Chronic Stress: Thoughts?

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Regular Member

Date Joined Dec 2008
Total Posts : 76
   Posted 1/13/2009 11:06 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi everyone,
I've been researching this term for a while:  Chronic Stress.  The reason why is probably obvious, but my husband's illness or behaviour resulting from his illness causes me a lot of stress and anxiety at times.
I'm interested to know your thoughts on what 'chronic stress' really means.  My view is that it is unrelenting stress, ongoing with no break over a long period of time.
Today I had a really good therapy session, one on one.  I did not go to talk about my husband, I went for myself - to start the journey toward rebuilding my strength, learning how to take care of myself better and change my reactions toward my husband, and find more healthy outlets when I'm struggling with my husband at home.  I saw a counselor that I have known and seen on/off for years and I listen to his wisdom and trust him. 
When I arrived, the first thing he noticed were my stress/anxiety levels.  I am definetely experiencing the physical symptoms of stress overload now. This started around the holidays when my husband was not doing well.  Not only do I feel run down, but I felt like I was having anxiety/jitters the whole time I was explaining how and why my stress started.  He even mentioned that I was breathing differently.  And I was!  A little frightening.  Do any of you spouses of BP's feel this way when there is conflict, chaos and confusion going on at home?  Whew, it's not comfortable.
Anyway, he mentioned to me that I am moving into my upper 30's soon and have been experiencing chronic stress living with my husband for almost 6 years now (when he was first diagnosed).  I'm not oblivious to the physical affects of ongoing stress (I am studying to be a nurse), but I somehow justify that MY situation is NOT 'chronic stress' because it is on/off, and not all the time.  As with many of you, the stories sound the same.  We have great times too where it's hard to believe it could be any different.  In between times of conflict, I do make an effort to relax, see an acupuncture doctor, spend time doing things I enjoy, being with my children, getting out and doing things I love, etc...BUT I still am starting to feel the effects of stress overload.  Which worries me because I have a high risk of early heart disease on my dad's side in my family.  Too much negative stress (and particularly a stressful marriage) is not good, and a risk factor for developing heart disease and opening yourself up to other infections/disease.  It's just not appealing. rolleyes   I know he is right, but the way he explained it is what impacted me the most - he said that even in those 'down' times where things are fine, I am always 'anticipating when something will happen next' or 'when he will be nasty', or bracing myself in some way, or thinking about what I can do differently, or how to prevent it from happening.  Like the stress is there, but suppressed.
Chronic stress?  Something that's really got me thinking.  I would love to hear your thoughts....
Wishing everyone well tonight, peace with our struggles, and a bright, new day tomorrow,

New Member

Date Joined Jan 2009
Total Posts : 2
   Posted 1/14/2009 3:46 AM (GMT -6)   
Hi! I think chronic stress is something we all experience at some time in our lives. If it is not a husband with a disorder, then it is an ill child, an aging ill parent, etc. It may not only be stress from one issue but from a series of stressful circumstances. I think we have to choose a perspective about it all that reduces our feelings of stress. For example, rather than "reacting" to someone's bad behavior, I decide to choose my actions based on certain principles that I believe in. I do self-talk when an incident occurs, reminding myself that when he/she acts out, it is their disease speaking but I know the person's real heart that I love and he/she loves me. That diffuses my stress response. Rather than seeing my situation as a glass half empty, it is really half full and keep the faith of brighter days ahead. I feel less stress when I study the issue and see potential improvement or resolve to the current problems. Looking ahead positively, lightens the load I carry now. I do not look back and say that I've been putting up with this too long! I remember that God got me through some tough things in the past, so I will be fine. Deep breathing and/or exercise helps to relieve stress.

Veteran Member

Date Joined May 2007
Total Posts : 3715
   Posted 1/14/2009 1:29 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi Renae610,

Welcome to HealingWell and to our board. Thank you for your insights. That was really thoughtful. It'll be nice to have your input on the board.


I think you are on to something and you have to be careful. 6 years of stress really will add up on you and affect you systemically. Our bodies will almost forget how to relax and we'll have to re-teach them. I was under chronic stress as a child and it manifested itself as migraines. (And perhaps later as bp, but that's impossible to know.) So what can you do to help deal with it? Right now things are pretty crazy for you, but have you considered something like yoga or meditation? What about a class like painting or knitting?

Co-Moderator, Bipolar Forum
Bipolar II

Regular Member

Date Joined Dec 2008
Total Posts : 76
   Posted 1/14/2009 10:21 PM (GMT -6)   
Dear Renae,
Thank you so very much for your thoughts and advice.  You have been SO helpful to me, and I am going to start working on managing my stress better.  I know that it's how we perceive our stress that gets us too, but even with the stress that you experience, you have a good handle on it.  I've got to do something because I have to stay healthy - to enjoy life, for myself, and for my children!   I am seeing a wonderful counselor too.

Regular Member

Date Joined Dec 2008
Total Posts : 76
   Posted 1/14/2009 10:28 PM (GMT -6)   

Dear Serafena,

You are right on!  My body has forgotten how to relax.  It's like I've been on autopilot for years - constantly on the move, working, taking care of my family, dealing with the stress of my husband's illness, and anything else that's thrown my way (just like everyone else!!).  I could feel this coming on over the last few weeks since things became more stressful before the holidays.  The stress and anxiety has now hit me like a load of bricks, and I'm having a challenge feeling back to normal.  It's a little scary to me, I don't think I've ever experienced stress/anxiety to this level before (physiologically), and that is a warning sign to me.  I'd better start doing something differently.

I hope I can get my stress levels lowered and stay more in control of how my emotions affect me.  I've been advised that I can do this and find other ways to manage the stress (yes, with yoga or meditation, new exercise regimen, etc...), but things at home with my husband need to even out as well.  And I have to learn how to react to him (or not react..) differently.  I have a lot of work to do.

I am curious to know if anyone on this forum has ever become very ill because of ongoing stress, or is that something that gets you after it's been going on a long time and then it's hard to determine what the cause is.  I am such an advocate for taking care of ourselves, for some reason it's just hard for me to do right now.  Ugh!

Thank you, Serafena...




Regular Member

Date Joined Dec 2008
Total Posts : 156
   Posted 1/15/2009 9:09 AM (GMT -6)   

Hey 4;

It is easy to see why you would think you would have Chronic stress. When you are constantly walking the edge of a cliff waiting for the ground to give out, all the while carrrying all the other weights of life with you, yep you get a little tense. I'm no doc but I'm sure that any one of them would tell you that this much constant stress is not good for body, mind, or soul. There could be physical as well as mental problems from the continued stress. I know with myself I have started having a lot of physical problems just in the past year. May just be a coincedence beause I am getting older (will turn 39 in a few months) or it may be because of the stress, or who knows what, just kind of odd that it all came on this past year when I have never had any medical problems to speak of before. My wife has even commented before of how I am just falling apart all at once.

You got a lot on your plate right now, be sure to take some "me time" to take care of yourself, unwind & clear your head. You will feel better for it.

Stay in touch,


"The struggles make you stronger, and the changes make you wise, and happiness has it's own way of taking it's sweet time.
Gary Allan- From "Life Ain't Always Beutiful"

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