Anger and Stress Management Tips for Satisfying Relationships by Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.
Now that Maureen a divorced medical secretary had reached her fiftieth birthday, raised her children and had a chunk of disposable income she wanted to go on cruises with her friends. But each time she thought about booking her travel plans she felt sapped of energy. Her allergies played up and she lost the will to go through with her plan. Sometimes she got as far as buying theatre tickets, but a day or two before the show she would be swamped with work and too exhausted to use them.
Unable to have what she looked forward to, Maureen became anxious and stressed. Her allergies got worse and she had to stuff herself with Benadryl just to make it through the day. She worked hard for her money and now that she didn’t have dependent children or a boyfriend, she felt entitled to use it on herself. But she was either too busy or too sick to take advantage of her good position in life. After noticing that she continually missed out on her dreams, Maureen got angry and felt deprived. She felt as if life was taunting her with goodies and then snatching them away at the very moment she reached out for them.
On the odd occasion that she did go out with friends and enjoy a meal she was wracked with guilt.
She came home with a massive headache and drank herself to sleep while beating herself up for being so foolish with her money. She told herself she didn’t deserve her evening out, that it was just an indulgence and she ought to have used the money to buy her granddaughter ballet classes. Maureen’s self-castigating added to her stress and worsened her allergies. No matter how much Benadryl she took she couldn’t get out of bed and lay there depressed, feeling unworthy.
Research Evidence About Stress and Allergies
What Maureen didn’t realize was that antihistamines like Benadryl isn’t effective for stress that is long term or that peaks on particular days, according to researchers from Ohio University, 2008, and others, published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, 2009.
A report in Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, 2014 indicates that allergies are exacerbated by actual stress and perceived or anticipated stress, and recommends relaxing and doing fun things, meditating and deep breathing exercises to reduce stress in order to minimize its effect on allergies. But the troube is that stress caused by long term emotional problems don’t respond to these remedies.
Maureen’s source of stress was way back in her childhood
Growing up in a large family, Maureen had never felt seen and wanted. Shuttled from her parents to her grandparents and then aunts and uncles when it suited her carers, she longed to prove her value. She excelled in school and used her smarts to get jobs at the weekend to earn money and buy stuff for herself and family members. She didn’t want to feel like a burden, and enjoyed taking care of others. Basically she bought herself a place in their good books. That’s what made her feel good, and when she spent money on herself it didn’t give her that same sense of value and self-worth.
So Maureen filled most of her waking hours busy – as far away as possible from her feelings of not being wanted and loved for who she was. The long term stress that she endured wasn’t easy to manage. She read self-help books when she couldn’t sleep at nights. She bought meditation DVD’s and tried Yoga a few times before she felt guilty about working on herself and reverted back to her routine.
It wasn’t until she couldn’t shut out the fear of not being loved just for herself any longer that she came to therapy. Nothing distracted her from the palpitations and breathlessness that she experienced on waking up and during here working day. Physical checkups revealed no problems with her heart or lungs and Maureen was left with having to face the fears and the guilt about wanting to have a good time but believing that she didn’t deserve it in the eyes of her family.
In psychotherapy we worked on Maureen’s terror of being overwhelmed by feelings of sadness and anger about her childhood. Putting words to them and feeling them in the presence of someone who understood her dilemmas gave her permission to value herself for who she was and not just for how well she took care of others at work or in her family. Gradually her stress levels abated and her allergies subsided. She is now able to handle yoga and meditation without the terror that her suppressed feelings would overwhelm her if her mind was at rest.
Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.
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Disclaimer: this article is for informational and educative purposes only. There is no liability on the part of Dr. Raymond for any reactions you may have while reading the article or implementing the suggestions therein. Interacting with this material does not constitute a therapeutic relationship with Dr. Raymond.