Having Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) can be stressful. In addition, being stressed can harm your kidneys.
Almost all of the kidney disease patients we’ve come across and helped have complained about the stress of managing their lives on top of managing CKD.
This article will shed some light on what can help a CKD patient deal with stress.
Note: Should you find yourself with debilitating stress, it's best to reach out to a mental health professional for personalized care.
Stress can be defined as “environmental, social, or internal demand that results in psychological, physiological, or behavioral response.” Simply put, it is anything that upsets the balance of things whether in your mental state (psychologically) or in your body itself.
People often experience stress in two ways:
- Psychologically – this includes anxiety, argument or conflict, and other threats to personal well-being and safety
- Physiologically – mainly due to injuries, infections, and diseases
Having a chronic disease, is most likely a source of stress. Worrying about you and your family’s future, not to mention the medical expenses incurred due to such a disease, are huge factors that contribute to daily stress.
Still, we also have to deal with a very famous misconception about stress…
…the thought that stress ONLY serves as a detriment to one’s life. This is wrong.
Stress is normal. And yes, stress can be detrimental, but ONLY IF YOU LET IT. Properly dealing with stress not only helps you manage it, but it will also serve to strengthen you and make you more resilient.
Constant and excessive stress does take a toll on your health. This is why stress management is very important, especially for people with kidney condition.
HOW DOES STRESS AFFECT THE KIDNEYS
So how does stress affect the kidneys? Usually, the body’s response to stress and anxiety are the following:
- Increase in breathing and heart rate
- Blood pressure spikes
- Pupil dilation
- Muscle tension
- Increase in fat and sugar levels in the blood
These responses are normal and can actually help you when dealing with crises and immediate danger.
However, constantly experiencing these bodily reactions because of high stress levels for long periods takes a toll on your health.
Not only is there a risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, but the constant increase in blood pressure, fat and sugar levels can throw your renal system off-kilter. Your body’s internal filtering systems will experience more strain than usual, further damaging your kidneys.
This is the reason why people with high blood pressure and diabetes also have a high risk of developing CKD.
So, how does one go about managing stress?
There are many ways to do this and it’s about finding one that would make sense to you.
1. Maintain a normal routine. A lot of times, people newly diagnosed with CKD feel overwhelming loss or sadness at learning about the disease. Going back to a routine you enjoy, at least one that your condition allows, can help you cope with those feelings.
2. Be active. Physical activity can help your body cope with stress. Consult your doctor on which physical activities you can do, or try these 4 easy exercises.
3. Choose healthier options. Limit salt, sugar, caffeine, and fat in your diet, as these having too much of these can cause imbalances in your body. For a list of renal diet foods, check out this article.
4. Relax. Do yoga. Try meditation techniques. Take a vacation (if travel allows you). Taking time to relax greatly helps.
5. Get enough sleep. One of the most unhealthy habits people have is not sleeping well. Did you know that getting enough sleep can help your kidneys “heal” themselves?
6. Be realistic. Perfectionism can be good, but too much of it just adds unnecessary stress. Allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them. Set realistic goals and expectations, and you will almost never be disappointed.
7. Talk to someone. Whether it be a friend, a loved one, your healthcare provider, or other kidney patients, it’s always good to have someone to share your problems with.
8. Write stuff down. A few patients we’ve helped found that making a journal helped them cope with stressful times. What you can also do is make a list of what stresses you out most, and think of possible solutions. This way, you have a chance to prioritize and determine which issues to deal with first.
Think about these: fire and hammer can forge steel to sword. While carbon, when subjected to extreme heat and pressure, becomes diamond.
So stress, in a sense, is still important to help develop a person, even for someone with a kidney condition such as yourself. And if we learn how to manage stress well, we can be the best that we can be.
Stress and Your Kidneys – National Kidney Foundation
Stress and the Kidney – M.A. Bruce, D.M. Griffith, and R.J. Thorpe, Jr.
Coping and Support, Chronic Kidney Disease – Mayo Clinic