Stress And Being a Caregiver (originally posted 9 Apr 2013)

July 30, 2022

*A repost of a blog Justin wrote on The Simple Things on 9 April 2013.

When one becomes a care taker within the VA program, how to properly deal with stress becomes a focal point.  As I’ve found, being a caretaker comes with inherent stresses that are quite different than the traditional stresses of every day life.  Along with that, I think if you’re a person who’s mind is constantly running, like myself, that stress can magnify if you’re not careful.  Learning to deal with stressful situations and the side effects is just as important as learning the required duties of being a caretaker.  If you put yourself in a position where you’re unable to care for yourself, obviously you’re not going to be able to care for your loved one.

One of the major stress relievers that’s emphasized for any caretaker is utilizing family and friends to give you a break.  Just a little time away to clear your head, relax, and have the possibility of needing to jump into action at a moments notice removed from your shoulders.  It makes sense right?  In all parts of life that come with stress eventually you have to take a break before it breaks you.  Parents may have a movie night away from the kids, you may take a vacation from your job, ect.  Simply put, it’s a time when you don’t have to think about your responsibilities.  In our living situation, I don’t really have that option.

Before we moved to our current location four hours north, my job was a huge source of relief.  I know some people may be surprised but I had a job I really enjoyed working for people who were great to both Marilyn and I.  They were more than willing to work around the times I needed off to take her to doctors appointments and to deal with other things that arose.  Since it was landscaping, I also had the ability to work outside and physically burn off any stress that was accumulating.  Between the move and our schedule once we relocated I lost that outlet.  Obviously being so far away I couldn’t continue to work for them.  Marilyn had appointments constantly for the first month, and her health was in a constant state of flux.  After a trip to Virginia for an appointment and to visit her parents, we came back and it was immediately time to get ready for a long, cold winter.  (Though it was MUCH longer and colder than we anticipated.  It’s April 10th and it snowed this morning)

I also had to give up my chiropractor, which for anyone who’s had a good one, sucks.  I’m not a real big fan of traditional medicine so for me it was like giving up a a trusted family doctor for yourself and your children.  Not an easy thing.  On top of that, I was making real progress dealing with some past athletic injuries and I knew I could potentially be facing sever discomfort again.  Some people can just pick people out of the yellow pages and be happy with the care they receive but I’m very finicky about who puts their hands on my body so getting another chiro was out of the question.  This holds true even now.  I still don’t have a new one because I haven’t reached a good comfort level with the idea and laying on a chiro table is not somewhere where you want to be having questions about or a lack of trust in the person treating you.

After a couple months of stress and letting it compound without releasing it, I decided to start weight lifting and working out.  Within two weeks I re-aggravated an old injury, which not only put me on the couch for two days, but happened right in the middle of hunting season, fucking up my favorite time of year.  At that point I was pretty pissed about almost everything but did my damndest not to let Marilyn see it.  I kept up with the daily ins and outs of life and put on a smile but the stress just kept building and building.  I was frustrated, tired, annoyed, and also drinking.

When I say drinking, I don’t mean I was consuming mass amounts of alcohol and getting drunk every night.  But by most any standard I was drinking a lot of alcohol throughout the course of the day.  For the most part I drink beer and I do it because I enjoy the taste.  Other than for a little while in college, I’ve never been a drink strictly to get drunk person.  Come January though, I decided that it was time to amp back because while it wasn’t a problem then, I had a fear that it could become a problem if I didn’t smarten up.  It was around this time that I was watching TV early one morning and saw an infomercial that changed everything.  It was for TapOut XT, the home workout program.  It looked intriguing so I got online and while doing a comparison of it and P90X, I came across GSP Rushfit.  After only a few minutes I knew I wanted it and though I had to wait until the following month to make the purchase, that was nearly three months ago and I will finish the 80 day beginner program at the end of the week and am excited to begin the intermediate.

I was always involved in sports and working out so for me, the stress relief is in the challenge this program provides.  I like this one specifically but would recommend looking into the others depending on what your needs and desires may be.  I can’t give a review on the rest because I’ve never done them.  But Rushfit has been huge for me.  I drink a few beers between the last night of my workouts for the week and on my one day off, but the rest of the week I drink mostly water because I don’t want to cut into my gains needlessly.  The confidence gained in my health also led me to sign up for my first adventure race later this summer which I’m really looking forward too.

Another factor to the decrease in my stress level is good weather.  Cabin fever had set in for both Marilyn and I I think.  We don’t really know anyone up here (I suck at meeting new people.) so we have limited exposure to other people. The weather has been shitty for the past 5 months, we don’t have snow toys or a tractor to get out side and play with, and when there’s four feet of snow on the ground it’s a little hard to get out and get anything done in the yard.  However, with the increasing temps, snow melt, and spring birds arriving again I have the opportunity to get out and do things I enjoy.  Cutting firewood and delimbing trees for the time being will quickly turn into landscaping the yard for the wedding, throwing the ball for the dog while cooking dinner on the grill, and heading down to the river with a fishing poll in my hand and a smile on my face.

Learning to deal with the stresses of care taking can be confusing and frustrating from time to time but I think the key is learning what works for you.  I look forward to seeing my family and friends to help when schedules line up but I know for the time being it’s not something I can rely on as a constant.  Find other things you can do.  I workout at home in the living room (which also save money on gym fees) and though I take my cell phone anytime I go in the woods, I can still take time to do things I enjoy while maintaining a close distance in case I’m needed.  I can’t always get completely away from everything, but by keeping myself strong in mind and body, I can keep it manageable where it belongs.

Written By Shawna B.

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