Let's Talk About Stress

Stress is a hot-button topic for people with chronic illnesses. Stress is gasoline on the fire of autoimmune symptoms.

No matter where our disease activity currently sits, stress will magnify it by 5, 10, or more times. Even just a drop of stress can shift the perfect balance that is my rheumatoid arthritis.

Stress disrupts a perfect balanance

In “normies,” or those who are able-bodied, stress leads to fatigue, weakened immune system, illness, and just general ill-health.

The same happens in Spoonies, but the results are more catastrophic. The weakened immune system leads to sickness, sickness leads to flares, and flares increase in magnitude and take longer to go away.

A vicious cycle

The problem is that sickness and our disease symptoms are not mutually exclusive. They are intricately related. If our bodies are not running at their most optimal, you can guess that our disease management goes for a toss.

And, it becomes a vicious cycle. If our disease flares and we are swollen, fatigued, and painful, we are more likely to get sick (which is one of the reasons we flared in the first place). So, if we get sick again - well, you bet we are going to flare.

What triggered your first symptoms?

Stress is such an interesting thing. Over time, it can really affect one’s health and make someone more susceptible to chronic conditions like heart disease, thyroid issues, etc. If this is the case, then it really makes sense that stress can trigger autoimmunes like rheumatoid disease.1,2

I am going to do things a little differently and ask a question in the middle of my article: What triggered your first symptoms? Was it a stressful event?

First autoimmune symptoms

Many people have confirmed that they first noticed their autoimmune symptoms soon after experiencing a stressful event.

Personally, I failed my first college class and was bored out of my mind at school. I was bored and tired, and soon I felt ill (even though I didn’t realize it yet). Pretty soon, my RA presented itself.

Autoimmunes are finicky little things. Even the smallest drop of stress can send them unraveling. Maybe it’s a huge life-changing event that affected our bodies and minds or maybe it’s something little like stubbing our toes. Any amount of stress is bad news bears for us.

Reduce stress to conserve energy

Let’s say we are already in a flare. Stress might just send the flames throughout the room and scorch it in a few minutes. Stress not only starts the RA-engine but makes it explode.

I am not a big routine person since I march to my own drum but I found to reduce stress and conserve energy I should stick to one. A routine seems to lessen the likelihood that I will experience stress that day.

Staying even-keeled

Weirdly, I’ve become quite “chill.” A lot of things do not phase me. I don’t get very angry or mad or sad or annoyed. I am just even-keeled.

I don’t know if this is something I’ve adopted to keep stress from affecting me or whether this was always my personality. For example, when I was in Colorado, everyone thought I was lying when I told them about what I was like in DC.

Keep stress levels in check from the start

I just don’t feel stressed anymore, which is a good thing, I guess.

People will ask me why I don’t let things get to me and I tell them, "Stress is the gasoline on the fire called RA."

Allowing stress to affect me is an open-door invitation for my RA to come in and wreak havoc on my body. And, RA is like a cicada. It doesn’t just jump on you; it also clings to you and doesn’t let go easily.

The best thing to do is to not let stress affect me from the get-go.

How do you try to keep stress away? LMK in the comments!

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

More on this topic

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

or create an account to comment.

Community Poll

Have you taken our Rheumatoid Arthritis In America survey?