Tips for dealing with stress when you have an autoimmune disease

45842320 - crying depessed sad young woman, dramatic portraitStress can manifest itself in negative ways. It can make dealing with autoimmune disease so much harder. The problem is, while stress can exasperate autoimmune disease, the reverse is also true: autoimmune disease can exasperate stress.

You know that living with an autoimmune disease can add more tension to your life. You have to deal with making lifestyle changes, and you may feel frustrated because you can’t do things you once could. You may feel stressed when you have to keep explaining yourself to others. And, of course, it can be stressful dealing with the chronic pain. Just thinking about all of these things may be making your shoulder muscles tense up, and that’s not what we want. We want to help you find relief from stress, which can benefit you mentally and physically. There are a number of things you can do to ease this burden.

Allow time for yourself

You may be used to caring for others, but when you have an autoimmune disease, it’s especially important that you make time for self-care. Allow yourself to take some quiet moments and time for hobbies. Give yourself some peace of mind with a walk, by reading a book, listening to music, or just closing your eyes for a little while. Spend time enjoying some healthy, fun hobbies that put a smile on your face.

Get to know yourself better

Pay attention to your body. You may notice that you start to tense up, feel sweaty or clammy, or get headaches when you’re stressed. These are warning signs. When stress comes on, remind yourself that it’s time to take a break and do some stress relieving exercises or switch up the agenda a bit.

Set up comfortable boundaries

Sometimes you need to set up boundaries at work and at home. You need to be honest with your boss, coworkers, and loved ones about what you can and can’t accomplish. If you over-commit yourself, it can place a heavy burden on you and trigger flares.

Develop a support system

You need people you can go to that understand you have an autoimmune disease, people who won’t judge you when you’re honest with them about how you feel. You want people you can count on, so call on your friends and family, or find a support group for people dealing with a similar condition.

Give yourself a little grace

Don’t judge yourself if you can’t get everything on your agenda accomplished. Be okay with not being perfect… no one is. Put fewer expectations on yourself, and instead spend time making reasonable goals that you can accomplish without pushing yourself beyond your limits.

Try stress relieving exercises

There are a lot of ways you can relieve stress: deep breathing, meditation, listening to the right music. Find stress relieving exercises that work well for you and make time to ease your mind.

Accept that you have an autoimmune disease

This may be the hardest one. Many people seem like they’re coping, but they actually haven’y fully accepted that they have an autoimmune disease. Once you get to the point of acceptance, you can live your life the way you need to. You won’t put too many expectations on yourself and you’ll learn that this is just the way life is now. Once you accept your condition, you can live your fullest life, finding ways to feel better and maximize your days.

Take steps today to ease the heavy burden you’ve been carrying with you. While stress won’t cease to exist, you can keep it from running your life or making your autoimmune disease worse. Let yourself off the hook, make time for rest, learn stress relaxation exercises, and accept where you are and what you can do. Be honest with who you are and set healthy boundaries as needed.



  1. These stress relief tips all make sense. Readers might wish to investigate the deeper work of retraining the brain towards stress resiliency. Mindfulness-based therapeutic approaches are well understood in psychology and practiced by some psychotherapists. At StressPal, we are pioneering an affordable online stress resiliency tool for health providers and their patients, and invite anyone interested to let us know if you want to be part of our beta testing.

  2. Kathy McKibben says:

    Living w RA is like living w your worst enemy. You feel tired, misunderstood , exhausted and people believe u to be lazy. Those people I have zero respect for. I do my best to have a productive day but it’s beyond hard or fun. I have a lot of friends and they help me cope. I have a husband who loves me and knows I have lotsa bad days but I also have good days too .

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