It can be tough to sit back and watch your loved one’s health deteriorate. On a daily basis you watch their struggles and observe how the strong person that used to take care of you now needs you to take care of them. There needs to be a level of acceptance. You may at first feel some type of loneliness or some type of distress as you wonder how you will deal with this situation. You may even be angry. That anger may manifest itself as anger with God for allowing this to happen and making this situation come up at the most inconvenient time in your life. Questions like why now? Why me? Why them? Often surface. Then you may not want to deal with it so you sit in a period of denial forcing you to gloss over the situation because you truly don’t want to believe that this is real. However there comes a time where you can no longer function in a level of denial and you have to step up to the plate and make some hard decisions. You must step in and become the primary decision maker for others rather than just yourself.
I know I began to wonder what gave me the authority to now have to be head of someone else’s life. Why do I now have to adorn this responsibility? I’m just getting the hang of being responsible for myself. It’s as if you were thrust into a fire pit and not having the ability to put out the fire because you have no water and the air is dry. At some point you must take a deep breath and then let go and begin to organize. Just remember to take one step at a time. I’ve made it through. I expect challenges to come. However, with careful planning and mental and emotional preparation you can get through this too. You may need to seek the support of others in similar situations; you need to seek outside connections. Don’t isolate yourself. Remember to set aside time for yourself. A little bit of solo time and time spent with others away from the situation goes a long way.
You may need to sit down and think of some ways that you can achieve a level of acceptance. Redirect your negative thoughts and energy toward something positive.
Please share: What have you done that helps you to keep going?
Identify what is causing you stress: What is the source? Try to pinpoint what is bothering you.
Recognize what you can change: Change what you can if you can identify a solution. If not seek to change your response.
Reduce the intensity of your reactions: Reassess the situation. Are you overreacting? Walk away if the situation is too intense. Return when you feel calm. Resolve not to let situations get you over excited.
Re-examine your attitudes and priorities: Are you taking on too much? Can something be delegated to someone else? Learn to say no. You are not a superhero. Make yourself a priority.
Get organized: Identify when you are best productive. Take some down time. Get some rest. Be a more effective manager of your time.
Develop emotional support and use them: Open up and reach out to others. Try not to hold things inside. Set up a support system. Reach out to friends. Cultivate relationships with people and family. Seek emotional support from counselors, religious advisors or maybe join a support group.
Let it out. : Let all your emotions out. Don’t hold it in! That release may be what you may need. If you feel like laughing, crying, or screaming… do it! Be selective about where you release these emotions but create an outlet where you can do so. Perhaps you can start to write in a journal.
Ask for help: Don’t feel like it is burden to share your need with others. You will never know what resources will be helpful to you if you don’t ask. Identify some tasks and make your request.
Relaxation techniques: Listen to some soothing music. Take 5 minutes to breathe deeply. Utilize breaths in counts of 4 breaths as you inhale and then exhale. You will feel a difference!
First things first.. what is stress? It is the body’s response to the demands that are made on it. Chemicals are released into the blood when the body reacts to what is going on around them that is stressful. We experience stress in times of danger and the body responds by releasing these chemicals which give you more energy and strength. During these times, stress can be quite helpful. What we must be on the look out for relates to if your stress is the result of a response to an emotional event and there’s no outlet to release this extra energy.
We need to look out for bad stress. Did you know that millions of Americans suffer from stress each year?
Stress can contribute to heart disease, high blood pressure, and strokes.
You are more likely to catch colds.
Stress can lead to alcoholism, obesity, drug addiction, cigarette use, depression, and other harmful behaviors
3 out of 4 people suffer from high levels of stress at least twice a month .
¼ of all drugs prescribed in the United States go to the treatment of stress.
Up to 50% of primary caregivers experience significant psychological stress. This can lead to serious health and psychological problems. Be aware of certain symptoms:
Denial Anger Social Withdrawal
Anxiety Depression Exhaustion Sleeplessness
Irritability Lack of Concentration Health Problems
I know at different stages I’ve felt or experienced all of these symptoms. I now know that they were a result of the undue stress that I was under.
What can you do to minimize the pressures you may be feeling?
Engage in self care. Self care is the act of engaging in your own personal health care maintenance. Make an effort to take care of yourself spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally. Do nice things for yourself and realize that it is important that you put yourself first. Relinquish the need to feel guilty about putting your needs ahead of others. Realize that by not taking care of yourself you will not survive. Often times chronic and acute illnesses have roots tied to the stress in our lives. Taking care of yourself is not a selfish act. It is necessary for your well being.
Attached please find the following Stress Management Plan that I received from a stress management workshop for caregivers. It will help you identify what stresses you out and help you pay attention to how you feel when you are stressed. Take note of things that you can do to help you relax. The more you reduce your stress the better you will feel and your quality of life will greatly improve!