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Coping with Lyme Disease


Lyme Disease Coping Strategies Coping with a chronic illness presents an enormous challenge. A patient with diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis, allergies, high blood pressure, or any other condition that does not resolve by itself has to make adjustments. Some illnesses require constant accommodation, while others may require fewer changes. For example, for those with high blood pressure, medication and a modification of daily habits may be the only adjustments the patient has to make. Lyme disease, unfortunately, does not fall into that category. Patients with chronic Lyme must make profound changes in every aspect of their lives.

The key to coping with any chronic illness consists of first acknowledging the illness, and then adjusting to its limitations. Acknowledging the illness must be the first step. If you cannot accept that you are ill, making the necessary practical adjustments will be impossible.

Acceptance of a long-term illness means that your new life is going to be quite different from your former life, which is a scary thought for most individuals. In this new reality all the rules are different. Fortunately, you can benefit from the wisdom and experience of many patients who have gone before you. These are some of the successful coping techniques patients have developed.

 

Minimize Physical Stress


When you have chronic Lyme, your body is not the same safe haven it used to be. Physical strain, which for someone who is severely ill can consist of moderate or even mild exercise, can set off a chain reaction that may leave you ill for days. If you have joint pain and/or muscle pain, and are not severely ill, you may want to avoid all forms of aerobic exercise and limit yourself to stretching, walking, and gentle swimming until you are well on the road to recovery.

The first step toward relieving physical stress is to avoid it.
  • Avoid extremes of temperature - many people with Lyme disease find that their symptoms worsen during hot weather. This may be because heat speeds up metabolism. If you are already suffering from the effects of an upregulated immune system, heat will only make you feel worse. Other people notice the reverse - that they feel worse during the cold winter months. Cold requires your thyroid to work harder to maintain normal body functions. If your endocrine system has been affected by Lyme disease, cold weather will contribute to fatigue, slowed cognitive function, and other signs of a slowed metabolism. Try to limit your exposure to both hot and cold temperatures.

  • Maintain a regular meal schedule - your digestive system prepares for processing what you eat well in advance of your meals. By keeping to a routine, you will maximize your body's ability to digest food. Good nutrition is essential for recovery from any illness. (See the section on Diet for food tips tailored to Lyme disease patients.)

  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule - maintaining a sleep schedule is problematic for those with insomnia, especially for people who have difficulty falling asleep. You may turn the lights off at 9 PM, but sleep may not come until hours later. It will help if you don't do anything stimulating for several hours before bed. Avoid TV and looking at screens for two hours before bed. (The light fluctuations are stimulating.) Try to avoid late evening phone conversations. Making your sleep routine pleasant - listening to relaxing music, or reading a light, entertaining novel - will send a signal to your body that it is time to wind down.
It is not particularly important when or how you perform your routines. The idea is to develop a regular and predictable pattern that helps structure your day and minimizes your body's need to adjust to change.

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Further Reading


Tired of Lyme is a great website for getting answers to any question you might have about Lyme disease. The site features some wonderful articles about the psychological impact of Lyme disease, and well as how to handle loss, impatience, and dissociation.

TOUCHED BY LYME: The "all-in-your-head" write-off for Lyme disease

Chrousos, George P, and Gold, Philip W. "The Concepts of Stress and Stress System Disorders." Journal of the American Medical Association 267:1244-1252, 1992.

Renew - Stress on the Brain

Coping with Lyme Disease: A Practical Guide to Dealing with Diagnosis and Treatment by Denise Lang

Research Shows That Acupuncture Relieves Chronic Stress
 In a series of studies, researchers demonstrate how acupuncture can significantly reduce the stress hormone response in an animal model of chronic stress. 
Six Common Misconceptions about the Chronically Ill
Toni Bernhard talks about the major misconceptions healthy people have about those who are chronically ill.
Live Without Anxiety or Stress!
Anxiety not only affects our quality of life, it impacts our physical health as well. Prescription drugs to reduce anxiety often cause serious side effects. A natural solution to anxiety has been developed that has clinically proven benefits.
 
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