Stress Awareness Month: How Can We Mitigate Stress?

April 27,2021

April is stress awareness month, and now more than ever we are searching for ways to manage and cope with our stress levels. Caregivers and people living with pulmonary hypertension shared with us ways they have learned and implemented throughout daily life to mitigate the effects of stress. Comment below and let us know what is helpful to you when it comes to stress relief.

Darlene Dunman is a caregiver for her grandson, Brayden, who has PH. She tells us that prayer and and good deeds are helpful in managing her stress levels.

“I have to do things for myself–things that make me happy. I pray A LOT. I put it all in God’s hands. I piddle around the house, and pray. I talk to God like he’s a person sitting in my living room- my mama taught me that. I mainly try to cope by occupying my mind. I do a lot of cleaning and housework. I arrange and rearrange furniture inside and flower pots outside. I garden– I just planted potatoes and tomatoes. I enjoy woodworking and have been creating wood signs and giving them to everyone I know.

Most of all I enjoy doing good deeds for other people. The biggest thing that I love to do is volunteer fire fighting and EMR (emergency medical response). Years ago, I took a 60 hour training, which I got the highest grade in the class. Lately, I haven’t been able to respond to many calls because I haven’t wanted to bring any germs home. But, here and there I’ll take my grandson Brayden (who has PH) with me to sit in the car while I help direct traffic or land a medical helicopter. When I get to go out on a call I forget about my problems because I can clear my mind and focus on someone else’s needs. Some of these calls really help put life into perspective. I feel like if I do a good deed, then good will come back around to me.”

Darlene Serrano uses positive thinking and relaxation techniques, such as meditation, yoga, and Tai Chi.

“I work to replace negative thoughts with more positive thoughts. For example, instead of thinking, “Why does everything always go wrong,” I change that idea to, “I can find a way to get through this.” I found that this helps me turn my perspective around.

I try to do more things I enjoy. When stress has me down, I look for a way to enjoy myself or something to help me stand up and move around. For example, I read a good book outdoors, watch a favorite movie or go for a walk. I like to start new hobbies as well. Lately my psychologist will suggests some new ways to relax. Practicing relaxation techniques is a great way to deal with day-to-day stress. Relaxation techniques have helped me lower my heart rate and my blood pressure. There are many types, from deep breaths, meditation, yoga, and Tai Chi. I took a Tai Chi class online and so far it has been good for me.

Something else that has been very important in my opinion is that I drank a lot of coffee and Coca Cola. The excess of caffeine did not help me at all to calm my stress, and on the contrary it made me very anxious. I completely stopped drinking soda and I have decreased the amount of coffee, as I used to drink five to six cups a day.”

Jessica Kriser shares about speaking with her therapist and using the “tool belt” method.

“I recently was talking to my therapist about everything I’ve been going through with my diseases, work, and a global pandemic. She asked me if I had heard of the “tool belt” before. It’s essentially a way to categorize the things we do to de-stress. There are three different pockets: one for activities that energize us, one for activities that calm or soothe us, and ones that are in a miscellaneous pocket that neither calm or energize, but essentially let us unplug. We went through the different pockets and she asked me if I could name a few things I do that fit into each one.

To energize myself, I cook and try new recipes that excite me. The feeling of accomplishment I get from trying new things or creating something new gives me life to keep going. To soothe and calm myself, I like to be in water—namely baths. I could soak for hours in a hot bath with bubbles. It doesn’t only decompress me, it also helps with relaxing my muscles that are work 10 times harder than healthy people trying to do menial tasks throughout the day. Lastly, to just unplug from life in general and give my brain and body a break, I play videos games that are meant to be relaxing or I read a book where I can escape to a different world for a while.”

Ricardo Soriano explains that showing gratitude has been key in continuing to relieve stress.

“I have to do things a little differently. For instance, I love playing sports with my younger son and I love fixing our cars. Since I’m physically limited, I watch sports with my son instead of playing, and I teach my eldest son to fix our cars. I love my job and fixing watches is my passion, but I’m currently unemployed now. As a hobby, I still fix broken watches for my friends or reassemble the watches I own. Doing this gives me a sense of accomplishment and restores my self-confidence.

Showing kindness to others especially to my family who is by my side helps me to remain happy. I’ll make sure to express my appreciation and being grateful for the help and support I receive. I also relieve stress by treating myself kindly. I avoid harsh or unrealistic demands and I don’t belittle or malign myself.”

Rigoberto Ocon leans into virtually connecting with others via his gaming hobby.

“I like to dive into my hobbies. My daily hobbies include video games as well as watching people play video games on the website known as Twitch. You may be asking yourself, watching people play video games? Well, to me and millions of other people, watching other people play video games is no different to watching people play sports on TV. Watching others play video games is almost like experiencing a movie together with thousands of other users also watching along. If something funny happens, we can all laugh along in the chatroom. It’s a little slice of heaven when I am able to forget the little pump that is clinging to my shirt that I use to treat my pulmonary hypertension.

Another one of my hobbies, which you can guess from my previous hobby, is playing video games! I don’t only watch them, I play them too. Every video game can be a journey that is waiting to be conquered. I enjoy longer video games that can take me a week or so to finish.”

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