Stress Awareness Month: 5 Strategies for Dealing with Chronic Illness #HAWMC

Stress Awareness Month #HAWMC
Stress Awareness Month #HAWMC

Wow. I can’t believe it!  Where did the month go?  It’s Day 19 of WEGO’s Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge.  Today’s question is:

Stress Awareness Month:  What’s the best way you deal with stress? How do you like to let loose to escape common stressors? Share with us your favorite ways to shake off the stress. #shakeitoff #HAWMC

Life with a chronic illness(es) can be very stressful–there’s the disease itself and the paperwork that comes with it.  And the endless parade of doctors’ appointments.  I have bipolar disorder, polycystic ovarian syndrome, Myasthenia Gravis (MG, a neuromuscular autoimmune disease), psoriasis, and asthma.   Last week, I had two days of consecutive doctors’ appointments.  I rewarded myself by going to McDonald’s and ordering a Happy Meal and Oreo McFlurry.  I haven’t had a McFlurry in ages.  It brought me back to my childhood when the highlight of my week was eating my cheeseburger Happy Meal and apple pie while watching  20/20.  I still have the opening with Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters memorized.

5 Strategies To Deal With Stress:

  1. Rewarding myself–After a week dealing with nausea, the usual everyday pain of myasthenia, and depression, I motivated myself by telling myself that if I finished my work I could watch Scandal live.  And I did.  It gave me something else to think about besides the depression:  What fabulous outfit would Kerry Washington wear tonight?  When is Olivia gonna finally pick Jake?  Scott Foley’s eyes?  (Okay, that last one is not really a question but you get the point.)  Having something to look forward to helps me deal with the stress of maintaing a job despite chronic illness.  Rewarding one’s self doesn’t need to be expensive; it’s finding pleasures in the little things of life.
  2. Talking to friends–I find that building a support network is important–a friend is not a therapist and should not be the only one you go to with your problems.  There are times when pain–mental and physical–is tremendous.  Just venting to a friend over the phone helps.  And reciprocating–listening to that person vent about his/her problems, whether that’s everyday stress, annoying coworkers, deadlines, or illness–also helps.
  3. Exercising–Of course, this can be hard to do sometimes with physical limitations like fatigue, pain, disability, and depression (which is also a type of disability).  I was bedridden for over a year due to MG and not sure if I would be able to walk again.  So, I am grateful for the times I can exercise.  As I blogged about in 4 Mental Health Benefits of Exercise, exercise keeps me sane.  After 15 minutes, I start to feel less stressed out even though my situation hasn’t changed and I get new solutions for how to deal with my problems.  Exercise releases endorphins, “the feel good hormones,” which are vital in fighting stress and depression.
  4. Mindfulness–I’ve been practicing mindfulness.  As a result, I’ve been living in the moment more. When I wake up, instead of checking my email (and being stressed out by work), the first thing I do is fifteen minutes of meditation on what I’ve been reading (see #5) or fifteen minutes of praying.  When I eat breakfast now, I don’t check Facebook or email, I just concentrate on eating and now, notice little things like sunshine peeking through the windows.  I enjoy the moment more.
  5. Reading, memorizing, and reciting literature–I’ve learned to fill my mind with great literature during those moments in the past when I watched stupid TV shows I hated because I was so tired to do anything difficult.  Fatigue has that effect.  I’m pretty sure I lost hundreds of brain cells to True Tori last year.  This year, I read and memorized the entire book of James (in the New Testament).  It really helped me in dealing with grief from my friend Jess’s death, certainly a lot more than watching Tori Spelling’s divorce ever could!  In stressed out moments, I recite the literature I’ve been reading.  My friend, Carol,  got me into Emily Dickinson.  I just memorized this poem of hers and will memorize more poetry:
Each life converges to some centre
Expressed or still;
Exists in every human nature
A goal,Admitted scarcely to itself, it may be,
Too fair
For credibility’s temerity
To dare.Adored with caution, as a brittle heaven,
To reach
Were hopeless as the rainbow’s raiment
To touch,Yet persevered toward, surer for the distance;
How high
Unto the saints’ slow diligence
The sky!Ungained, it may be, by a life’s low venture,
But then,
Eternity enables the endeavoring
Join Me All Month Long!
All month long, I’m completing the WEGO Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge and answering one question each day.
–Your Stylist, Jessica Gimeno


Hi there! I am a patient advocate, writer, and public speaker most well known for my TEDx Talk, “How to Get Stuff Done When You Are Depressed.” As someone who is juggling 5 illnesses: bipolar 2, myasthenia gravis, endometriosis, psoriasis, and asthma, I’m passionate about helping people who navigate life with both chronic physical & emotional pain. If you’re interested in hiring me to speak at your event, check out the CONTACT tab.

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