Consider the typical work week. Which day do you look forward to? Which day do you dread? The answer is fairly obvious isn’t it?
Unless you come from another planet, you are like most of us: love Fridays and dread Mondays. Our hatred of Mondays begins on Sunday, somewhere between noon and dinner time.
Does it have to be that way? If Friday is, indeed, the least stressful day of the week, why can’t all days be like Friday? What is preventing us from thinking this way?
In most cases, the answer is “stress.”
Have you ever heard the term, ”a healthy dose of stress?” I haven’t. In fact, it sounds more like an oxymoron, similar to the phrase “jumbo shrimp.”
Few believe stress is a good thing. However, many studies have validated that too much stress can have a negative impact on the mental and physical state of the person who’s overloaded with the emotional state.
As a caregiver, stressful situations are common, and for many of us, we feel stressed out from the moment we wake up until the time we go to bed. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. Broken, restless sleep and nightmares can be constant companions.
When caring for my wife, especially during the many nights spent in a hospital room, anxiety would build quicker than a summertime Florida thunderstorm. The problem is that Florida thunderstorms come and go. A violent storm can pass in a matter of minutes. The sun returns, the clouds disappear, and all returns to normal.
Not so with stress.
So what can you do to reduce — and possibly eliminate — stress from your system?
Strategies For Reducing Stress
I suggest listening to your thoughts. Whether your situation is dire or just plain annoying, what are you thinking and saying to yourself? Is your glass half-full, half-empty, or bone dry?
Yes, I know there are times when you are extremely unhappy with your set of circumstances. Let’s face it, being a caregiver is difficult, exhausting, and sometimes thankless work. But what will thinking negatively about it do for you? Odds are, your workload and activities will not change based on your tainted point of view.
A possible solution is to begin thinking positively and speaking in an optimistic manner. How can one do that? Is it possible to find the good in all situations?
The answer is, “Yes…most of the time.” (Okay, we all have a down moment or two, right? But overall, the answer can be “yes.”)
The Power Of ESD
As many readers of this blog are aware, my wife spent many a day and night in intensive care. Her heart stopped beating. Heart specialists were amazed she returned to the living.
Rather than think the world was coming to an end, my wife and I celebrated. Our lives changed with a simple three-letter acronym that my wife created less than 72 hours after she almost left this earth. The phrase is known as “ESD.”
What does ESD stand for? “Every Stinkin’ Day.”
That doesn’t sound too positive, does it? Well, it truly is. The entire statement is, “Every Stinkin’ Day…we are going to live our lives as if it’s our last day on earth. We are going to enjoy it and find the good in it – and in everyone we encounter.”
To take it one step further, we also created this thought process, “How bad can the situation be that we’re facing? If we won’t even remember it two weeks from now then get it out of your mind and find a reason to smile and enjoy life.”
Is my life stress-free? Not entirely. However, my stress level has been reduced so dramatically that I go days and weeks at a time never feeling stressed or bothered. Every tense or unpleasant encounter is viewed in a completely different manner. Little things no longer matter. Big things still do, but not as much as they once did.
As caregivers, we have an obligation to be in the best mental state possible for the health and welfare of ourselves and our patient. Living a less stressful life can do wonders for the caregiver. It can lower the possibility of depression, improve your immune system, and even extend your life span, to name just a few of the many benefits it provides.
The reasons behind this are not readily apparent. However, one theory that makes sense to me is that naturally happy people are less apt to turn to alcohol, tobacco, and drugs to feel good. Hence, by avoiding these substances, the body stays healthier.
Five ESD Strategies To Lower Your Stress
Listen to Yourself. Catch yourself when you begin to think negatively. Are you anticipating bad situations are going to arise even before you encounter them? Do you always anticipate the worst? If this happens to you, think about the event and what the pessimistic mindset did for you for however long your mood lasted. Did you waste precious minutes, hours and possibly days worrying about it? Had you not, would your day have been filled with more optimism? Would you have enjoyed that time? Would you have been a more productive, happier person…and most importantly, a more competent caregiver?
Find The Positives. Do you take a negative situation and turn it into more of an event than it needs to be? Can you find the positives in what occurred? Was it really that bad or are you using that situation to vent to yourself about all else you are encountering at the time?
Analyze The Situation. Take a few deep breaths and put it in its proper perspective. It may minimize the amount of stress you dedicate to the event.
Find Your ESD Moments. They don’t have to be obvious. They can be subtle. An ESD moment can be nothing more involved than you made your patient smile, a doctor or nurse enjoyed a conversation with you. The pharmacist had your medications ready for you sooner than you thought. Enjoy the good moments and drown out the bad.
Surround Yourself With Positive, Happy People. They are out there. You likely know one or more people who always seem to have smiles on their faces. Contact them, meet with them, find out what “makes them tick” and learn from them.
If you are and have always been a negative person, don’t expect the pessimism to evaporate overnight. Expect progress in baby steps, not giant leaps!
Whenever you make a negative statement, catch yourself. Whenever you change the negative statement into a positive one, reward yourself with a smile. A smile is a wonderful reward. It makes you feel good and improve your outlook on life, and your mission of being the best caregiver your can possibly be. Won’t that be great? (notice positive final statement of blog). I shall reward myself with a smile. =)
Rob Harris is founder of RobCares.com, a website for caregivers. Rob is also author of We're in This Together: A Caregiver's Story. Rob wrote this book based on his experiences as a caregiver to his cancer-fighting wife.