Stress and Asthma - The Emotional Side of a Chronic Illness
When it comes to stress and asthma, there is a lot of misinformation on the Web. However, there is often a connection between your stress level and the chronic illness known as asthma. In this post, I will clarify the facts about stress and asthma, as well as de-bunk the myths.
What Is NOT True
Stress does not cause asthma. Nor is it a risk factor for the development of asthma in the first place. No matter how much stress you have in your life, you are not going to "get" asthma as a result.
It is also worth emphasizing that asthma is not "all in your head". It's a physical disease, with physical causes that result in permanent physical changes in your airways. You cannot control it or prevent it by putting your mind to it and just deciding to be healthy.
The Facts About Stress and Asthma
On the other hand, numerous studies have shown that stress can have a negative effect on people who already have asthma. Stress, particularly chronic stress, can affect your degree of asthma control. If you are not able to manage your stress effectively, it is likely that you will see a worsening of asthma symptoms as a result.
So stress doesn't cause the asthma, but it can make it worse once it already exists. In other words, stress acts as a trigger for asthma symptoms, much as exposure to cold air or exercise might do.
Not all stress is bad; quite the opposite is true. A certain amount of pressure and stress can help some of us accomplish our goals or get things done. Stress is also sometimes a symptom of change in our lives, some that is good and some that may not be as positive.
Also, it's important to note that how each person views and deals with stress can differ greatly. So, what you might view as negative stress that is hard to cope with, someone else might see as motivating or "life as usual."
But when your life has high levels of stress in it most of the time, chances are it will begin to impact your life. Chronic stress can actually have a negative effect on your immune system.
Learn to Manage Your Stress
So, one of the steps in keeping your asthma under control is to learn how to manage your stress in an effective, positive way. Here are some tips that can help you to live a healthier, stress-free (or at least low-stress) life.
1. Get plenty of sleep. When we are well-rested, we are much more able to cope. You'll feel better and have more energy to make wiser decisions. Try to get 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.
2. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes all of the recommended food groups. Fresh, whole foods are best. Avoid sweeteners, fried foods and lots of starches. Limit your meals to reasonable-sized portions. Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water a day to stay well-hydrated. Limit caffeine-filled drinks and alcohol, as well.
3. Get some daily exercise. Studies have shown that being active and exercising can be a powerful stress-reliever. If nothing else, walk for 30 minutes a day. The 30 minutes can be broken into 10 or 15-minute segments if necessary. Dancing and music often make exercise more enjoyable too.
4. Practice some relaxation techniques. There are many tools for relaxation. For some people, a hot bath in a darkened room with candles glowing and soft music playing can be very soothing. Other people may enjoy yoga or stretching. Meditation can also be very effective. Find what works for you and use it regularly.
5. Finally, figure out what is causing your stress in the first place. Then, if possible, take steps to reduce that stressor in your life. Avoiding stress isn't always possible, but whatever steps you can take in that direction will be worthwhile.
Stress is a given in life. But you don't have to let it affect your asthma. Get a handle on where your stress is coming from and then put together an action plan to reduce its effects on your life and to keep it from causing control issues with your asthma.