Janelle's Blog

All Stressed Up With Nowhere to Go

For years women believe they have been falsely labeled as imagining physical ailments. When I was in the doctor’s office one time, I was describing a physical problem that I had never experienced before. The doctor’s response was, “Well, you are over 40, you know.”

If looks could kill, he wouldn’t be in practice today.

You may have heard a doctor say an illness is psychosomatic. The words go in one ear and come out the other meaning, “You really don’t have anything wrong with you. You made it up.” Now you are fighting mad because you hurt and the pain is real. The muscles tighten in your neck and shoulders, clinching into a full-blown headache. Your stress has raised to a high level, and you are frustrated at the lack of understanding you receive at a moment of discomfort.

The Wall Street Journal released an article recently about the connection of stress to physical pain and illness, called “Stress So Bad It Hurts—Really”. Christopher L. Edwards, director of the Behavioral Chronic Pain Management program at Duke University Medical Center, explains how the brain causes the body to react, and vice versa. He says that the body goes into a protective mode when the brain senses a threat. That is where physical symptoms occur to prepare the body for action. For example, if someone tried to rob you, your brain would signal to your body to pump adrenaline into your body to prepare you to run or fight.

We are faced with stress at every turn today. If it is not the economy, it’s the weather, or job loss, or maybe a new diagnosis of breast cancer. Surviving any number of stresses can intensify your physical symptoms.

Dr. Edwards says, “Stress does not necessarily cause pain, but it exacerbates the physical situation that may already be there. It diminishes your ability to cope.”

Here are some ways to release stress:

  1. Take stock of your situation. Get the overall big picture first. Where does the stress source fit into your lifestyle? Are you getting caught up in circumstances that cause you grief? Figure out the relationship of the problem to your life.
  2. If you have a complex situation that has many moving parts, write down the hoped-for outcome and work backward to figure out everything that will lead you there. It is easier to fight daily battles than to take on the war in one setting.
  3. Replace negative thoughts, energy, and action with positive ones. David Whitehouse, a psychiatrist and chief medical officer for OptumHealth Behavioral Solutions says, “Under stress, there’s a large amount of negative emotional energy in your system that is trying to find a way to discharge.” If negative energy is trying to get out of your system, help it. In other words, recharge your batteries. Find those things that help you let go of stress—a walk on a sunshiny day, soothing music, a short nap, and don’t forget the bubble bath.

These are the basic steps toward getting ahead of stress. When you are dealing with long-term situations, take life easy. Grasp the things you do have control over and slow down your pace so the day ahead is yours to live. Life is what you make of it. No one can begin to understand your circumstances, but we at NBCF care about you and want to offer you hope. Visit MyNBCF for new friends and support.

Thought for Today:

“Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency.”—Natalie Goldberg

Live Life,


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