Minimizing The Damage
Lately due to circumstances beyond my control I have been forced to deal with a lot of high level and prolonged stress.
Facing illness, death, and grief
For the past two years I have experienced a combination of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (now in remission) followed by a significant case of COVID pneumonia to the point where few (including my wife) thought that I would leave the hospital alive. Add a bit more into the mix, also has me facing the unexpected death of my wife of some 57 years just weeks ago.
Yup, no matter where I look prolonged stress has been an un-welcomed but constant companion.
Stress creates inflammation
One of the dangers of stress is that it causes a body to produce inflammatory cells and substances that are designed to neutralize invaders like viruses and bacteria or heal a wound.
In limited amounts inflammation is good as it protects you in many ways. If you see swelling or redness near an injury, that aftereffect is how inflammation presents in your body.
When stress becomes hurtful
The real issue emerges when your system is it a constant state of stress and is pumping out inflammatory cells when they are not needed. The result of this overload is your body can attack itself and begin damaging healthy cells.
All this prolonged activity can lead to diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and more. There are also some evidence that diseases like cancer, type 2 diabetes, asthma and perhaps Parkinson’s may be caused by an overload of inflammatory cells.
Ways to minimize the effect of stress
Given the last two years of never-ending stress has put me in the danger zone, I wanted to share some ways I am looking at reducing stress in my life along with discouraging an inflammatory lifestyle.
Stop smoking and self-medicating
First … If you smoke, stop as it is a significant cause of inflammation. If you cannot stop, ask your MD of guidance on nicotine replacement medications or even counseling. Fortunately, I'm not someone who smokes so that was easy for me.
My real first step has been to get involved with more people in my life - particularly those who are involved with a local church. I will admit that following the death of my wife I did a bit more wine than normal but also soon realized that self-medication is not the best path.
Next, I am forcing myself to become more physically active again. While I do a lot of walking because of my dog I am looking into and resuming activities that I was not able to do -- such as bike riding some 20+ miles several days a week.
Am also focusing on diet and trying to eat a broad array of either fresh or frozen berries or apples. I have been including beans in my diet which offer a tremendous number of anti-inflammatory properties especially when consuming such things like peas and lentils.
I have always liked bread but mostly I focus on rye or grain breads. The same goes when I choose whole grain pasta, brown rice, and quinoa over white rice – all of the former offer anti-inflammatory benefits.
Making it a point to incorporate both salmon and herring into my diet at least 2 x a week and I make a concerted to avoid process meats like bacon or hot dogs or in deli meats which tend to be much higher in inflammatory saturated fats. Water has become my drink of choice although I must admit to having a cup of coffee or occasionally a green tea.
I also read labels on food packaging. Candidly if I can't pronounce the various ingredients, I will not include them in my diet. When counseling others I always recommend staying out of the center aisles of the supermarket and confine your shopping to the outer edges where the real food is and where you can get more color into your life.
Yup I have a truck load of stress in my life right now. At the same time, there are things I can do to help me cut back on stress and the resulting inflammation it causes.
Love to hear from anyone on other ways you have found to cut stress out of your life. Looking forward to hearing from you and thanks for reading.
Do you prioritize your mental well-being?
Do you experience scanxiety?
Join the conversation