Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Watch Out for Stress Overload

Brain illnesses are stressful--not only for the person who has the illness but also for the companion or family member who is caring for that person. When our role has unexpectedly become that of “caregiver,” we soon find it is an entirely different world than just fluffing up pillows and ladling out chicken soup.

The life of a caregiver can be demanding, usually more stressful than we had ever imagined. Faced with baffling medical symptoms, we may find ourselves having to make doctor appointments, keep track of medications, take care of finances--only to be the target of undeserved criticism and abuse. When did we sign up for this? we may even wonder. When things in our life upset us on a continuing basis, our feeling of being frazzled and overwhelmed may be our bodies warning us that our own health may be getting dangerously out of balance.

Scientists tell us that stress is a normal response to circumstances that are making us feel threatened. When our bodies go into a “fight-or-flight” reaction mode, sometimes referred to as stress response, it is our way of protecting our self. It’s automatic, and can even save our life. However, specialists also warn us that beyond a certain point too much stress stops being helpful and can cause significant damage to our health, more than we may realize.

Stress overload can affect our mind, body and behavior in a number of ways. We’re told that different people experience stress differently. Some of us become agitated or angry and overly emotional. Others become depressed and withdraw from normal activities. Sometimes, unfortunately, an overload of stress can even paralyze us.

Knowing our stress limit is very important. If we feel our tolerance level maxing out it may be time to talk to a therapist or doctor. Supportive friends and family members can help; we don’t want to allow ourselves to isolate. It’s important to keep an optimistic outlook, and this may be a time when spiritual guidance could make a positive difference. We should all learn how to become calm without resorting to drugs or alcohol. Remember, we are the best ones to monitor our stress level. It’s very important for caregivers to always have that in mind in order to keep our emotions in balance while maintaining our own health.

Caregivers must take care of themselves if they’re going to be physically and mentally able to care for a loved one who has a brain illness. There are few things more important than caring for an ailing loved one. Caring for ourselves first, however, may be one of them.

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