Stress Management, Stomas and PTSD

Jay In Park

During the ten years plus of study, some years before my illness brought a stoma into my life, I became a qualified professional stress consultant. It was part of a journey I was on at the time, to make up for leaving school halfway through my A-levels despite being top of my class.

People kept telling me that I would make a great life coach…

It was indeed the ‘in’ thing at the time and I passed my diploma with flying colours obtaining 94% in the final exam. Unsure of exactly what I wanted to do for the next ten years I studied and was actually doing a Diploma in Advanced Herbalism when I got ill in 2013, that particular course had to be abandoned as did many other plans I had that year.

Although I had experienced PTSD in the past and understood the emotional side of it, I had not fully understood the physiological side. It was becoming a holistic therapist and getting that diploma as a stress consultant that filled in the pieces of the puzzle that is mind, body and spirit.

There is no separation you see, they are all one, everything is energy and now we have the proof of these things with epigenetics and quantum physics. As humans we do like a bit of science and we do like our ‘proof’. I have more than once put something on social media only to have someone ask, “What evidence is this based on?”.

Evidence changes all the time but stress and its causes are age old.

As humans we have an innate fight or flight response, without it the sabre tooth tiger (and co) would have made us extinct a long time ago.

Problem is, in the world we live in today the fight or flight is too active in most of us and that is why we are suffering more stress related illnesses than ever. We want cures for the common cold, Crohn’s, colitis, cancer, fibromyalgia, arthritis and anything else that is tough to live with - and why wouldn’t we? But how much time do we devote to the health of our mind and spirit?

Since the awful experience that gave me this very unwanted stoma that I now openly say I hate (strong but true), PTSD has been active each and every day.

This means that my body is caught in a stress cycle and it has had a devastating effect on me. I could talk about the stress pathways in the human body and use terms like autonomic nervous system, brain function, catecholamines, adrenal function etc. but it is my belief after seeing a lot of online activity that we stress ourselves out trying to ‘know’ too much instead of concentrating on what helps.

Living with severe PTSD and having stress cardiomyopathy has taught me a lot. Stress is a killer and it very nearly killed me.

So how did this happen when I am qualified in the area? For the same reason that doctors get sick! Humans are human, it’s that simple. Living with a stoma has been and still is stressful. It doesn’t matter how many others are happy to poo in public, I am not and never will be, my ablutions should be private to me, that is how I feel.

Check out my other blogs for some of the difficulties that my pesky stoma has caused me.

We must never get rid of the fight or flight response as we may need it one day; it is a life saver. But if we want better health, we must find better ways of living that bring us away from that low-level everyday stress that keeps our sympathetic nervous system on fire.

My tips as a stress consultant and as a human being are:-

  • Take time to notice the messages your body is sending like headaches, tight muscles and pains, raised heart rate, irritability, insomnia, upset stomach, low energy, abnormal appetite, loss of libido, dry mouth, skin conditions and frequent colds etc because they can all be signs of stress.
  • Keep a diary of symptoms to see if there are any patterns or cycles which you may be able to break.
  • Be more active, the positive chemicals released during exercise counteract stress.
  • Meditate at least once a day, you could use a guided meditation recording which are often on YouTube for free.
  • Practice mindfulness so that you learn to connect with both your emotions and the ‘now’.
  • Use ‘chunking’ as we call it in coaching. If something feels overwhelming break it down into smaller steps.
  • Do not over commit yourself and learn to say NO to the things you don’t want to/can’t do.
  • Challenge your negative or faulty thoughts. Until you get the hang of it, get someone you trust to challenge you.
  • Practice gratitude. However dark the day, there is always something to be grateful for, we just may need to remind ourselves.
  •  Never compare yourself to others. Someone may have the same experience as you on paper, but their emotions are theirs and yours are yours. Learn to own your own feelings.
  • If you do not have a hobby find one. All work and no play don’t just make Jack a dull boy, they make him ill. So, whether you are a busy parent or a corporate lawyer find something that is just for you.
  • Limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine and improve your diet. Alcohol is a depressant and caffeine a stimulant. There are foods that harm and foods that heal - make sure you get plenty that heal. Follow the 80-20 rule when you can. A little bit of naughty does us good…

Remember, stress is the body’s reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. We can eliminate a lot of our own pressure by taking better care of ourselves.

My road has been a difficult one, PTSD locks you into an intense stress cycle that requires a lot of management. I am slowly coming to terms with my six-year-old ‘temporary stoma’ but day by day I get better at managing the symptoms and understanding triggers. Look out for my podcast series coming up with more tips on mind, body and spirit matters, until next time take care of you, there’s only one!

by Jay Hyrons

Jay Hyrons

About the author

Hi I'm Jay. My stoma was unexpected and very much unwanted, in fact it still is. I am a qualified Clinical Personal Fitness Trainer and a former National Champion Bodybuilder. After eight abdominal surgeries I am still Hernia free. You can see the video made in partnership with CliniMed here Core Exercises to help prevent Hernias and you can get other fitness tips on my YouTube or follow me on Instagram.

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