All of us experience some degree of emotional stress on a fairly frequent basis and nothing will exacerbate this more than knowing that you have an organ transplant in the future. Our fast-paced lives and stringent schedules seem to invite stress. Never enough time, financial worries, job stress and family problems all contribute. The fact is that emotional stress wears away at your good health. It can affect your immune system response negatively, making you more vulnerable to illness. If you have certain existing medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, emotional stress isn’t going to help. Given that we’re all subject to this type of stress, at least occasionally, the name of the game is to keep the stress to a minimum. Here are a few tried and true ways to reduce stress of an emotional nature.
Your first step should be to assess your personality type. If you’re the laid-back type, you have an advantage, in that it’s easier for you to shrug off minor stresses. However, if you’re the hyper type, tending towards anxiety and nervousness, stressful situations tend to build on one another, leaving you a nervous wreck in very short order, while also significantly affecting your health. This may become unmanageable if you have an organ transplant scheduled. In either case, once you’ve made this self assessment, you can better judge how many of these stress reducing ideas you’ll need to pursue to get on a better footing with life.
It’s a good idea to keep a log where you record situations that bring on emotional stress. This helps you identify your personal ‘triggers’. A small notebook is all you need. Just a brief description is all you need to later recall the entire event. For example, ‘forgot to pay the phone bill’ or ‘conflict with Mary at work’ should suffice. You’ll find that when you make a note, over time you’ll start to see patterns which reveal characteristics of your own behavior which may consistently lead to stressing out. You may find that, due to procrastinating, you’re frequently late accomplishing tasks that exacerbate your stress.
Other than the life changing situations such as a necessary liver, bladder or other crucial organ that requires a transplant, there are occasions when emotional stress is warranted, such as worrying over a child’s illness. The problem with this type of stress is that it has a ‘snowball’ effect when you allow every little thing to pile up in one indistinguishable mass of worry and you soon find yourself overwhelmed. Your log can help to sort out the issues over which you have control. Procrastination, for example, can lead to many unnecessary hassles. In this case, by making a calendar of events you need to attend to before a problem arises can go a long way to reducing emotional stress.
On the other hand, your log may simply reveal that, due to an anxious and nervous disposition, minor stresses form the majority of your entries. In this case, it’s most often helpful to focus on getting rid of some of that nervous energy. Some people just have ‘energy to burn’, quite literally. Implement a program of regular exercise. A brisk walk in the fresh air twice daily works wonders for staving off bouts of emotional stress. Some people find that rigorous cleaning around the house (think cleaning the oven, vacuuming, washing walls) serves to alleviate stress in two ways: you burn off excess energy and gain the satisfaction of a visibly cleaner home.
Hobbies of a less physical nature, such as reading, drawing or knitting are good techniques for reducing stress, especially if your health doesn’t permit excessively vigorous physical activities. Your object here is to allow your mind to be occupied with something you enjoy, rather than letting yourself stew over emotional issues which really aren’t significant in the long run. This method helps you take a step back, relax and put things in perspective. Think about your post-operative recovery and the new loan on life from your transplant you will now have.
Other primarily mental ‘exercises’ that prove helpful to many people include meditation and prayer, which also gets your mind out of the immediate. Giving yourself a spiritual lift has an added bonus, in that your body and mind relax. Practicing yoga is another good way to reduce emotional stress and which doesn’t put undue stress on your body, while clearing your mind, leaving you feeling refreshed and ultimately, more limber and fit.
Last, if you’re not the laid-back type, you may want to consider reducing your consumption of caffeine. While you may love coffee, the caffeine can contribute mightily to an undesirable rush of adrenalin, which only worsens your susceptibility to physical and emotional stress. Try swapping an herbal tea or a glass of juice for that third cup of coffee.
Although emotional stress is unfortunately a fact of life for most of us, you can certainly minimize it, using all of the methods outlined here. You’ll find that your emotional balance improves, as well as feeling more energetic, sleeping better and experiencing fewer illnesses. To your good health!