COVID-19 Stress & Chronic Illness - Stress Awareness

COVID-19 Stress & Chronic Illness – Stress Awareness Month  

The effects of stress on health are widely known. The demands of our hectic lifestyles often exhaust both our physical and psychological resources, which over time, can make us susceptible to disease.

When a person first hears of their chronic illness diagnosis, their journey to successful disease management involves physical, pharmacologic aspects, as well as psychological adjustments as the patient comes to terms with their diagnosis.

When a chronic disease patient faces external stressors such as the current health crisis with COVID-19, the impact can further compromise their health.

A primary concern about stress is its immunosuppressive effect, which can ultimately lead to further complications of an illness.

Chronic, negative stress can lead to increased levels of catecholamine and T suppressor cells, which can destabilize the immune system and elevate the risk of viral infections.

It is essential to realize that a stress response is not just psychological. Physical parts of us can become mechanically or chemically stressed as well. Overexposure to stress factors can affect our biological stress response and hinder our ability to cope and adjust.

Our daily lives are increasingly becoming more demanding and thus more stressful. Dealing with traffic, financial issues, social media, news media, family, friends, and illness can quickly take a toll on a person’s health.

The Negative Impact of Stress on Chronic Disease Management

A recent study by Johnson & Johnson Health and Wellness Solutions found that mental distress may negatively impact a patient’s chronic illness management more than their actual disease.

Research showed that feelings of depression correlated with lower quality of life (QOL) and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) scores.  Additionally, results suggested that psychological distress impacts a person’s’ quality of life as much or more than having a chronic condition.

Managing Stress

According to the American Psychological Association, mental distress is common following a chronic disease diagnosis, or in times of extreme social, health, and economic instability.

Furthermore regardless of chronic illness, depression and anxiety are the most common complication, with up to one-third of patients experiencing symptoms.

Patients should learn to cope with intense emotions and adjust behaviors to deal with their condition, maximize treatment protocols, and navigate any disruptions to their work, family, and personal life.

The best way to effectively deal with mental and emotional implications during these uncertain times is to address it head-on. Patients that develop a plan of action with their physician while seeking social support help create a feeling of satisfaction versus choosing to avoid a diagnosis.

However, it’s crucial to find a balance. While confronting the situation head-on is essential, it is equally important to take a step back and take a break from time to time. Failing to do this can create more stress.

Another important consideration is to manage both the emotional and physical environments to effectively improve one’s ability to handle stress and prevent illness complications.
Following these simple steps can help reduce stress levels:

·      Simplify where you can. Identify your top stressors and those that take up the most energy and then devise a plan to try and eliminate as many as possible.

·      Eat nutritious foods. Speak to your doctor to get the best nutritional information for your condition. This will help maximize health and wellbeing while reducing stress levels

·      Get plenty of sleep. A survey from the American Psychological Association showed that most Americans aren’t getting the quantity nor quality of sleep needed. Lack of or poor-quality sleep led to an increase in stress levels.

·      Reduce screen time. It’s easy to become anxious when constantly bombarded with information, so try to disconnect from the virtual world from time to time. Stay up to date with current guidelines for COVID-19, but limit the daily amount of news media you consume.

·      Ask for help. Whether it’s logistical, emotional, or physical support, ask for assistance from your doctor, family and friends.

Stress is a part of our lives. Learning how to cope with it can make all the difference in how effective your chronic disease management is. Although this is a difficult time, chronic illness patients need to take extra steps to manage their stress levels to prevent flareups and keep their immune systems stable.

At Altus Infusion, we are doing everything we can to lessen the burden of chronic disease patients by making in-office infusion therapy more accessible and cost effective.

When it comes to managing your chronic illness and coping with the stress and anxiety of the current global healthcare crisis, you are not alone. Altus Infusion and the network of physicians we work with will always be there for you.

You might also like