As a novice caregiver searching for information on what my new role would bring, I kept finding lots of articles about managing stress. Skimming over some of them, I didn’t see any similarities between the situations mentioned and my own. Luckily, my husband’s condition and disability due to CRPS did not require me to do much more than to be his aide. He could still take care of his personal hygiene, did not need any injections, bandages, tubes or bags, and remained mobile for very short periods with the use of crutches. My husband and I approached his caregiving in a methodical way, more like a project that we tackled together one piece at a time. This worked very well for us, so I felt relieved to not have to deal with so many medical tasks…yet. Emotionally, we were fine.
About a year after the onset of CRPS, still calm and managing, I noticed that I was occasionally getting itchy spots behind my knees, shoulders and hands. With no visible signs of anything anywhere, I paid no attention to them for a couple of months. Then, I noticed that the itchy spots mirrored each other: first one would appear, then the other would appear in the same place but on the other side of my body. I thought it was strange! I had read that fibromyalgia could produce pain on both sides of the body, but I hadn’t seen anything about itching. It just so happened that my husband was too unwell to travel to the doctor’s office for his check-up one day, so I went instead. I had noticed that I had become forgetful and unfocused at times, so I decided to play it safe and ask the doctor what was going on. To my big surprise, he said my body was feeling the stress of our situation even though emotionally, I was handling it well!
I couldn’t believe it! I didn’t feel stressed at all, mainly because my husband and I talked a lot about whatever was on our mind or about what we needed to do. We supported each other, we were – and still are – a team. Nevertheless, the doctor felt that while my mind and spirit did not feel burdened by caregiving, my body was taking the brunt of it. As puzzling as this was for me, I decided that I would incorporate little breaks here and there, sleep a little more on weekends and increase my level of activity. I think this paid off, as my itchy spots went away!
Stress does have a way to sneak up on you – if you let it! I decided that I was not going to fall victim to stress, which can rob you of your energy and motivation. It can also lead to other conditions such as depression, anxiety, sleep problems, heart disease and an altered immune system. I know that I have to be in top shape to do my job. It’s the least I can do for my family & for myself!
Please take good care of yourself even if you feel fine!
- Get regular check-ups
- Get sleep
- Eat nutritious meals
- Take breaks to be sure that your body is handling stress well
- Seek help with your caregiving
The articles below have suggestions on how to keep a healthy outlook, how to manage stress & how to recognize its warning signs.