Understanding and dealing with stress
Stress is a part of everyday life, caused by the many demands made on our time and energy and the expectations we have of ourselves. Learning to manage the daily challenges of living with haemophilia can be particularly stressful. Too much stress can cause health problems or make health problems worse.
The first step in dealing with stress is to recognise that it is happening. The sooner you deal with the problem, the better, and just talking about how you feel can help you find a way to deal with it. Stress affects people of all ages and lifestyles.
Symptoms of stress
Some common signs of too much stress include irritability, sensitivity to criticism, difficulty sleeping and loss of concentration. There can be physical signs too, such as chest pains, restlessness and indigestion.
Talking to other people who are in a similar situation can be a great help when you are feeling stressed. For example, you could join a local Haemophilia Society group or ask your haemophilia team to put you in contact with other affected families to share your experiences. If you can, talk to your family and friends as well. Just talking about how you feel and getting it out into the open, can make you feel better. Sharing your feelings and problems with those close to you may mean that they realise that you need more help from them.
There are a number of steps you can take to help bring down your stress levels. These include:
• Relaxation techniques. Training on relaxation techniques is often available locally.
• Don’t drink or smoke too much. Alcohol and cigarettes have harmful effects on your body, and make you more at
risk of the physical effects of stress.
• Limit caffeine intake - caffeine can have similar effects on your body as stress.
• Get active. Physical exercise is a simple way to relieve tension. Even a walk to the shops can help reduce your
• Accept offers of practical help from other people.
• Do one thing at a time – don’t keep piling stress on stress.
• Know your own limits – don’t be too competitive and be realistic about what you expect of yourself.
• If you find yourself in a particularly stressful situation go out of the room – or right outside if you can – for at least
five minutes. Take a deep breath and hold it for a count of three, then breathe out. Repeat again, until you feel more
relaxed, but not so often that you feel dizzy.
Exercise for good mental wellbeing
Exercise is essential for building and maintaining good mental wellbeing. It can improve your mood and self-esteem, reduce anxiety and even help in the treatment of depression. This is because physical activity releases chemicals in your body called endorphins. These trigger a positive feeling, sometimes described as “euphoria”. Any form of physical activity is good for your emotional health and you don’t have to exercise vigorously to stimulate endorphin release. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise (eg step class, swimming, walking) can stimulate anti-anxiety effects.
Seek help from your GP or haemophilia centre
Talk to your GP, who will have seen a lot of patients with stress-related problems. Your GP may recommend counselling or another talking treatment, such as cognitive behavioural therapy. A counsellor will listen to you, and help you to find ways of dealing with your stress. Alternatively, you may prefer to speak to someone from your haemophilia centre. It is advisable to speak to whoever you feel most comfortable with and is likely to offer the best help.