Managing Stress and Kidney Disease

Manage stress with support from others.
Dealing with any chronic health condition can be stressful. It’s understandable—and completely normal—to have ups and downs. Part of living with chronic kidney disease is finding ways to cope with feelings like stress.

You may be feeling a variety of emotions as you process what it means to live with kidney disease from day to day. It’s normal to feel depressed or anxious—during the original diagnosis and even years into treatment. Learning to balance life with treatment can be challenging and it’s easy to focus on the things you might miss out on. The stress of living with kidney disease can cause those negative feelings, or even be caused by those feelings. Allowing yourself to experience emotional highs and lows is an important part of life. At the same time, it’s important to recognize when negative feelings might be taking over—and what you can do to help break that cycle.

Symptoms of stress

You may notice that stress impacts you in several ways—emotionally, physically, and mentally. It can be difficult to notice stress when you’re in the midst of it, so staying aware of your well-being is important. If you learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of stress, it may make seeking help just a little bit easier.

EMOTIONAL SIGNS OF STRESS INCLUDE:

  • Irritability or agitation
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feelings of loneliness,
    worthlessness, or depression

PHYSICAL SIGNS OF STRESS INCLUDE:

  • Exhaustion
  • Headaches
  • Jaw clenching and/or teeth gritting
  • Upset stomach
  • Loss of sexual desire
  • Increased occurance of illness or infection

OTHER SIGNS OF STRESS INCLUDE:

  • Disorganized thoughts and trouble focusing 
  • Negative thoughts and outlook
  • Forgetfulness
  • Racing thoughts

Tips to manage stress

By its very nature, it’s hard to treat stress on your own. The good news is that you don’t have to do it alone. Talk to your care team. If stress is causing you problems, they can refer you to a counselor or a therapist who can help you. Here are some tips to help you manage stress and look after your health:

Get enough sleep. It’s easy to lose sleep when worries start mounting. Remember, sleep is your best defense against the physical and emotional problems that come with stress.

Follow a healthy diet. Your care team has probably already made some kidney-friendly diet recommendations. If you’re feeling low-energy, talk to your dietitian. It’s surprising just how much of a difference the right foods can make on your energy level.

Get enough exercise. Exercise helps with the symptoms of depression and anxiety by releasing endorphins. It’s also shown to help with self-esteem, which makes it even more rewarding.

Remove yourself from stressful situations. Know when to step back—either emotionally or physically—and reassess your environment and how you’re reacting to it. This might be a five-minute break at work or a walk around the block.

Create calming rituals. Whether it’s meditation, a breathing exercise, or just making a pot of tea, following a simple routine can be soothing.

Build a healthy routine. Start a schedule that includes regular times for dialysis, taking medication and prepping meals. Knowing what to do and when can help with the stress of managing your condition.

Figure out what’s most important to you. Since you’re making changes to your routine, it’s a good time to step back and make sure that you’re spending your time on the things that truly matter to you.

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Get creative with your dialysis time

It’s understandable to feel anxious about how dialysis and your schedule might work together. Finding ways to make dialysis time productive—or even enjoyable—can help you find balance and lower your stress and anxiety.

Whether you’re doing home dialysis or in-center dialysis, there are things you can do to take your mind off your treatment and make the most of your downtime during dialysis—from reading or paperwork to hobbies or new pastimes.


GET IDEAS FOR USING TREATMENT TIME WISELY

Dialysis sessions do take up time, but they can also give you some downtime that you can use to your advantage. Try these suggestions for occupying your dialysis time in satisfying ways.


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Could home dialysis eliminate some stress for you?

If you’re currently doing in-center dialysis and feeling overwhelmed by the time commitment, you may want to consider home dialysis. Choosing home dialysis can give you greater scheduling flexibility and help increase your free time by eliminating travel time to and from the center. Plus, you’ll have greater access to the comforts of home.  

CONSIDER HOME DIALYSIS

Home dialysis may offer more frequent dialysis treatments and greater flexibility—it also helps you achieve better health outcomes.

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