Take Measures to Assess Stress

“Nothing is permanent in this world, not even our troubles.” — Charlie Chaplin

Physicians, and emergency, surgical and hospital staffs, are trained to work under pressure. Many thrive on “red alert” and “code blue” emergency situations. They train to exhibit grace and cool heads under pressure because they know that the emergency will come to an end and they can disengage from being on high alert and the immediacy of the moment. For family caregivers, this is not the case.

Family caregivers are many times on their own, navigating rough and uncharted waters as both captain and crew. Although caregiver training was authorized through the Affordable Care Act, many hospital providers did not meet their obligations and implement these much-needed programs. Caregivers were once again left without a lifeboat by not being trained to perform basic medical procedures to boost their confidence and effectiveness.

When we experience extended levels of stress in multiple aspects of our lives, our ability to be present and efficient in everyday situations is at risk. There are warning signs that we need to be mindful of to prevent long term circumstantial and/or clinical effects related to stress.

Are any of the following familiar to you?

1. I am bored and sometimes resentful about being a caregiver and have little to no patience to listen to my loved one’s concerns.  

2. I discourage conversation by asking unengaging questions and replying with yes or no answers.

3. I am falling behind and have little interest in fulfilling my responsibilities.

4. I am losing or have lost my sense of humor.

5. I feel tired most of the time.

6. I dread going to work and/or coming home more than usual.  

7. I haven’t had any fun for a while now.

8. I feel stuck and tend to avoid others, and increasingly spend more of my free time (like I have any) alone.

9. I ignore what I know would make me feel better and make excuses to not take care of myself.

If you can relate to three or more of the above statements, you might want to consider making some adjustments to your attitude and activities. Wouldn’t you suggest the same to a friend?

It’s unrealistic to think that a work/life balance can be achieved without some tipping of the scales on occasion. Busy lifestyles can cause us to overlook or gloss over things that can build up over time and blindside us. Certainly, it is true that the first step toward solving any problem is admitting there is a problem!

Stress can manifest itself in a variety of physical symptoms as well, including headaches (tension and migraine), shortness of breath, back pain, high blood pressure, stiff neck, constipation/diarrhea, insomnia, upset stomach, depression, fatigue, relationship problems, weight gain/loss, and fatigue. While these symptoms may point to other maladies, a stress assessment may be the first line of defense in getting down to causes and conditions in ourselves. Learning to reduce stress and its related effects on your happiness and quality of life is caregiver gold!

Dr. Jamie co-authored the acclaimed Take Your Oxygen First: Protecting Your Health & Happiness While Caring for a Loved One with Memory Loss and was featured in The 100 Mile Walk: A Father and Son on a Quest to Find the Essence of Leadership, Voices of Caregiving and Voices of Alcoholism. Dr. Huysman writes for Caregiver SOS, Florida MD and Today’s Caregiver magazines and blogs on PsychologyToday.com.