Stress and taking care of someone
Do you ever feel stressed, tense, and irritable
for what feels like no reason? Do you get more headaches than you
used to? Do you have a hard time getting to sleep? If so, you may be
suffering from stress related to the difficult task of being a
Care giving is more than just
hand-holding. It is difficult and exhausting work, both physically
and emotionally, and if there is no respite it can result in what is
commonly called "caregiver burnout."
Stress in the 20th Century
In the latter part of the twentieth
century, "stress" has become an all-purpose cause for a
spectrum of ailments, both real and imagined. The treatment of
stress is now a multi-billion dollar business, with books, workshops
and countless therapies promising relief.
In the midst of all this attention,
it is important to remember that stress is a natural physical
reaction, and when harnessed constructively, can fuel creativity,
create excitement and produce energy. For most people, no matter
what their personality, stress is a part of their lives at some
What Causes Stress?
Stress is a physical, mental or
emotional strain in response to a demand, pressure or disturbance.
It can be a by-product of an event, daily strains or chronic
When your body senses a
"threat" like those described above, it stimulates a
physiologic response called "fight or flight" and the
release of adrenaline (epinephrine) into the bloodstream. In earlier
times, this stress response was essential for survival.
Today this response can still save
your life if your blood sugar drops or you suffer a rapid blood
loss. And it still counteracts perceived danger by mobilizing your
body's resources, such as producing large amounts of adrenaline for
How Do You Know When You are
Repeated stimulation of your stress
response can produce health problems, including:
The Effects of Stress on Your Body
Stress can also cause significant
problems to your overall physical health. Some of the main
These hormone-induced changes are
helpful when we are actually threatened by danger, and may help us
deal with the occasional stressful situation. But if we experience
them all day long, day after day, week after week, they can be a
- Injury to the cardiovascular
- Worsening of diabetic symptoms
- Degradation of the immune system
- When your body senses a
"threat", whether it's a traffic jam or a heated
argument, it stimulates a physiologic stress response called
- The fight-or-flight response is
still designed to counteract danger by mobilizing the body's
resources for immediate physical activity. This instinctive
response can mean the difference between life and death when you
have an injury or low blood sugar.
- In this process, your adrenal
glands (a pair of glands that sit above each kidney) produce
large amounts of adrenaline and cortisol, the two key
"stress hormones". These hormones help prepare your
body for action in several ways:
- Your heart rate
and blood pressure increase, providing greater blood flow
for delivering much-needed oxygen and sugar to the muscles
- Your breathing
accelerates, making more oxygen available to the heart,
brain and muscles
- Blood vessels in
your skin constrict
- Your metabolism
- Blood sugar
- Muscles tense,
preparing for action
- Stored fat is
released into the bloodstream
- Blood is
diverted away from the skin and stomach into the active
When stress hormones are produced repeatedly, or in excess,
because of chronic stress, our body is kept in a constant state of
"red alert." Chronic stress over time can result in
harmful physiologic changes.
Stress is a part of modern life.
How you handle stress depends on your attitude towards stress. Once
you are aware of your personal symptoms of stress, and can pinpoint
the situations that provoke feelings of stress in you, you can use
stress management strategies to deal with those situations, and
maybe even enjoy the beneficial effects of stress.
A few stress reduction and
management techniques include exercising, meditating, quitting
smoking and eating a healthy diet.
Book some respite care for a few
days, or even a few weeks, and give yourself a well-earned break.
You deserve it.
- Managing Stress*