When Happy Stress Get Me
Last updated: August 2018
A while back, I talked about the impact that stress can have on my MS symptoms. Stress as a trigger for our symptoms is actually a pretty common discussion around here, as it should be. A stressful situation can very quickly ignite a torrent of previously subdued symptoms in someone with MS. A good day can become a very bad day in the blink of an eye. Some people even believe excess amounts of stress over a long period of time can push our bodies into an exacerbation, actually speeding up the progression of the disease. Like many people with MS, I too am very susceptible to increased problems from stress. What I want to point out today though, is that “happy” stress is an equally rough trigger for me.
Happy stress is what I call stress that most folks would consider good. It could be excitement for some upcoming pleasant event. It could be the extreme happiness we get when we meet a new person or when our team wins the big game. Our bodies have physical and emotional responses to everything in life, sometimes those are good, pleasant, and happy things. So while we can think of stress as a negative when our bodies respond to something like being laid off, I feel as though there can be equal amounts of stress when something good happens too. Maybe “happy stress” is really just another term for excitement, but I feel that there is much more to it than just being excited. To me, the word “excitement” doesn’t really portray everything that goes on with the body and our emotions.
This is bad?
What, he is complaining about good experiences now? Seriously? Well, I’m not complaining. Happy stress is much better than regular stress, but it still takes a toll on me. There have been many a time where I’ve built something up in my head, got super excited for it, and then by the time it arrived, have basically worked myself up and my symptoms have flared up. I’ve left my own birthday celebrations on numerous occasions because of this. I didn’t always realize the cause at the time though. After all these years, I can look back and see the pattern. This doesn’t happen every time, but there is a bit of consistency with it, especially before I was aware of it.
Well that sucks, right?
Well, yes, there have been some times when it sucked, but since I’ve recognized the effects that even happy but still stressful events can have on me, I’ve been able to be more prepared. Knowing is half the battle, right? When something really awesome happens or is about to happen, I will occasionally take a step back and check myself before I wreck myself. Taking a few minutes to ground myself, take a deep breath, or get somewhere quiet really helps (those things really help me with negative stress, too). I’ve been out with friends and escaped to the bathroom solely so I could pull myself together a bit and to check on myself. Am I doing ok? Am I overwhelmed? Is it too loud? If I feel like it’s getting to be too much, I try to calm down for a minute, take a deep breath, relax, even let my mind go blank for a minute. Almost like a one minute meditation. Sometimes that little recalibration time is exactly what I need to keep on enjoying my day.
Recognizing the happy stress
I get it, this will sound strange to some people, but I think if you stop and think about it, I bet there have been some times that happy stress has caused you some problems. I think by being aware and recognizing that, we can take the small steps necessary to mitigate the problems that come along with any kind of stress. Eventually, we can start applying those same tactics to more traditional stress as well.
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