To stress or not to stress

Along with being a lifelong connoisseur of RAS, I also have the pleasure of being wrapped in a layer of skin that does not respond favorably to the sun.  That’s a more eloquent way of saying that I’m a lily-assed white guy.

And thanks to spending a lifetime in Texas and for most of my younger years wearing sunscreen that only blocks the UVB rays that would normally give me a sunburn and tell me to seek shade while totally ignoring the UVA rays that actually do all the damage, I’m now seeing all manner of strangeness appearing on my skin.  Every trip to the dermatologist produces one more procedure than the last time.  And whenever I have to explain to people why I have a bandage on my forehead, I will inevitably be told the same thing…

“Dude, you should wear sunscreen.”

As if I don’t know that I’m pale-skinned.  As if I’m dumb enough to not wear sunscreen.  As if all the damage wasn’t already done years ago.

And then I punch them.  In my head.

Same thing with the canker sores.

First thing everybody tells me is I have herpes, about which I educate them.  The second thing they say: “You’ve got too much stress.”

As if I can’t deal with life.  As if I’m a Woody-Allenesque neurotic who should be medicated.

Truth is, many people do swear that their RAS flares up because of stress, but it honestly isn’t a correlation that I’ve seen in myself.  Some of the most stressful times of my life – and I’m talking home buying, divorce, producing a feature film, being laid off, family illness, you name it – I didn’t see any ulcers at all.

To me, there’s a couple of reasons for this assumption out there, one is confusion with stomach ulcers, which doctors believed for decades were brought on by stress.  But recently, even that has been disproven.  The discovery of Helicobacter pylori bacteria in the 80s led to the conclusion that most peptic ulcers are caused by a bacterial infection.  The discovery even earned a Nobel Prize in 2005.

The other reason is what I might call the Horoscope Effect.  Horoscopes are designed so that they could apply to anybody at any time.  There’s always “an opportunity ahead” or “a setback you’ve just experienced.”  Hence anybody who reads it believes that it must be talking about them.  Same here.  At any given time, we’ve all got some kind of stressor in our lives.   Is there ever a time when you can seriously say you’re not under any stress at all?  It’s very rare (and wonderful).  So it’s very easy when you get an ulcer to say, “It must be that thing at work,” or “that upcoming class reunion…”  But chances are, it has nothing to do with that.

Having said all that, it has been proven that people’s mental state can affect their physical state.  An increase of stress hormones in the brain can alter your body’s chemistry in negative ways.  So I’m not saying it’s absolutely not true.  I just know it’s not true for me.

What do you guys say?  Have there been specific instances where a stressful situation clearly brought on your canker sores?  What about stressful situations that didn’t?  Or exceptionally relaxed times in your life when you still had an outbreak?  Do you see an absolute correlation?  Let us hear it!

And if you’re convinced it’s stress that’s getting to you, find some ways to relax.

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  • […] know, I know, I’ve said before that I haven’t experienced personally a correlation between stress and canker sores, but there’s always more to it than my own experience.  Others swear up and down that stress […]

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