepare for (on top of work, my blog and life issues), as is frequently the case. I had my Chronic Illness support group meeting to prepare for two weeks ago, then I had to get our apartment ready for Passover, then prepare for a family gathering we were hosting, then another Chronic Illness support group meeting that was yesterday, and last, a Sjogren's Syndrome (SS) support group meeting the day after tomorrow, where I am supposed to present a review of half of the sessions at the Sjogren's Syndrome National Patient conference I went to the beginning of April. Mary, our SS support group leader wanted to decide two weeks ago who would present which topics from the National conference. I told her to decide which she wanted to do, and let me know which I was responsible for, and I would work on it when its turn came up (today). I put it out of my mind, and did not worry about it. I will get it done today, and not worry about it again. Tomorrow I am scheduled to work at the hospital. Two of our team will be out, and just two of us will be there. I used to worry about days like that, but now I don't. I will go in tomorrow, we will divide up the tasks, and get done what we can, and "it is what it is".
I can't remember what the third management technique was that I told her. I am not going to worry about it, and I am not going to let it get to me. If I think of it later, and it seems significant enough, I will let you know. If not, "it is what it is". It is time for me to start organizing my review of the conference for Saturday's meeting.