COVID Stress and Endometriosis
If you’ve struggled more with endometriosis symptoms during the pandemic, you’re not alone. A new survey describes how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted people living with endometriosis. Not surprisingly, people with endometriosis have felt worse during the COVID-19 pandemic. They notice more stress and more endometriosis symptoms. Many report difficulty accessing medical care, like having scheduled procedures postponed, and appointments canceled. They’ve put off scheduling appointments because they’ve worried about getting sick.1
Worsening endo symptoms
Survey participants noticed the greatest increase in fatigue, back pain, and headache. They also commonly described anxiety. Many experienced changes in menstrual cycles. About 1 in 5 had increased pelvic pain, and about 15% experienced more painful periods. Digestion changes were also common: bloating, constipation, nausea. Many had trouble getting their prescriptions.
You may have noticed for yourself that stress tends to make your endometriosis symptoms worse. In fact, researchers found that stress and depression are correlated with increased endometriosis pain.2 And the pandemic has been nothing if not stressful for most of us—less than 4 per cent of the people in this survey said the pandemic had not been difficult for them.
Tips for coping with stress
Is there any good news? Knowing that we’re not alone in the struggle can be helpful. Acknowledging the stress may be a reminder to focus on actions that we know help us cope. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, a mental health professional or your doctor can help. If that’s not available to you, talk to a family member or friend that you trust, or find an online support community.
Our bodies, minds, and hearts are interconnected. Research shows that holistic strategies like these, in addition to working with your health care team, can help cope with endometriosis pain.3
Educate yourself. Learn more about endometriosis. Focus your reading on reliable sources. Find social support. It may not be face-to-face, but a support group or person is key. As more of us have access to vaccines, we’ll be able to expand our bubbles for safer in-person meetings. Get some exercise if you can; this tends to improve both period pain and stress.4 It doesn’t have to be intense; one study found that just walking was helpful.5 Specifically, participants in a small study found that twice-weekly Hatha yoga for 8 weeks improved their endo pain.6 Mindfulness, progressive relaxation, and breathing exercises can help manage stress and worry. Get enough sleep. Easier said than done sometimes, I know. With our schedules changing constantly, it’s more important than ever to prioritize sleep. The National Sleep Foundation has guidelines to help with sleep in the time of COVID.
You are NOT alone
One of the biggest challenges of endometriosis is feeling like you’re suffering alone, that people don’t understand what’s happening with you. The pandemic has only increased this sense of isolation for so many of us. But it’s not just you; as this study points out, it’s been common to experience more trouble with endometriosis this past year. Finding your support community is more important now than ever, and will continue to help even as we move out of this stressful time.
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