Cool, calm and collected or collapsing, crying and crumpling?
However much we love our parents, taking on responsibility for their challenges can be incredibly stressful, especially as we have no idea of knowing when the next crisis will occur. Our expert Dr De-Stress explains how stress can undermine our well-being and offers tips on what to do about it.
Life can be demanding, especially if it presents situations that seem to be out of our control. Worry and concern for others automatically brings an element of stress, because of uncertainties. Looking after others also means that very often your own needs can’t be met. It’s clear that when life piles up the demands, it’s easy to reach the top of your coping level! Research showed that 63% of carers suffer from stress, but do not ask for support.
However, for many people it’s difficult to recognise that they’re doing a balancing act that’s not as balanced as it seems; dealing with all that needs to be dealt with, pretending all is fine and that you are “strong enough” to keep going.
Stress is about tension. When stressed, we have tension in our mind that makes us focused and efficient when we have to achieve something, such as, say, organising a meeting with a parent’s medical consultant. That is a positive stress, or so-called Eustress. It’s the stress we experience when we face a task that is a challenge, but we know we can be successful. The result is often a euphoric experience of satisfaction, when we can say to ourselves: “It feels so good to have done it!”
On the other hand the negative stress is about feeling out of control. It happens when we are facing a situation we did not choose, and don’t enjoy. If we are seen as responsible for our ageing parents, then we will see these types of situations more and more, as we’re called to fix problems from leaking taps to emergency visits to A&E. Because they’re out of our control, they often occur when we already have a full schedule of tasks and activities around work, family and our own lives.
Stress is unavoidable, but we can choose the way we deal with it.
Imagine a pint glass, filled with water. Imagine you hold that glass of water in your hand, arm straight, pointing sideways. You are not able to keep that glass in that position for longer than a few minutes. You get a physical pain - you can’t think of anything but that pain and it is harming you. You will reach the point when you have to drop the glass. The only way you can hold that glass for a long time is by sipping the water on a regular basis. Ultimately, you will have emptied the glass!
Imagine yourself as a container, a glass, filled with stress. Your being will respond as if you are holding that full glass. If you learn how to reduce your stress regularly, step by step, you ultimately won’t suffer from it!
Easier said than done?
Tip 1 Soften My Shoulders (SMS)
At this very moment check your shoulders and notice the tension you are holding. Don’t tell yourself off, but just notice it and try to release that tension by making your shoulders soft. The stress tension in our minds translates into a physical tension and usually the shoulders are the first to take on this stress. Tense shoulders will lead in the long run to stiffness and physical discomfort, but by releasing the tension and softening you take your metaphorical sip out of your container. Put little post-it notes with SMS (no-one will know what it means) in places you see regularly and SMS whenever you think about it.
Tip 2 Don’t say YES
We all get told regularly to say NO. However, saying no creates a very stressful situation. You might find it difficult to say no, and the person who receives the no might be very upset and stressed about your answer as well. Rather than saying no, try not to say yes right away. Take time to think about your answer and come back to it at a later stage. Even if it is a no then, you will have had time to think about it and give a clear and reasonable explanation. Don’t react - respond. That applies not just to requests, but also to a way of being, a manner of living. If you can learn to respond to any event or situation rather than react you will enter a much calmer space.
Tip 3 Move from the “stress-zone” into the “zen-zone”
Mindful meditation is a fantastic tool to reduce your stress levels. It doesn’t have to take long. Research has shown that by doing 1 minute 5 times a day, people changed their stress levels dramatically. To get started, you can download for free a 5-minute tape from Dr De-Stress that will show you immediately how beneficial it is to move into the “zen-zone”. Just click here, fill in your name and download the tape.
Stress is unavoidable, but you can choose the way you deal with it and take responsibility for keeping yourself healthy.
Find out more about Surrey-based Dr De-Stress and her online meditation courses, workshops for stress, mindfulness, 1-2-1 consultations and talks, as well as an award winning online course, on her facebook page. You’ll also find more free tips. Email her for further advice.
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