Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lupus and the holidays..

     The holidays can be a fun and exciting time, but for many it is a very stressful time as well.  Stress is not good for anyone but when you have lupus it can be very harmful.  Control your stress level: Since some researchers believe that stress could be both a lupus trigger and a flare trigger for those with lupus, reducing stress is a must. Stress also has a direct effect on pain: it often increases its intensity. Do your best to manage those areas of your life that cause the most stress. And consider relaxation techniques and deep breathing exercises can as a tool to help reduce stress. Exercise is a great way to help reduce stress.  Here is some information about lupus and stress, and also how to manage stress.

Does Stress Affect Lupus?

Medical Author: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Medical Editor: Leslie J. Schoenfield, MD, PhD
Let's start by discussing what is meant by stress. Stress means different things to different people based on their backgrounds and their current emotional and physical condition. For some people, milk spilling on the table causes a major emotional reaction. To others, a tank rolling through the living room might be viewed as just another life experience!
For the purpose of this topic, I will define stress as human reactions to forces that tend to disturb our normal functional (physiologic) balance (equilibrium). Stress, in this general sense, refers to any adverse condition or state that affects our normal well-being. Such stress can be imposed on us by, for example, work, a spouse, other people, ourselves, or by setting our daily schedule too rigorously.
For nearly all of us, our first real stress was being engulfed by cold air when we slipped from the warm comfort of our mother's womb. (I don't know about you, but I cried like a baby!)
In what ways may stress affect the patient with lupus?

First of all, in some lupus patients (as in people without lupus), stress may cause no direct or indirect effects. Stress, however, may affect a person with lupus in one of three ways.
  • Stress may cause the same reactions that can occur in any person who does not have lupus.
  • Stress can be associated with (precipitate or initiate) the first appearance of their lupus.
  • Stress may be associated with a flare-up of their already existing disease.
What reactions can stress cause in a person with lupus that are the same as in a healthy individual?

Many symptoms have been associated with stress in normal persons as well as those with lupus. These symptoms include poor or inadequate sleep (insomnia), anxiety, depression, panic attacks, headaches, poor concentration, muscle aches, skin inflammation (eczema), inflammation of the joints (arthritis), irritable bowel syndrome (spastic colitis), constipation and diarrhea, high blood pressure (hypertension), certain types of stomach ulcers, asthma attacks, decreased sex drive, and even some cancer. Any of these symptoms, or any combination of them, can affect a person who is suffering from stress.  
Banish Your Holiday Stress 
from the Lupus Foundation of America
Your gift list is bigger than your bank balance. Your office holiday party is the same time as your child's school play. And just the thought of decorating, cooking, or braving a crowded shopping mall fills you with dread. If this sounds familiar, you are not alone.
The holiday season can be more than hectic, and for people with lupus, the financial, physical, and emotional demands of the season may add health-compromising stress that can turn a joyful time of year into a miserable one. But there is good news! You can cope with the chaos and stay healthy just by making a few simple changes.
Just Say No!
Don't overcommit yourself-you don't have to accept every party invitation. Figure out what is manageable and eliminate what you can't handle. Don't feel guilty. No one will complain if you bring cookies from a bakery instead of homemade ones. And if you decide to skip a party, you can make it up to the hostess with an invitation to lunch sometime early in the New Year. Put yourself and your health first.
You can't do it all yourself. Ask family members for help with decorating, cooking, and cleaning. Consider splurging for maid service or having your holiday meal catered or hold it at your favorite restaurant. Offer a teenage neighbor a few dollars to do your gift wrapping or put up holiday lights.
Shop Smart
Too many gifts to buy and too little cash? Avoid the guilt that can come with buying too many things you just can't afford. Although using credit cards may seem like an easy solution, this habit can be a stressful burden when the bills start to roll in. One way to relieve the financial pressure of the holidays is to become a shopper who's savvy and smart:
  • Talk with family, friends, and co-workers about setting spending limits on gifts.
  • Play the Christmas Angel game, where everyone's name goes into a hat and you buy only for the person whose name you select.
  • Consider buying presents only for the children in the family.
  • If you're crafty and have the time, save money by decorating inexpensive picture frames or terra cotta flowerpots you can fill with candies or a cutting from your favorite plant. Or decorate a plain, inexpensive T-shirt with paint or embellish it with ribbons or sequins.
  • Save time by shopping the Internet for books, music, event tickets, gift baskets, and just about anything else, and the shipping will be done for you.
  • Make donations to the Lupus Foundation of America in gift recipients' names, or make purchases from the LFA online store or from LFA chapter sites to support lupus awareness in your area.
  • Plan ahead for next year. Look for bargains year-round, starting with after-holiday sales.
Take Care of You
Avoid holiday burnout by getting plenty of rest, pacing yourself, and napping when you need to. Don't set unrealistic expectations for yourself or others that can lead to disappointment and depression.
Take a walk, do yoga, or read a book to replenish your body and spirit. If you need a good laugh, nothing beats renting a good holiday movie like Love, Actually or The Santa Clause for a great pick-me-up.
And last, reach out. Talking about your feelings with friends, loved ones, or a support group can help you get through the season-joyfully.


  1. Hi Marissa.
    Thanks for the holiday stress tips... can be a great time for celebrations... but unfortunately... a chance to excite the Lupus as well... Stress is my number one hassle.. slowly learning to bring it under control.. I try and spend at least an hour in meditation daily, helps me stabilize the pain while the medication start to work... and well basically give my mind a break.
    Thanks again for the tips.... your awesome..
    Hope you and the Family are well, heaps of hugs n happy thoughts.. S

  2. Seekn1, Thank you so much for the compliments. Meditation can do wonders! I am happy you enjoyed the times. I hope you are doing better. Best wishes and gentle hugs. xo