Stress Is Piling On, Which Exacerbates PH Symptoms

Jen Cueva avatar

by Jen Cueva |

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“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:34

I’m noticing that my pulmonary hypertension symptoms are raging throughout my body. For those who are unaware, stress can exacerbate PH and its symptoms. For example, my legs feel as heavy as steel and throb day and night. Often this pain disrupts my sleep, a phenomenon we commonly refer to as “painsomia.”

Simple activities of daily living, such as walking, eating, showering, and getting dressed, cause a noticeable increase in shortness of breath. Also, the pain radiating across my shoulders has become a daily distraction.

Have y’all noticed any changes in your PH symptoms related to stress lately? It certainly is not unheard of.

I will never forget when my first PH doctor told my husband and young daughter not to cause me any unnecessary stress. I still remind them of this conversation 15 years later. Although stress is a part of life — particularly in today’s chaotic world — I try to limit daily stress levels by paying more attention to my body.

Often, when I mention this to people who are unfamiliar with chronic illness, I hear responses like, “Yeah, life is stressful.” But those of us living with rare and chronic diseases have elevated stress-related struggles that might be hard for others to understand.

For example, the exceptionally high costs of specialty medications that I take for PH cause considerable stress. These are not comparable to most prescription medications. Despite my prescription coverage, my copays remain high.

One of my two specialty PH treatments comes as a 90-day order via mail. My husband brings each delivery inside. He jokes about the nice Jet Ski arriving in such a tiny package. Keep in mind, this happens every three months.

My mind wanders as I dream about the many relaxing vacations we could have taken with our copays. My husband calls me his “million-dollar baby,” adding that I am worth it and that health and life are priceless.

Another cause of stress for me are the never-ending calls with healthcare providers. Whether insurance, doctors, nurses, pharmacies, or labs, these calls can quickly add up and feel like a full-time job.

If I have a busy week dealing with calls, I quickly become mentally and physically drained. I’ve learned to call on my Cigna case manager when it becomes overwhelming. If you have this resource available, let them work for you. This helps relieve some of the stress from our already stressed bodies.

For someone from the outside looking in, my life may appear to be relaxed because I don’t work full-time like I did before PH. Some acquaintances have commented that it must be nice to remain indoors in my pajamas. Sometimes it is nice, but it also gets old, fast. Also, realizing that I can’t contribute much financially and physically to the household causes me to worry that I’m not doing my part.

No matter what causes it, stress is not good for those of us with PH. My stress today is different than the stress I had when I worked full-time in nursing before PH. Regardless, life happens, and it doesn’t stop because we have PH. We must listen to our bodies and give them what they need. I struggle with this, too. But taking the time to find ways to limit my stress is critical.

Finding time to unwind is essential for our overall health. Whether reading, cooking, spending time with my family, or sitting outside by the water, I prefer to keep busy and distracted from exacerbations. Devotionals, short meditations, and yoga stretches are other ways I de-stress.

Pulmonary Hypertension News previously compiled some tips to help you reduce stress and relax.

Have you noticed an increase in your PH symptoms related to stress? What have found that helps? Please share in the comments below. 


Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


Perveen Kumar avatar

Perveen Kumar

I am also PAH patient from india.feel the same written by jen cuvea.i try to give five star for this but by mistake press first star.very helpful for me that she face from last 15 year& helping other patient. Thanks & regards.

Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

Thank you kindly, Perveen.
Your feedback helps me when I think no one is reading.

Stay well,

Muriel Slater avatar

Muriel Slater

Thank you for the wonderful article that mirrors my life thoughts and feelings living with Pulmonary Hypertension, Scleroderma and Heart Failure. I also have a Miniature Schnauzer and he is a wonderful stress relieving "therapy" dog. He really helps me a lot! Thanks & regards. Muriel

Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

Hi Muriel,
Thank you for reading my column. It sounds like you have several other coexisting illnesses, too. It can be such a challenge to balance them all out. I love mini schnauzers. This is our second one. She is spoiled and such a lap dog. She knows when I am not feeling my best. I am sure yours does the same. It is comforting to have them beside us. Take care.



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