It was nearing the end of winter in 2015 when Lori Ann King learned she would be having a full hysterectomy to clear up issues of cysts and fibroids. And while this was, unsurprisingly, quite stressful, King believed she was successfully managing the emotions and feelings of tension and anxiety that accompany any major surgery.
It wasn’t until her first bout with chronic hives erupted four weeks before her surgery, however, that she realized her body was more overwhelmed than she originally thought.
A cyclist, bodybuilder, and author from upstate New York, King wasn’t at all familiar with chronic urticaria, or chronic hives, until her first experience with the condition. Without warning, red, itchy, raised welts spread over her body. Visits to her primary doctor, an allergist, and a dermatologist confirmed the diagnosis and she was immediately put on steroids and antihistamines. While the medications did decrease the flare, she has since noticed hives returning any time she experiences a stressful situation.
Hesitant to constantly reach for antihistamines, which she found can bring on fatigue and brain fog, King decided to take a closer look at stress-management and self-care techniques — things that can be used in conjunction with her physician’s pharmaceutical options.
Over the years, she has found complementary therapies and coping strategies that bring her some relief. Management of her hives, meanwhile, begins anew each morning. “I find really managing my morning helps," she told HealthCentral. "Instead of hitting the ground running right away, I will read for a little while or meditate, and it calms me into the day."
In addition, King also takes advantage of distractions throughout the day, adding that the more she focuses on the hives, "the more I get them, but if I distract myself and laugh, or get outside for a bike ride, or just outside of my head, it helps.”
One of her best distractions? Her husband. “I’m thankful to get a lot of support from my husband; he tries to distract me by making me laugh or taking me to go see a comedy.”
They are both also big proponents of the 20-second hug, a timed embrace that science says induces relaxation and lowers anxiety levels.
Self-care is also a part of King’s healing regimen. From restorative yoga and meditation to getting massages, having her nails done, taking a quiet bath, or just calling a friend to chat, specifically taking time for herself and allowing her body to relax has also proved helpful in limiting her hive outbreaks.
Since her initial hives eruption before her surgery, King has continuously dealt with regular outbreaks, but she says her perspective has shifted to one of gratefulness and positivity.
“It sucks if you have them," she says of her hives, "but I always try to be grateful because there are many people who are going through so many things. Yes, it is a thorn in my side — but I can manage this.”
A self-proclaimed Type A personality who is always on the go, King realized that her default mode is "to ‘push hard, work hard’, but hives are a reminder to check in and see if I need to rest, relax, and take a step back and do more self-care. Today, I try to tune in and understand if there is a purpose in this and how to help other people through my experience.”
Her advice for anyone else experiencing chronic hives? “This too shall pass. Know that you are not alone, and definitely seek out solutions, whether it is acupuncture, massage, self-care, or traditional medical practitioners.”
Last but certainly not least, remember to take time to care for yourself and give your body the support it is longing for.
“In the big scheme of things, honor your feelings about what you are going through. Speak to a counselor if you need to, someone other than your friends and family. That extra support can help you work through emotions and lower stress.”