Recently, a good friend of ours spent 15 days in the hospital with multiple areas of “severe sepsis” (infections) that had spread from a UTI (urinary tract infection). Our friend spent 9 of those days on a ventilator after surgically removing the most critical of the infections. His situation was truly life-threatening – all from a simple UTI… No matter how scary hospital stays are for a patient, they can create 4 times the amount of stress for the caregivers.
After all, they are the ones still trying to balance the day-to-day living. Plus, they now have the added worry of a loved ones’ health and life, how they’re going to pay for it, who’s going to work to make the money to pay the bills, who’s taking care of the children and feeding the pets, did the stove get turned off… and the list goes on and on. Sound or feel familiar?
Stress comes from three areas in our lives.
Physical stress is like sitting or standing for long hours, or incurring injuries to our body. The caregiver and the patient are experiencing that type of stress. Emotional stress comes from our fast-paced life and the overwhelming feelings of despair and fatigue.
Chemical stress is environmental. We may or may not have control over chemical stressors, such as smoking, abuse of over-the-counter drugs, poor diet, and excessive sugars and caffeine. They put our body in an altered chemical state that clearly is not balanced for a healthy person.
Too much of all or part of these stresses can wear you down and make you sick, both physically and mentally.
So, where to start?
First off, control is an illusion. No one can fully control the amount of stress they might feel from any given situation. However, we can do our very best to manage it.
Here are our 7 tips to manage stress.
- The first tip is to accept that there are events that you can’t control.
- Keep a positive attitude and avoid a negative mental avalanche. It’s possible to be objective and positive at the same time. You can be realistic about the situation and still believe that you are resilient and will come out on the other side just fine.
- When you feel stress starting to take over, consciously halt the stress energy. You can do it! When feeling overwhelmed, take a brief walk. And definitely don’t drive aggressively. The last thing you need is a road rage incident…
- As much as drinking a good cocktail might sound, avoid alcohol – same with drugs and smoking. These activities chemically stress your body and lower your immune system
- Take a moment to do something pleasurable. This is one of the hardest tips to follow. Why? Because, we feel guilty. Remember that list in the very beginning; it’s still there in your head. It hasn’t magically disappeared. But if you don’t stop and create some time for yourself and a happy activity, you aren’t giving your body and mind a moment to rest and re-create its’ energy.
- Sleeping is another aspect of slowing the body down to recover from stressful situations. Most Americans are sleep deprived normally. Stress can easily interrupt healthy sleep patterns, so it takes being extra vigilant and making sure you get enough for your body to function.
- Remember to eat healthy. Yes, it’s easy to grab a burger on the way to the hospital. Try and avoid that temptation. Take the time to have good meals. No one needs your immune system going down, and then you can’t be available for others.
And here is a bonus tip for you:
Seek social support. Text your friends. Call them. See them. The concept of “Tend and Mend” is the act of using existing and new friendships to create a venting solution and a balanced approach to any situation. And they say laughter is a great stress reliever!
You can clearly feel and see that stress directly affects your health. So, take care to preserve your own health and well-being and not to compromise it as you are giving care to others!
Now here’s what I do. I take a deep breath and go out and play with the puppy that someone forgot to feed!