HS and Stress
First things first, stress is not a bad thing because it plays a role in many functions in your body from metabolism to your heartbeat. Without it, you would die. When we talk about stress and harm, we are usually talking about the stress that exceeds our ability to cope. It may last a long time and so it can make us sick. Stress is a bit like everything else, everything in moderation. Therefore managing HS and stress can be challenging.
Some people with Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS) finds that stress triggers their flare-ups. HS causes inflammation as you know, which stops us from doing what we need and want to do. It’s almost like, your internal smoke alarm and the sprinkler system is going off, where there’s no fire.
Inflammation, like stress, is not bad, it helps our immune system fight infection. It also lets you know you when are injured or sick. When you feel stressed, your stress hormone, cortisol increases. As a consequence, your body turns down some functions like your immune system. This may trigger a flare-up. Of course, this is a theory. Nobody knows what causes HS and many diseases are not caused by one thing. What we do know though that HS and stress need to be managed well.
You know your body best. If you notice when you feel stressed your flare-ups increase, take action to lessen your stress levels.From an everyday perspective, you can find ways to or decrease your flare-ups. Science is slow and objective truth is elusive.
Reflective writing can help you examine why you feel stressed and create a plan. You can discover a way of writing that helps you to look at a problem from different points of view. It’s a process, so you need to keep coming back to your plan and tweak it where needed. It allows you the opportunity to learn about yourself and what works for you.
Try this small exercise to help you create a plan of action when you feel stressed.
- Take out a notebook and write down exactly what’s stressing you out right now. You can do this as a running narrative or in bullet points. Most importantly, by the end of the exercise, you should see those things that cause you to stress on paper.
- Go through the list and mark the ones you can control right now. That might only be one but it’s a start.
- Make a list of small things you could do right now to ease pressure specific to that item.
- Write a list of things you like to do that make you feel more relaxed. This could be art or mindfulness, it could be gossiping with a friend or watching a movie. Try to include some that are portable for when you are not at home.
- Later, when you are feeling better, come back to your notebook. Did it work? Is there something that could have worked better? What strategies could you put in place next time?
This method could also help you plan your response to a flare-up. You could add a resource section to include those creams and products (plug opportunity) that help you.
Feel in control
Having a plan can make you feel more in control of stressful situations and increases your ability to cope. There is no wrong way to do it. The key to this is consistency. Most people don’t take the time to truly reflect. Doing this once will not give you a stress- free life. But, getting stress out of your head and onto paper makes it more manageable.
When stress gets into your head, it is overwhelming, but writing your thoughts down on paper, means you can organise it and hopefully manage it.
This is a habit worth developing.
About the Author
Shannon Sweeney is a psychology and sociology student from Ireland. She is also living with HS and has a keen interest in lifestyle, wellbeing, and Hidradenitis Suppurativa.