If you’re living with HIV, you may carry the stress of a new diagnosis, test results, side effects from drug treatments, financial difficulties, caregiving, concerns about the future, and other worries.
Members of myHIVteam are keenly aware of the impact stress can have on the immune systems, and the toll it can take on overall health. They help each other find ways to rest and relax - challenging as that might be – with words of wisdom, support, and sign-offs, such as “have a blessed and stress-free day.”
Know the Stress Triggers
Being mindful of stress is the first step toward managing it. “Stress is #1 for me. It can do so much to one’s body,” acknowledged a myHIVteam member. “Stay stress free and away from toxic people,” advised another.
Sometimes physical symptoms trigger anxiety. “Just the slightest sign of ‘sickness’ gives me stress and anxiety,” shared one member, who lives with trauma from previous hospitalizations.
Changing HIV treatments can also be stressful. “Our medications, and the virus itself, cause anxiety and stress,” advised one member. Another member, concerned about the side effects of a new drug, wrote, “I have huge anxiety when it comes to a new medication! I’m trying to calm myself before I switch.”
Another challenge: Awaiting or receiving test results. One man, whose viral load spiked on his latest labs, said, “I’ve been really hoping for ‘undetectable’ but that’s not meant to be this month. Been really stressed for weeks, so that could be part of it.”
Anxiety around work, family, and trying to do too much is another stressor. “Chillin' this evening. Had to recoup from a busy week socially and taking care of business,” wrote one myHIVteam member. “I worry myself overboard at times because I'm trying to look too far into the future. Taking on too much instead of limiting myself,” explained another member.
How Do myHIVteam Members Relax?
Music is a popular stress-buster for members of myHIVteam. Classical, rock, and gospel tunes distract many from their worries. Nature walks, jogging, stretching, singing, and fishing also soothe members’ souls.
Volunteering and “giving back to my community” helps one member relax. Another “meditates and does breathing exercises every morning.” One member “reads and prays” while another “writes letters to God.” Still others swear by naps.
“Knowing that my kids need me,” gives one member great comfort. Another member is known for posting humorous memes to brighten others’ days.
Adopting healthy habits, and taking good “self-care,” has made a big difference for some members. “I’ve been undetectable, thank God, for 27 years,” shared one. “I live a very healthy, stress-free life. I came to terms with all my demons, said all my ‘I'm sorrys’ to the people I hurt, and did a 180-degree change in my life. Stay strong, set goals. You can do this.🤗”
Support for Stress
Sharing feelings of stress with others living with HIV can provide much needed support, inspiration, and advice.
One member, concerned about flu-like symptoms, received the following counsel: “Emergen-C dissolved in hot water. Ginger tea with honey and lemon. A hot bath with relaxing music. Talk to a good friend. And eat nutritious food, like a crunchy salad. Most of all, rest. Sleep through it, if you can. Do not work out while you're sick. And keep washing your hands and face. Other than that, one shot of tequila with honey and lemon at bedtime and Vick's VapoRub on your chest, neck and back before going to sleep. Check your temperature often and seek urgent care if you develop a high fever. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.”
Another, who was anxious about test results, heard this from a longstanding member: “When you start to feel stressed, detach yourself from the disturbances around you. Instead of desperately striving to maintain order and control in your little world, relax and remember that circumstances cannot touch ‘my peace.’”
MyHIVteam, the social network and online support group for those living with HIV, is a safe place for members to share a range of personal experiences and ideas about managing stress.
Here are some Q&As about managing stress:
Here are some conversations about managing stress:
Have another topic you'd like to discuss or explore? Go to myHIVteam today and start the conversation. You'll be surprised how many others share similar stories.