This month, Caregiver Denise shares her thoughts and experiences on stress and a few resources she finds helpful while helping her boys live with Epilepsy.
Let’s talk about stress
. It’s important to understand what stress is and how it affects your body, to fully understand how important is it to find effective measures to reduce it. Stress is a natural part of life, and believe it or not stress is a necessary part of creativity, learning and survival. Too much stress however, can have a negative effect of your daily life and outcome of our survival if not dealt with effectively. When you are feeling overwhelmed by stress, what your feeling is your body’s natural fight or flight response which releases adrenaline and cortisol. A little bit of stress, often referred to as acute stress can be exciting, and it keeps us alert. Long-term, or what is referred to as chronic stress can have long term effects on our well being. I recently went to the Dr. because I honestly felt like I was having a heart problem. The Physician explained to me that the amount of stress I was under, compiled by my pre-existing anxiety had placed my body in a constant state of tension. I researched this and found that when you are feeling that fight or flight response in a crisis your body is going through a lot. The cortisol and adrenaline released in your body is speeding up your pulse rate, breathing, blood circulation, muscle tension and glandular function. When a caregiver of someone with Epilepsy has this happen over and over again, eventually the nervous system stays ready to react to a crisis all the time causing the body to stay in a constant state of tension. This state of tension creates a person that tends to react to small stressors the way you would normally to true emergencies. All those hormones that are created in the stress state must be released to bring our bodies back in balance. If we do not work towards reducing stress and releasing this built up tension, it can only lead to emotional burnout and complete exhaustion. The only way to break this cycle is to find ways that work for you to relieve stress. I encourage you to find ways to reduce stress in your lives. Doing this will help us be better caregivers, by having better health and positive long term health outcomes.
There are many forms of stress reduction techniques and I will just touch on a few of them.
~Music and Art Therapy
There are many options in this category! Sometimes just putting on your favorite upbeat CD can make a difference if you dance and sing along! My older child with Epilepsy has recently discovered that Art Therapy works for him. He will sit for hours and paint creating wonderful works of art. I also find it very relaxing to draw and paint.
A quiet mind is more important than a positive mind. – Deepak Chopra
Take just 5 minutes a day to be in complete silence, focusing on your body and the effects of stress and learning to relax. This can be achieved in the bath, laying on your back in bed or even while sitting. Start at your feel and pay attention as you move upward focusing on noticing areas of tension and calming them. Once your body is calm and relaxed pray or focus on the positive things.
Think about all the blessings you have and the good that is in your life. Even if it’s just the pretty sky today or the beautiful flower you saw, find something to focus on that is positive and good. A Physician years ago use to tell patents to breathe in and out deeply. As you breathe in say (Peace, Jesus, Higher Power, Joy, Calm whatever you need) IN and as your release that deep breath slowly say (Stress, Anxiety, Tension, Sadness, Pain) whatever you need out OUT. So I often find myself saying Peace IN Stress out as I take deep breaths and so on. Focusing on releasing it seems to help me in a big way, even when I do not have a lot of time. I find that CD’s that are designed with stress reduction, relaxation and meditation are a good choice for me, such as this one:
Laughter is a natural stress reducer that is very effective at reducing stress. Watch funny videos, a funny movie and seriously just Laugh Out Loud!
Something we all may not want to do or think we have time for, but we all need exercise! Go for a walk, even if it is just up and down the driveway, get moving! Can’t go outside today? Stretch and touch those cute toes! Turn on the music and dance the stress away. Exercise will release those feel good chemicals to help combat those stress feelings.
When we make a point to keep track of Good, Positive and Beautiful things it helps us to not stay so focused on the Negative, Painful, Stressful things in our lives. I find that when I start to feel overwhelmed, if I start looking for simple little positives it helps combat the stress and overwhelming feelings. Such as, “Brett had a terrible seizure today, but he recovered well and his postictal is not as overwhelming as it could be.”
What is available in your community or online to help you live your passion while helping others? Find it and ask about volunteer opportunities. Even as little as 1 hour a week can decrease your stress, help others, and increase your health. Volunteering to do that which you love decreases your stress and increases those feel good hormones instantly! I know from experience as I volunteer my time to reduce stress and feel good at National Seizure Disorders Foundation as Board Member and Treasurer. Leave a comment below to ask about our opportunities.
Life as a caregiver can be tremendously stressful as we endure this roller coaster ride of good and bad days. Often it seems like we may never have a “normal” life again. I hope that today you will focus on ways to combat the stress that comes with this journey. I also hope that if you are feeling overwhelmed and need help you will reach out to those around you. Find other parents who are on the same ride and somehow it doesn’t feel so lonely. Just knowing that there are others experiencing the same stress helps greatly.
About the Author: Denise is a homeschooling mother of six who lives in Alabama. Denise’s two youngest sons, Brynn and Brett have refractory Epilepsy. Denise volunteers her time and energy as National Seizure Disorders Foundation Board Member and Treasurer. Enjoy the monthly feature articles from NSDF Caregivers Corner written by Denise.