By Sue Dickinson – TAMS Support Chair
Over the past few decades, much has been said/written about the impact of stress on our well-being and our immune system. Not rocket science right? However, it is often very difficult to integrate this information when we are in the midst of an episode of mast cell mediator release, with its acute and chronic impact on body and mind.
Recent positive reports of nervous system retraining are heartening and were also mentioned in our TAMS education webinar about MCAS last month by Allergist and Immunologist Professor Pete Smith. He made reference to autonomic retraining if we have GI issues and blood pressure challenges plus the ever-present anxiety that travels, or is co-morbid, with mast cell disease. In summary, stress can contribute to flares which can cause even more stress!
Every little effort we can make to soothe our nervous system can go a long way towards assisting us with the management of our long-term chronic illness and may work naturally alongside our specific medication regime.
Here are a few reminders of what we can do to support ourselves and soothe our nervous system.
- Be aware of your triggers. Some triggers are related to your mast cell activation, and you are likely to feel stressed in response. However, some stress triggers are related to matters surrounding the disease, rather than the disease itself, e.g., certain social interactions. It’s important to identify the triggers that you can control or avoid versus those you cannot.
- Practice self-compassion. Treat yourself with the same kindness that you extend to others. Give yourself permission to withdraw from activities when you are unwell, and do so without judgement, just as you would with someone else.
- Seek support. It can be an emotional roller coaster when people close to you, or workmates, don’t understand what you are going through. This too can increase stress. Consider how you can best communicate your experience to others and ask for what may be most helpful to you, such as a listening ear or help with tasks. Specific support groups, such as those provided by TAMS, are invaluable because we are all experiencing similar challenges.
- Practice self-care. Become aware of patterns of thinking that may be having a negative impact, such as self-criticism. Be gentle with yourself.
- Get adequate rest or sleep. Professor Smith mentioned in our webinar that lack of sleep can increase symptoms significantly and can also decrease our ability to manage the impact of symptoms.
- Carefully choose what you eat and drink.
- Reduce stress with such activities as breath work, gentle exercise, meditation, listening to music, creating art or writing in a journal.
4-7-8 breathing is one example of a stress relief breathing technique – there are many more.
- Inhale through the nose for a count of 4.
- Hold your breath for a count of 7 (set your own pace).
- Exhale through the mouth to a count of 8.
- Inhale again, and repeat steps 3 more times.
Watch the above-mentioned webinar
If you missed our recent TAMS education webinar about MCAS by Allergist and Immunologist Professor Pete Smith, it is available for paid TAMS Members to view via a secure link and password, provided in our July Member e-newsletter and to new members who sign up after July in their welcome letter. If you are not a current TAMS Member, and would like to view our back catalogue of TAMS education webinars, please become a member today.