The Connection Between Lupus and Anxiety
Two lupus warriors share their thoughts and experiences with lupus and anxiety.
Brandy's Tips for Coping With Lupus and Anxiety
Anxiety is inevitable. Virtually everyone that exists will experience some kind of anxiety at some point in his or her life. For some, it is the simple worries, whereas for others, it is more severe and can be crippling.
It seems lupus sufferers are prone to experience this unpleasant emotional state – and really it's no wonder those with chronic illness often suffer from generalized anxiety disorder in addition to their respective illness complications. Medical bills, doctor appointments, household tasks, family duties, livelihood, workload, and mortality may be some of the issues that weigh heavy on your mind. At least they do for me.
I have the diagnosed condition of “anxiety disorder” and suffer from the occasional panic attack. The racing heart, shaking hands, chattering teeth, hair pulling, jitteriness, apprehension, and endless worries that plague me are not easy to deal with, and it is no laughing matter. I am often left with feelings of powerlessness, nervousness, weakness, fatigue, and impending doom. There are times that it gets so bad I cannot think straight and suffer from insomnia for days on end — and other times, I feel overwhelmed with anticipation, but I am not certain of the cause.
Stress encourages and feeds lupus flare-ups, so learning how to control those anxious feelings is essential. I have learned through many years of trial and error how to get a handle on my anxiety when it strikes. Granted, I have not been able to alleviate it completely, but I have been successful at taming the beast, so to speak, when I know my health, happiness, and the well-being of my family depends on it.
Relying on prescription medications to control anxiety is certainly appropriate, especially if your anxiety is severe. I have been prescribed a number of these medications throughout the years, and they have proven beneficial in my particular case.
However, you should exercise caution, as many of these medications are benzodiazepines, anticonvulsants, sedatives, or hypnotics. They may be effective, but the consequences that ensue may be less than desired, as many are habit forming and have unique consequences in your daily life. Other anti-anxiety medications are also anti-depressants, so if you suffer from both conditions, this could be a viable option.
With the myriad of medications I already take to control lupus and related complications, I tend to reserve the anxiety medication (depending on severity) in times of absolute necessity. But don't fear the medication or feel ashamed if you have to take it!
Another excellent choice when battling anxiety is seeking professional assistance from a therapist. However, if you are inundated with doctor appointments or homebound due to prolonged immunosuppression, this option may be “easier said than done.”
When anxiety is a mere annoyance or medication and/or therapy are not viable options for you, there are natural remedies you can try that might keep it at bay, motivate your productivity, and ease your anguished mind. Furthermore, there are things you can do to cope with your anxiety and help prevent future attacks.
- Stay active! This is not always an easy task when we consider the aches, pains, symptoms, and complications that come with lupus. However, physical activity reduces stress, improves your mood, and supports your health. Intense activity is not necessary – start slow, keep it simple, and increase gradually when you can. As long as you avoid being sedentary most of the time, activity can help control anxiety.
- Say no to harmful substances. Avoid alcohol, refrain from smoking, and cut back on caffeine as these substances can worsen anxiety. Furthermore, inappropriate drug use can intensify anxiousness.
- Get enough sleep. If you are not sleeping properly, see your doctor. Lack of adequate rest can cause irritability, which promotes anxiety.
- Eat a healthy diet. Some research indicates that eating whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains contribute to anxiety reduction.
- Utilize relaxation techniques. Meditation, yoga, and aromatherapy can ease your anxiety. I diffuse essential oils frequently. Lavender, ylang ylang, bergamot, and clary sage are excellent choices to boost your mood and reduce stress and anxiety. Add these oils to a bath to aid in relaxation. Additional “mood-boosting” oils include basil, lime, grapefruit, rose, orange, geranium, and sandalwood.