Lupus and Stress: All stress is not created equal!

Happy New Year! Hope your holidays were safe and enjoyable. I would add "stress-free", but sometimes,  that's hard to come by this time of year!

Speaking of, do you recall that four-hour drive to Roanoke I told you about? How happy I was to accomplish something that, at one time, lupus symptoms would have prevented me from doing? Well, I have since attempted a second 4-hour drive, also for work, and boy, was that an entirely different deal!

The second trip was suprisingly stressful. It was taxing, and left me feeling pretty puny and wiped out. I didn't go into a flare - but I definitely had some making up to do in the health and wellness department.  Thankfully,  an extra long nap, a good night's sleep, and a mental adjustment of how busy I was going to keep myself got me back on track.

So what was different? A drive is a drive, and four hours is four hours. Turns out, the circumstances surrounding the trip were totally different. And I failed to factor that in.

For the first trip, I drove between 8am and 12pm - my prime waking hours. I'm always most alert and productive in the morning,  so getting behind the wheel at that time was a cinch. I'd had a great night sleep the night before, the trip itself was an easy, straightforward drive, and I had very little traffic. It was an ideal drive all-around.

The second trip, however, was a day-long trip. Johnny took the first shift, and I took the wheel around 4pm, after having what I thought was a sufficient nap in the car - but those are never the best naps. My part of the drive turned out to be through the mountains, into setting sun, with lots of semi traffic to contend with on the winding mountains curves.

I didn't necessarily feel stressed while I was driving. It was toward the end of my 4-hr stint at the wheel that I realized how depleted I was. We pulled over, switched spots, and once we started driving again, I thought, "Oh, no! I overdid it!"

I instantly could feel that my body wasn't happy. I had been in overdrive mode - pushing myself to finish my self-imposed goal of driving four hours. But once I took a break, my mind and body began to unravel. I had this unsettled, almost jittery feeling, just like when I'm overtired. It's like my body is trying to work off reserves it simply doesn't have. I lack focus, can't think clearly, and have trouble putting sentences together. Not an ideal starting point for a 5-day work trip!

Thankfully,  I recognized the signs, and committed to making adjustments to my sleep and activity schedule for the next day or two. I crossed my fingers that my body would rebound.

But it didn't bounce back immediately. After a ten-hour night's sleep,  I woke up, still tired. Later that day, I extended my regular 2-hour afternoon nap, but still woke up feeling run-down and out of sorts. It wasn't until the following morning that I woke up feeling refreshed and replenished. I was so relieved!

When I stretch my limits like that - sacrificing a real nap, being mentally stressed, or in this case, combining the two -  there's always a chance that I've pushed too far. It's a terrible, sinking feeling when sleep doesn't leave you rejuvenated, because you know that your disease activity may be kicking up. Ugh!

In an upcoming post, I'll outline a few things I've learned about stress - planning for it, managing it alongside my illness, and rebounding from it once it hits. Stay tuned!


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