Stress Management Tools for Amputees
We all experience stress from time to time, but some people may experience it more frequently than others. Stress is our body's natural response to demands that may cause physical, emotional, or psychological reactions. However, if stress is not properly managed or becomes overwhelming, it can lead to more serious issues like anxiety and depression. This is a common experience for many amputees, regardless of where they are in their journey.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, anxiety and depression levels have increased significantly. If stressors are not managed through coping mechanisms, self-care, and possibly professional care, these numbers will continue to rise. If left unaddressed, stress, anxiety, and depression can impair daily functioning. That's why it's essential to educate everyone on identifying the signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression and develop practical tools to combat stressors.
Building stress management skills
Individuals living with limb loss will face all types of stressors. Being equipped with tools to help manage the effects is critical to an improved quality of life. Here are some coping strategies:
Recognize and accept all emotions
Recognizing and acknowledging all emotions is crucial. Coping skills are not meant to eliminate negative emotions such as feeling irritated, deflated, or anxious. Instead, they enable you to identify, label, and validate these emotions and engage in behaviors to alleviate them.
Participate in regular physical activities
If you can already walk and move with your prosthetic limb, consider participating in exercise or sports, as these activities can help reduce the effects of stress. You can do many things, from adaptive biking to adaptive surfing.
Deep belly breathing
To combat your body's fight-or-flight response, deep breathing techniques can be helpful. Deep breathing can help you relax because it activates the parasympathetic nervous system, also referred to as the rest-and-digest system. When you breathe deeply, you increase oxygen intake, slow down your heart rate, and experience a sense of calmness in your mind.
Find a comfortable spot to sit or lie down. Place one hand on your abdomen and make sure your muscles are relaxed.
Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your stomach to rise.
Hold your breath for five seconds, then exhale slowly through your mouth.
Repeat this pattern for three to five minutes.
Progressive muscle relaxation
The Progressive Muscle Relaxation technique is based on the belief that physical relaxation can lead to mental relaxation. It is a recommended method by the American Psychological Association to alleviate stress and anxiety.
Find a comfortable position, preferably lying down.
Begin by tensing your lower leg muscles and holding the contraction for five to ten seconds while inhaling.
Exhale and release the tension, then relax for ten seconds.
Repeat this process while moving up your body, contracting different muscle groups with each breath. Hold the contraction for five to ten seconds, then relax for ten seconds before moving on to the next muscle group.
Practice daily self-care
Learn to communicate struggles
Another effective coping skill is learning to communicate struggles to people you love and trust. You may want to talk to a specific family member or friend. You can also find an amputee support group with whom to share amputee-related struggles. Or you might prefer a professional listening ear.
Minimize your media consumption
Taking breaks from consuming news and social media can alleviate stress. Limiting recreational screen time to one hour per day at a scheduled time is helpful.
Know when to seek additional help
If you're struggling to manage your anxiety and stress alone, it might be time to consider seeking professional help.