From the Archives: Fall 2009 issue of Lupus Now
In this issue’s “Ask Dr. Paul” column, psychology expert Dr. Paul responds to questions about how to deal with stress on the job and anger about a lupus diagnosis.
Dear Dr. Paul:
How much of a role does stress play in the development and progression of lupus? I am a police officer working in the jail division, where the stress level is extremely high, and I need to know whether I should consider other employment.
There is no evidence that stress causes lupus. But there is much that suggests it can contribute to flare-ups of lupus, so it is certainly wise to avoid unnecessary stress. Leaving your job may or may not be a productive path to follow. Changing jobs can in itself be very stressful. If you do not enjoy your job and if it is dissatisfying in other ways, you might be happier changing to other work.
If, however, the job meets a number of your needs -- for example, financial security, short commute, and so forth -- then you might want to remain and learn to handle the job stress more effectively:
- As much as you can, avoid taking on too many responsibilities, working too many hours, or taking your work home with you.
- Don’t bottle up feelings of frustration or resentment, or fuel feelings of helplessness and anger through obsessive negative thinking.
- As much as you can, get plenty of exercise playing games and sports, but also get enough rest.
- Enjoy uplifting and lighthearted books, television, and movies.
- Make sure you talk openly about your concerns and worries.
- Be good to yourself and to those you love.
Remember: Learning to manage your stress effectively is important, whether you continue in your present job or start another.*
Dear Dr. Paul:
Is there anything I can do to stop getting angry and depressed about having lupus? Is there any drug for this? It is affecting my relationships with others.
You are not alone in feeling angry or depressed about having lupus. Feelings are connected to needs and expectations. When you need to work, travel, or play and cannot, you will experience frustration and disappointment or anger. And it can be depressing to be unable to do what you expect from yourself, whether it is to clean out the garage or put in a long day at work.
But you are wise in wanting to control these feelings and to not let them overwhelm you or destroy relationships that are important to you. Watch that you do not intensify these feelings with self-pitying, unproductive thoughts.
- “It’s not fair. I haven’t done anything wrong. Why me?”
- “I’m a loser. I’m too weak even to fight off this illness.”
- “Who would want to be with me? I’m useless.”
Learn to eavesdrop on what you are saying to yourself -- then work hard to stop negative, self-defeating inner language, and to replace it with truthful, productive thoughts.
- “I feel lousy, but I have many blessings.”
List the people and things in your life for which you are grateful:
- Loving children, a spouse or significant other; caring relatives; good friends.
- Work you enjoy and are able to do.
- A home you love.
- Volunteer activities.
- Fellowship at school or at a place of worship.
Try to add to this list every day!
Finally, try to focus on what you have, not on what you don’t have, and on what you can do, rather than what you can’t.
It might be helpful to discuss an antidepressant medication with your doctor. Keep in mind, though, that a drug doesn’t replace the need to manage your emotions wisely.