Living with either a sudden illness or a chronic condition can create a great deal of upheaval in a person’s life. While struggling with painful or bothersome symptoms, individuals are still expected to maintain their everyday lives and take care of their responsibilities, often while simultaneously receiving treatment for their condition. Because of this struggle to balance all of life’s tasks and troubles, a patient’s environment can significantly affect their overall wellness. That’s why much consideration should be given to the importance of environment on Lyme disease treatment – a stressful, unsupportive environment can make recovery that much harder.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by bacteria transmitted to humans through a bite from an infected tick. The disease was first studied in Lyme, Connecticut in the U.S. in the 1970s when children and adults in the town started showing a variety of similar symptoms (including skin rashes, headaches and chronic fatigue). Further research by a scientist named Willy Burgdorfer in 1981 revealed the connection between ticks and these types of symptoms. This bacterium, called a spirochete, was named Borrelia burgdorferi. Since then, more research has been conducted around the globe in order to study how Lyme disease is contracted and how it should be treated.
Common initial symptoms of Lyme disease include a red, bullseye rash (at the site of the bite), joint and muscle pain, headaches, flu-like symptoms (sometimes with a fever), chronic fatigue, and changes in mood and sleep. When the infection progresses, additional, often more serious symptoms can appear, such as other rashes, heart issues, inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, and cognitive problems. The most accepted Lyme disease treatment is antibiotics. Patients are usually given doxycycline for 10 days to three weeks or amoxicillin and cefuroxime for two to three weeks. In most cases, this clears up symptoms; some patients need additional courses of antibiotics by mouth or intravenously (especially if their Lyme disease has been left untreated for a longer period of time). Because the symptoms of Lyme disease often look like other medical conditions (such as arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, etc.), patients are often misdiagnosed. Delayed treatment because of these misdiagnoses can be harmful (both physically and emotionally) to a Lyme disease patient.
You might be wondering, ‘Can environment affect Lyme disease?’. The answer is absolutely yes. Anyone who needs strength and positivity to overcome challenging symptoms needs an environment that provides them with peace and comfort. Home or work environments that offer negative energy and ask too much of the individual (who already has a limited supply of energy) will only make recovery that much more prolonged and difficult.
What is the effect of stress on Lyme disease?
Stress (whether it’s coming from friends and family, work, other commitments, etc.) can make anyone’s life harder. It takes a great deal of energy and stamina to cope with stressful situations. Dealing with stress can cause a whole host of problems with your physical health, including negatively affecting the vascular, digestive, endocrine and central nervous systems. Stress can also affect the immune system, causing people to become sick more often (which can be even more of a nightmare for someone with a chronic condition like Lyme disease).
Along with the physical toll stress can take on a person, feeling anxious or overwhelmed can also cause plenty of emotional upheaval. This can manifest in a number of ways, including appetite changes (either eating too little or too much), problems with sleep (difficulty falling or staying asleep), muscle tension, difficulty concentrating, panic attacks and more. Dealing with these behavioural changes, along with the many Lyme disease symptoms, can result in more distress and overwhelm.
What is the effect of depression on Lyme disease?
Depression and Lyme disease can often feel like the chicken or the egg debate. Does Lyme disease cause depression because of chemical changes in the brain? Or do symptoms of depression develop because of the disheartening nature of the condition? Whichever is ultimately true, many Lyme disease patients experience depression in the form of feelings of sadness or hopelessness, lower energy levels, problems focusing, changes in weight or appetite, and possible suicidal thoughts or attempts. Depression can end up exacerbating symptoms (especially aching muscles, digestive issues, brain fog, etc.) and in the end, reduce the efficacy of Lyme disease treatment. Living in an environment with unsupportive people or being surrounded by negativity or stress can greatly worsen feelings of hopelessness and despair.
How to create a stress-free environment
Once you understand the importance of environment on Lyme disease treatment, the good news is that creating a healthy environment can then help a Lyme patient on their journey to recovery. Here are some things to try to create a positive environment.
- Encourage the patient to get help. Patients who feel supported in their quest to get help from professionals (like a therapist) will feel buoyed by the care that’s being offered to them. When individuals are discouraged or shamed for reaching out for help, they’re less likely to get the appropriate treatment they need for their physical and emotional symptoms and will feel less supported (and more lonely) overall.
- Schedule time for relaxation. Lyme disease patients need to ensure they’re making time for rest and relaxation. Creating a scheduled time (hopefully every day) for quiet activities (taking a nap, meditating, doing yoga, etc.) will help them carve out time for self-care.
- Establish boundaries and set limits. A stress-free environment is one in which the patient can say no when they aren’t feeling up to doing something and can confidently ask for what they need. Setting up boundaries or limits to what they can accomplish can help lower stress levels and make them feel calmer and more in control.
- Finding support. If the patient can’t create a supportive environment at home for some reason, they should make it a priority to find one somewhere else. This can be in the form of a support group (ideally specifically for Lyme disease patients) where the person can share their struggles and get support from people who know what they’re going through.
Living in an environment filled with stress and negativity will only slow down recovery from Lyme disease. By creating a space that’s filled with support, individuals can more effectively take care of their physical and emotional health without facing overwhelm or despair. Living in a healthy, happy environment can result in an easier healing journey for the patient (and for their loved ones as well).